On the Art (& Gift) of Beginning Again
"Self consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all."
~ Ray Bradbury
I am sitting here, sweating like some animal that actually sweats a lot (which would not be a pig, contrary to popular idiom), having mostly gracelessly and artlessly gotten through a 30 minute yoga video that kicked my ass. And good.
I didn't always look like such a rank amateur doing yoga (not that I've ever looked remotely expert at it, either), but I note that because there's the fear of feeling a fool beginning something altogether new where you can find some comfort and excuse in your complete unfamiliarity with it, and then there's the stranger discomfort of feeling a fool being unable to pick something up where you left off with it.
Both are based in a useless kind of ego and vanity, but there's an extra layer of self-consciousness to peel back when returning to a thing you were supposedly better at once upon a time. It stings just a little more to think of the wasted progress on which you could have chosen to build then but didn't for any number of reasons.
But as you're weeble-wobbling through Warrior III pose and possibly also using your kid's IKEA Duktig kitchen for balance every half second, looking at yourself from the outside in through that self-conscious lens that only you and your fragile ego possess, it occurs to you that
a. There is literally no one else in the room to see you - this is how ridiculous you are even imagining that anyone else but you can see how silly you look right now.
b. Even if they were they'd probably be too busy breathing to think about your crappy Warrior pose.
c. Did you really expect after all these years of atrophy that your beloved squish was just going to whip itself back into perfect strength and balance? I mean, how entitled of you to think you wouldn't have to be a beginner again, Shinae.
Before you can begin again, you have to be willing to be a beginner again.
So you spend about 30 seconds (which feels much longer) indulging your ego as it steps outside of you to laugh at your failure in progress, actually laughing out loud with it, until you realize that it doesn't get any better - YOU can't get any better - until you stop laughing at yourself, start recognizing your current limitations so you can exceed them, decide to cut yourself a break from the self-judgment, and get back to the work of beginning again.
And you lower that back leg in humility because you accept it's not ready to be up there again... yet. Sometimes you even set that back foot down altogether for a few seconds and show your quivering, out of practice, readily collapsible squish a little kindness. This whole pose is touch and go for you the whole time, but you keep trying until it's time to try something else.
At this point, your whole body's a quaking mess of Ruby Red-Mango Margarita flavored Jell-O because a) you are what you ate last night and b) you are THAT much of a beginner right now.
But you figure it's better to get through the rest of the video doing what that gal on the right is doing than to sit through the rest of the video thinking you used to be able to do what that gal on the left is doing.
And before you know it, you're getting to take some deep, delicious, rewarding breaths in a head down Pigeon pose and feeling less a rebeginner than you did 30 minutes ago.
How wonderful to push through the limitations of our self-consciousness into such a beautiful feeling and remembrance. (And if you've ever practiced yoga, you know how beautiful a feeling it is.)
How wonderful that we can choose to give ourselves the gift of artful living by allowing ourselves to begin again.