The Art of Taking Care

When I was younger I thought a first draft was good enough. I was always told that I was a good writer, and somewhere along the line that title led me to believe that I was intrinsically right with my words, which led me to believe that I could either write it right on the first try or there was no point writing and trying to right what I had written by editing. Once I graduated, professors approval no longer needed, I no longer knew who my audience was or how to please them. This led to a long writing drought. Creativity still needing an outlet, naturally I decided it was time I start learning how to paint. My ego had no recognition of being a good painter and so it left me be while I selected the colors, canvases and brushes, which would be the tools of my new laboratory.

I had taken one painting class in college. Although I was uncoordinated and clumsy somehow, I did earn an A in this ARC 412 class. Only in an art class can one be so thankful for subjectivity; beauty is in the eye of the beholder; there is no calculator for artistic goodness; the probability for greatness appears different from canvas to canvas. The class was being taught electivly by an architecture professor, and it was unrelated to anyone’s major. The class was simply a studio – an opportunity to paint. The lesson that I took away: Layer.

The hardest part about painting is often starting. The canvas glares as you. Blank expressions are not inviting. Even if I do have an image of what I want to paint, I have no idea how to take my idea onto this big white board and somehow give you the same impression that I have in my mind. My hands don’t know how to create what my mind sees the same way that they can create what my mind says. Painting is much more difficult than writing. Or is it?

The more I painted, layer upon layer, I learned how even a mistake-looking layer helped to build the foundation that eventually led to a painting, which was interesting enough to leave on display. When I created a layer that wasn’t quite right I at least had something to respond to. I could see why it wasn’t appealing or true, which helped me to get more clear about what I did think was appealing or true. I then applied what I learned from painting to my process for writing – a process, which I called, “Pounding it Out.” It involved doing my best to write the words that would get me from point A to point B in the story. If I knew that the character was a girl who was beginning the metamorphosis into becoming a woman how did I want to depict that? I would just pound something, anything out onto the blank page. In essence, I wrote a layer down. It would often take me an hour just to pound out one page worth of words. Then I would leave it for the next day. They next day I would start back about three pages prior and then continue forward through the words to see if they read the same way that I envisioned the story. If I, as the reader, didn’t like the layer then I had the opportunity to re-author it. Slowly, day after day, the book developed. In the case of this first book, it is finished, although I have decided it is best kept in storage. The lessons that I learned from writing my first novel are perhaps best applied to new ideas.

I believe that what I have really learned is The Art of Taking Care, which is a much different process than editing. The art of taking care involves a daily practice, which emphasizes presence of mind, and involves an understanding of the world, which moves beyond ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ choices. In a world of ‘right’ choices and ‘wrong’ choices there is not room to fail or to discover. In a world where there are simply Experiences and Choices then one has the freedom to be present. One knows that they can choose Path A this time and try Path B next time. Although not all worlds are so simple, and sometimes our choices have more consequences in life, it is therefor all the more important to have places to go where one can explore the art of taking care, being present, creating layer upon layer slowly ans surely… Yoga practice is like writing, and like painting. The repetition of the poses allows us to layer our experience. Practicing day after day one has a real sense of the joints and the muscles and the living tissues of the body. Soreness and pain are buttressed by joy and the freedom to move in any direction. The more we practice the more powerful the postures become. Holding the body in different positions relative to gravity doesn’t mean that we are taking care of our bodies, just like smearing paint all across a canvas doesn’t mean that you are making something that someone will purchase and call art in their dining room.

There is a concept in yoga called Saucha, which refers to one of the practices of The Eight Limbs, which can help an individual to become more enlightened. Cleanliness. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Although this concept of cleanliness has been explored by yoga practitioners in various ways I have been exploring the meaning of Saucha, cleanliness, as This Art of Taking Care. It is placing the hands fully on the floor in downward dog, it is taking the time to learn the balance of the postures, it is taking the time to iron one’s clothes, to place neatly, to organize, to still the mind, to see my life like a sculptor collecting new materials and building as I go.

“Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I will meet you there.” ~Rumi


About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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One Response to The Art of Taking Care

  1. Lovely. I like ‘yoga practice is like writing, and like painting. The repetition of the poses allows us to layer our experience. Practicing day after day one has a real sense of the joints and the muscles and the living tissues of the body. Soreness and pain are buttressed by joy and the freedom to move in any direction.’.

    Last night me and Meg went to Symphony Space for their short story readings and it was wonderful. Afterwards the writer spoke of his experience writing the winning story and i found it fascinating. He spent 6-8 hours a day for 3 months just on that one short story. He explained that at times it was painful when he got stuck, but he just kept going. Adding new layers i guess, and painting over and over and over. It was really inspiring. Inspiration to keep practicing whatever it is you are practising! xxx Hannah (Aug YW TT! x)

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