stacegens

Hold the question, until you live into the answer ~ Rilke


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Easter eggs and Full Potential

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I went to Yoga today. I bought a 10-session pass in September.  According to my app when I booked my class today, I haven’t attended since November.  It’s now April.  This winter was a rough one with record breaking temperatures, wind chills, and snow totals.   I suppose it’s safe to say that hibernation was required for survival.  In my defense, I did some yoga at home but honestly, I wasn’t dedicated to practicing.  Today, I attended the Hatha class which is supposed to be a bit more restorative and less strenuous.  During the class, which I was really looking forward too, I began to notice irritation arising towards the instructor.  The class was full and the room was warm and quiet.  No one speaks or makes eye contact which I really like. All of us are lying flat on the mat, resting or trying to gather enough energy to make it through class.

The teacher came in loudly and with way too much enthusiasm for 8:30 a.m.  Her voice was perky and shrill.  Her words, bossy with a touch of pseudo humility.  My annoyance didn’t surprise me.  I’ve been increasingly irritable and noticeably negative.  The teacher obviously came in with an intention which she boldly announced during her “welcome to class” lecture.

We were instructed to begin in child’s pose, resting our arms behind us so our bodies mimicked the shape of an egg.  As I rested there, desperately hoping to get out of my head and into my body, she squawked on about Easter, the renewal we feel in welcoming spring, and the budding trees and flowers all around us.  All the while my body and mind tightening around her words.  I just wanted to stretch, let go of thinking, and focus on returning to the sensations of the body.

The week had been filled with work related stress, discouragement, boredom, overly critical thinking towards myself and others, as well as a sense of deep loneliness.  I was spending too much time in my head.  I needed to connect with my body.  Unfortunately, the sage on the stage was winding up her sermon.  Her next instruction was to imagine  breaking through the egg, shattering the egg shell, to reach our full potential.  At that point I tried hard not to gag on my anger.  Full potential?  Lady,  I’m trying not to think about my “full potential” right now.  I’m trying to move from my head to my heart and into the limbs of my body.  My “full potential” right now consists of breathing to hold these poses, stretching to release trapped muscle pain, and trying very hard not to potentially yell “would you just shut the f*** up?” in the middle of this class.

Man, that would have felt good.

Or maybe not.

You’ll be happy to know I survived the 90 minutes and there were moments where I noticed a calm mind, and felt the connection of what it’s like to be embodied.  It took a while to let go of the resentment and pressure I felt towards being told to “reach for my full potential.”  Even in my yoga class, I can’t just be.  Really?  Even in my yoga class I have to be reaching, striving, attaining.

All of this pointed to a phrase my meditation teacher liked to use, The subtle violence of self-improvement.”  I don’t know who packaged that phrase into a bite-sized warning but boy I sure felt it today.

 

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The river and I are friends

I’ve lived in Elgin, Illinois since 1989.  I moved here right out of college for my first teaching job.  I’ve been minimally involved in the community; hearing stories of Elgin’s rich manufacturing history while chaperoning my class on field trips to the Planetarium, or the Gail Borden Library.  Elgin has a rich manufacturing history.  For example, the Elgin National Watch company, 1864-1967, located along the Fox River.  There is also the Shoe Factory, 1891-1929,  located on Congdon Ave.  Parts of the these factories remain abandoned or restored and repurposed.

Recently, a poet friend of mine, Chasity Gunn, did a reading at the library on the theme of the river.  She shared her original work and invited me to share mine.  The poem below “The river and I are friends” was written for this occasion.  In the poem I reflect on the life of the river, Elgin’s laborers, and the work of the apprentice.

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The river and I are friends

I

The river and I are friends

My steps are careful – light and tender

My heart heavy one day, a spring in my step the next.

There, a path in the earth, leads me deeper to the bank where I grab the oak tree limb

Balancing my spring or my burden.

How lucky the Oak, of all the places to be offering itself to the nest and the breeze.

How lucky the roots- gripping and absorbing the energy of the river from below

(The oak and I are friends)

The oak and the river are present, unburdened by time, or requirement.

The ducks are here,

The fish are too

And, of course the beaver’s home is chaos to the eye.  A shored-up hut.  Tight-tangled branches strewn like pick up sticks.

How tempted I am to peek inside.

But the river and the Oak know why I’m here.

I’ve come to listen to the past.

Here along the water’s edge live the voices and dreams of the shoemaker,

the watch welder,

The calloused hands of laborers who laid the tracks along her path.

The work of progress on the backs of those who’ve led me here to wonder.

II

The window faces the river

Sitting in the hard spindle chair my Grandfather crafted

The floor boards announcing the arrival of my weight.

I hold in my hands the vision I’ve called into being.

It’s come to pass.

The molds, bespoke, articulate, precise

From the start made of wood, scraps of Oak from a fallen tree, I have seen from my window.

Reaching for the metal tin

This is the time for soothing.

The salve of the apprentice rolled onto tender finger tips.

III

Tomorrow begins production

Adhesive, material, punch

Patterns and threads.

And tapping, tapping, tapping.

Treadle stitching, turning the wheel in the right direction

Peddle and check

Peddle and check

The treadle rhythm is a seesaw and I am hypnotized

Cut, slice

Pull, stretch,

Press, cork,

knot, paint,

fire

To feel the tension, where leather and stitch bind to contain flesh, muscle, tendon and bone

Where sole meets the Earth

The ease of each step carried forward into the world.

This is the River

This is the Oak

This is the job of the apprentice.