OUT OF THE WAY & IN THE WAY: Reflections on Yoga & the Creative Process

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It’s a precarious way of life, this writing from some place where will steps aside and something else altogether takes over. I don’t mean to imply that divine agency is afoot or that little daimons in my brain relay signals from my imagination to my hands, mere five-limbed workers that peck out the right combinations of keyboard keys while “I” just sit back and contemplate my grocery list. I won’t blame “inspiration” or my hands for any dribble I write. Still, on the page, who’s in charge?
I don’t know, and in that not-knowing I derive endless pleasure from the writing process’s mystery. The mind writes its own song, and I hum the tunes and shape the melodies. A stranger in a waiting room speaks on her cell phone about her latest dating exploits, and three months later that voice becomes a character for a short story. A moment by a woodstove fire rattles something in the mind until the loose bits coalesce that night into a poem.

But how do I or any writer shape those melodies or reveries or stories or poems? Like most writers I know and respect, I have had to find ways to get out of my own way. When I come to the page, I must let these hands orchestrate imagination’s symphony without merely taking “dictation.”

And for me, those out-of-the-way ways have been through the regular spiritual practice of yoga.

Yoga, as I practice it, is not an exercise – although it profoundly has improved my breathing, temperament, and immunity. It also is not a religion – although it enriches my spiritual life. For over ten years, yoga has afforded this overly analytical, overly serious, overly sedentary writer opportunities to renew his writing process.

And so this blog: On this blog, I’ll share some of my current experiences in engaging yoga as muse. I’m not the only one onto this path. I work with and stay in touch with thousands of writers throughout North America and around the world who likewise have discovered in yoga a timeless way to embody the creative impulse and spirit. In upcoming months, I’ll share with you how Yoga As Muse helped me write a short story, yoga session after yoga session; how yoga helps me and others write into the truth; and much, much more.

We’re not so different. Whether I am teaching in Greece, Nova Scotia, Taos, or the tiny farming hamlet in upstate New York where I live, I am struck by what we writers and artists hold in common. We yearn to write from that deep source regularly and not erratically – say, when some unreliable “muse,” like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend, just shows up out of the blue on your front door and asks to be let in. We yearn to feel vital as we write and that the words we wield have a verve and breath of their own. And we yearn to get out of the way of our own writing. When we get out of the way, we get into the way of flow.

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