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My daily practice of yoga as a student and teacher has imbued me with patience, discipline, resilience, and calm. All of these qualities coalesced while I was writing, editing and self-publishing my first novel, Diary of a 99%-er: The Struggle Between Survival and Creative Expression.
As so many things in life are cyclical, so was the effect of yoga on this book. The book is heavily imbued with the theme of using yoga as a physical and spiritual tool to transcend the egoic mind and stay present. While writing this book, I was inspired to become a yoga teacher, so I could share my passion for yoga with others.
These are the qualities that yoga helped me with in the writing and publication of my first novel:
I was born impatient and no matter how hard I try to overcome it- with a lot of cardio workouts to achieve patience physically and a lot of spiritual practice to achieve patience mentally – I found that yoga, more than anything else, engenders patience in both areas.
After a yoga practice, I feel a quiet transcendence in my mind and body. I find this alpha state is most conducive to sitting still for the time involved in writing, editing, proofreading, publishing and whatever else is needed to clear the mind of egoic thoughts that thwart the free flow of ideas. It also gives me the long-term patience needed to see each writing project through its cycle; from nurturing the seeds of inspiration, to writing a no-holds-barred rough draft, to the time and labor-intensive stages of editing and proofreading and then, finally, to the technical challenges of self-publishing. It also gives me the patience, now that the book has been published, to know that this stage has a cycle of its own and to have the faith that it will reach the people it’s meant to – to inspire, to entertain, to share my passion for writing and yoga.
As every writer knows, the act of writing is a solitary, unglamorous process. It requires the discipline to stay committed to a writing project, long after the initial passion has waned, especially when you’re in the editing/proofreading phase and reading it over and over again. Yoga is incredible for instilling discipline. In taking care of your physical body and your mental state through the breathing and poses of a daily yoga practice, you are keeping yourself in balance. This balance enables me to carve out time to write in the midst of whatever is going on – to stay committed and not procrastinate. I know that I’m working toward a goal of a tangible end product – a published book.
So, whatever is going on in my life – and a lot was going on during the almost 3 years it took for me to publish this book, including moving several times and loss of unemployment -- things that typically would prevent being present enough to write. But my daily practice gave me the discipline to stay true to my passion and my goal and keep writing. There’s an expression, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” My modification would be, “When you’re going through hell, keep writing!”
I call this the ability to go with the flow, take everything in stride, and bounce back from adversity easily and effortlessly. This may be yoga’s biggest gift. My yoga practice imbues me with the strength and resilience to go with the flow, no matter what. As I moved several times, during the writing of this book, the ability to constantly adapt to new situations was imperative. As I lost various employment several times during the writing of this book, my ability to be resilient and resourceful was honed immeasurably. Making it through an intensely-physical yoga teacher training program also enhanced my resilience. If I could make it through that, I knew I could make it through anything! Case in point: In the weeks leading up to finally publishing this book after so much effort had gone into it, I lost Internet access on my laptop. Instead of feeling derailed and procrastinating, I went to the nearest library, and ended up publishing it from one of the computers there. It was just a case of surrendering to what is and finding other alternatives.
Yoga surpasses anything I’ve ever tried in enabling me to just surrender to the moment, without resistance. This has not been easy as I, like many others, want to control as much of my life situation as I can. But what I’ve found, in looking at my life situation through the lens of total surrender, is how much we do not control, even though we think we do! It also helps mitigate feelings of anxiety and depression that come from external circumstances and egoic thoughts, like not having money to pay the rent on the day it’s due. This is where deep breathing and holding yoga poses longer help attain a sense of deep, visceral calm, enabling us to stay in the knowing that everything is OK – the rent will be paid, there will be enough money to pay for gas and monthly expenses. We don’t have to take care of everything all at once. We can just let things unfold, knowing there’s always enough, we are enough. The pure presence from yoga gives our egoic mind a break from all its' drama and machinations, letting us just be, even if it’s just for a wisp of a moment, enough to glimpse the totality of our being in the total glory that it is; enough to honor our creative expression, for the unique gift that it is; enough to witness what’s happening without over-reacting to it; enough to just be and laugh and delight in this ironically delicious thing called life.
And, that’s precisely what I tried to capture in this novel – which is a humorous look at what it's like to be one of the 99% - those of us who have to work for a living and sometimes struggle to stay afloat financially. I tried to detail the internal struggle for creative expression juxtaposed with the external financial struggle. The whole enchilada, replete with all the trials and tribulations of the human experience, but also with all the ironies and aha moments that come from looking at life through a spiritual lens.
Yoga helps me immensely in this daily yin and yang. And, I feel extremely blessed to now be able to share my passion for yoga, and all of its benefits, with others as a yoga teacher and author.