It's October fourth, the autumn sun is shining, I stomped through leaves on my way to get here, and I am eating a pumpkin spice RX bar. I would also like to note that yesterday, in an effort of procrastination, I entered a content to win over $200 worth of pumpkin RX bars, plus a Nespresso machine. My plan is, if I win, to set up shop on the side of the road in Monrovia, and sell coffees and pumpkin RX bars to the cyclists as they bike through the fall weather. Though I'm pretty sure this is illegal, so please don't spread the news.
One month of yoga and poetry (and I'm 27) complete! And it's fall! Things feel like they're changing, mostly because the world around me is, and that doesn't always feel like a great world (in fact, lately it feels really shitty), and I've never been more grateful for words as a means of expression, and for my body as a means of being alive. It's so easy to hate ourselves—to hate the words, to hate our physical appearance. But when there is so much hate in the world, the last thing we need to do is criticize ourselves. Unless you are genuinely being an asshole, in which case take a moment to say to yourself, "I am an asshole. It's not too late for me to stop. How can I be less of an asshole?"
I felt like an asshole at times, specifically when this poetry and yoga challenge stressed me out so much that I snapped at my loved ones. I have a lot on my plate, and sometimes that makes me feel as though I am not being productive. But productivity, while a bonus, is not the point of it all, is it? I snapped because I felt like life was interfering with my art. But life is art, and art cannot interfere with art. It only contributes to it.
A big takeaway from daily yoga and poetry was to honor patience and appreciate the details. Patience with the process, a gentle understanding that it need not happen all in one day, and that the work will never, ever end. (That's not a bad thing). The details are the things that make patience worth it. All of those tiny moments, whether you're finding them in the clouds or in your fingers, make the journey worth it. They make patience easy.
Below are some other lessons I took away. Flexibility is not one of them, but it was also, definitely a nice reward.
1. Your medium is important.
Yoga, poetry, illustration, whatever it might be, you are a creative being, and your method of creation is important. Find ways that you can express yourself and use it to be the change. If you're stuck on what to pursue, ask yourself why you're doing it. For validation, for internal satisfaction, for someone else, to spark a conversation? The world needs art and mindfulness now more than ever. Be the one to create. You are the only one who can share your voice.
2. The lessons are not always immediate.
Sometimes when I was working on a poem, or doing a flow, I would get very frustrated, thinking I wasn't getting better in my practice, or the words weren't stringing together the way that I wanted them to. But when I returned to the page a few weeks later to reread some of the things I had written, I found that there were some really good moments. In yoga, you s-l-o-w-l-y begin to see the patterns of strength, the newfound flexibility. You suddenly touch your toes, you can jump back from crow into chatarunga. The same can be said in life. Often times, we ask ourselves "what am I here for?" or "what is my purpose?" or "why did this happen?" The answers are unnecessary—live the questions, knowing that you will too soon live the answers.
3. If you can do it, you are responsible for sharing it.
If you are lucky enough to have a yoga practice, or the ability to make art, you're liking reaping some benefits from it. It's our responsible to carry the joy we receive from these activities and bring them into the world, whether it's through a conversation or a more direct way of giving back to the world around us. If something brings you joy, DO IT, and then extend that joy into the lives of others. This not only empowers others to pursue their own ambitions, but adds lightness into a world that is at risk for being so dark.
4. It's not a competition (even when it is).
Comparison is toxic! Everyone is one their own individual journey, with their own particular experiences, and it is literally illogical to compare your journey to that of someone else's. We all have our own voices to contribute—your voice matters specifically because it is yours. Even in direct matters of competition, you shouldn't put your worth in the end results. Who knows what the judges were looking for? Maybe you didn't win that competition, but your piece or thing might be better served elsewhere. Maybe it existed solely for your creation. The need to compete comes from this idea that there is not enough room for all of us to succeed, but that's not the case. I see this is especially true among women—it's so important that we lift one another up. When one of us wins, we all win.
5. Failure is not a bad word.
There are so many lessons in being a human. I believe the strongest, happiest people are the ones who can see their struggles and upsets as learning opportunities. When we feel like we're taking a step backward, it's important to use that space as a moment to recognize what we can learn, why we needed to learn it, and how our lives will shift from that moment forward. There is no one person who has sailed effortlessly through her or his life without at least a handful of moments where they took a professional, romantic, familial, or creative tumble. Embrace failure and use it.
6. Overthinking leads to hesitation.
I am the princess of overthinking! I do it all the time: Should I focus on this, or this? Am I giving too much attention to this creative project? Should I go on a run or should I read or should I clean? All of that time I spent thinking on what I should be doing was time that I could have spent actually doing things. Just make things. Who cares if they are bad? They probably will be "bad." But they will get better, and you will figure it out.
7. Fake it till you make it.
I originally heard this word of advice in reference to relationships. If you're experiencing trouble within your relationships, act like the perfect girlfriend/boyfriend. Be the kindest friend. Love when it's hardest to love. Eventually, this pattern starts to becomes something you don't have to work so hard to achieve. The same can be said for your art—if you don't feel like you're an artist, or a writer, or a yogi, go sit in the chair or on the mat and MAKE SHIT HAPPEN over and over and over. You will get good at it.
8. There's no harm in slowing down.
My desire to do intense, calorie-torching yoga came from the desire to be skinny, not to be healthy. Sometimes a slower, yin-focused practice is exactly what you need. Sometimes you need to spend an hour working on five sentences, if only to select the right words. Sometimes you can read the same book over and over, believing that you'll learn something new and beautiful with each read. Which leads me to:
9. The small moments are everything.
As I mentioned earlier, the details make patience oh-so-worth it. Having turned 27, it's so easy for me to stare in the mirror and think, "Wow! Where is life going?" and yet other days, I'm wishing the seconds would tick away faster so that I can get to the next thing. But it's in these small moments, the slower minutes of life, where there is magic. It might be the smell of toast, or the conversations of a mother and daughter at the intersection, or the way the leaves are floating through the air as they season shifts to something new. There is always something beautiful to notice, no matter how small it is, no matter how dark everything else feels.
10. Believe in the style of yourself.
You have your own way of doing things, and as long as you aren't an asshole, that's valid. Trust your creative process, trust your flow, trust what you are wearing, what makes you feel good, how you love, who you love. Everything is a spectrum, and you are valid. You get to decide how you live this life, and if you make love a priority, I promise that you will feel the rewards. Love your art, love the world, love those around, and love yourself. Everything else, like a domino on a picnic table, falls gently into place.
what have you taken away?