I am in awe of columnists. Each week, and in some cases, several times a week, they write new material for the world to read. Art Buchwald has written columns since 1949, and his columns now appear in the Style section of The Washington Post twice a week. Bob Levey just retired from The Post after writing a column five days a week for over 20 years. A new idea for each column, year after year. I spend the months before each of my quarterly articles waiting for inspiration to strike, and I am not sure I would find such inspiration weekly, much less daily. I suspect columnists look at the world in a slightly different way, seeing and being able to express what is notable or humorous in the world around them.
This newsletter is quite a change from our previous ones: a new design, new colors, and even a new registration form. Our website has changed as well. Our aim is better organization and readability. In rethinking the newsletter and the website, it was interesting to see how the graphic designers, Laura Symanski and Liz Carroll, approached the project. Both have years of experience and were able to offer excellent redesign suggestions. As the office staff and I reviewed the various drafts, we each focused on the areas that we thought could be improved and made clearer, redoing the registration form and rewording some policies where there have been questions. Each of us looked at the new brochure and website from our areas of experience.
In teaching a yoga class, I find some concepts are easy for students to grasp and some are much more challenging. In the upper levels we focus on fine details of poses, from how each part of the foot extends down into the earth to how to tone and stretch various muscles. In almost every class some students grasp the main concept immediately while others need to do a few poses before the idea sinks into their bodies. Interestingly, it is not always the same students who grasp the concept week after week, usually different concepts appeal to different people.
I find the same is true when I travel to weekend workshops with friends. Since the workshops are typically 10 or 12 hours long and quite a lot of information is presented, we compare notes at the end. Often we find that each of us learned something different from the workshop. The differences may be as small as minor details, but frequently we remember entirely different things. Usually we remember what applies to us. One person may remember various philosophical points relative to their life experiences, another how the sequence of poses made attempting a difficult pose easier, and another may have learned a detail that made all the poses easier. Sometimes it seems as if we attended completely different workshops.
If you do yoga long enough, you find some aspect, mental or physical, that is challenging. For someone with tight hamstrings, forward bends can be difficult. Some would see forward bends as poses to be avoided and would not do them except in a class. Others would view them as a challenge and do a few forward bends every day to create more flexibility.
Once we have done a pose a few times, our view of the pose precedes us actually doing it and we enter the pose with our experience partially predetermined. If our previous experience was good or bad, we expect it will be that way again. We tend to bring our expectations, likes, and dislikes to the pose. However, the yoga pose is as it is. There is nothing inherently positive or negative about it.
When we view our world, our past experiences act as a filter. Whether it is seeing an idea for a column in everyday life, bringing an opinion to a project or performing a yoga pose, each of us has our own way of looking at it. In the end, just like a yoga pose the world is as it is. Our filters color our experience.
By studying ourselves and knowing our patterns of thought, we can discover which filters are helpful and which limit us. As we discover filters that are not useful to us, we can replace them with new ways of thought and healthier patterns. Over time, we may begin to view a pose as just a pose, the world as it is, and ourselves as we truly are.