Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our still lives, posed

I've always been fascinated with sound. Even though I'm a writing instructor and by nature text-obsessed, I am more moved by what I hear than just about anything else. Some of the warmest memories from my life are sound-oriented: sitting at the top of the stairs as my mom played Michael Nyman on the piano, hearing the neigh of the horse that I rode at a summer camp, or the muted vibration of the guitar against my thigh as I carried it around with me in high school.

I guess it's not any wonder that music has always meant so much to me, as it does so many people. Most song lyrics don't stand up on their own, but the marriage between text and music has always been such a source of comfort and occasionally even insight to me.

There's a little stanza from a Bright Eyes song that hit me like lightening the first time I heard it. In the song, the singer takes a bit of a journey, loosely centered on the idea of human suffering and his yearning to ease the pain of others. At the end of "A Bowl of Oranges," the singer writes of his realization:

"If the world could remain within a frame, like a painting on a wall,
Then I think we'd see the beauty there, and stand staring in awe
At our still lives, posed, like a bowl of oranges..."

Not too shabby for a 22-year-old kid, huh?

So... the connection to yoga. I find myself thinking of this line now and then in savasana. I've been feeling pretty frustrated with myself in class recently, and I've been trying to figure out why. I had a realization recently after class that kinda troubled me. I kept noticing that classes taught by a certain instructor--who actually happens to be my favorite instructor--were the hardest, the most physically torturous, and ones where I consistently felt I "had bad classes." I finally realized what the problem was: this is the teacher that knows me the best. She knows what I'm capable of, and instead of letting this be a good thing, I let it intimidate the heck out of me. I think, "Oh, it's teacher X today. I have to have a good class. I have to show her that I'm progressing, that I'm being a good yogi." I'm not going to even go much further into analyzing the problems of this way of thinking and what it reveals about my personality--I've already said too much ;-) It's not her teaching; it's the expectations I'm putting on myself that get me all worked up!

When done right, though, doing yoga is like slapping one big frame around the moment. It is supposed to still the outside noise. Nothing except yourself in the posture even exists. It's just yourself, posed, like the bowl of oranges. In my case, I have weird insecurities like the desire to please the teacher--we all have different tendencies. But how outside the frame of the yoga is that? How outside the scope of reality in general is that? What incredibly ridiculous things we take into the hot room.

I haven't had a class with that teacher since I've had this little realization, but I can't help but think a little awareness is likely to be a good thing! Hope you enjoy Bright Eyes. The sound quality's not great--hopefully you can hear the words!

Bright Eyes: "Bowl of Oranges"


hannahjustbreathe said...

I LOVE Bright Eyes!! Conor Oberst is one brilliantly talented poet/songwriter. And that's putting it mildly!

Second... To take your [brilliant] metaphor one step further, it's almost as though you're thinking of YOURSELF, of you on your mat, of your yogi life, as the painting hanging on the wall, hanging there for review, for criticism, for inspection by others (mostly, your teacher). In doing so, yes, of course, I can see how that would make for self-consciousness and worry---that you're not performing up to par, that your colors are smudged, that your lines are off.

Thing is... That's the beauty of this yoga, of your own unique practice. It cannot be judged. It cannot be compared or reasoned. Because it is SO uniquely your own.

So, I say, take yourself off the wall.


Lady J said...

I have the same thing when it's a teacher who is a favourite or who knows my practice well. It's a pressure that I put on myself that I need to be in top form, that I need to show what I can do. I try to ignore these thoughts or set them aside but it is challenging. I guess that's just part of the yoga.

Yolk E said...

Aw, thanks, Hannah! Your extension of the metaphor is just lovely. And yay, you like Bright Eyes! I can't think of a better lyricist among that young group of musicians.

I definitely hear you on the pressure to do well, J! Maybe we shouldn't try so hard to please :-)

lz said...

Oh, expectations. It's interesting how we often put pressure on ourselves because we think it will motivate us to do better, when in reality, it might not be helping! Yep, you're totally right: yoga is supposed to still the outside noise. Still our mental chatter, until slowly, we begin to let our expectations go.