Today I went to pottery class and made a small, strategically lopsided pumpkin.
This process began by making two identical pinch pots (aka small rounded bowl made by “pinching” the clay into submission).
The instructor said to me “Make the wall of the pinch pots evenly thick. It’s more about feeling than seeing.”
When she said it, I immediately had all these thoughts fire off in my mind. First, I was like “yeah yeah, I know that already, lady!” (there’s that fiery mind of mine on full display), then I thought “Wow, I never considered that not everyone would have access to this intuitive knowledge,” and then I thought, “WOW, this is yoga!”
This is a very visually oriented society in a visually oriented time in history. We live in a battlefield of advertisements that hook us in with extreme examples. I know I’ve never seen a before and after ad that said “You can’t see a difference, but the subtlety speaks volumes!”
We rely on sight to give us feedback about a great deal of our tasks. I don’t think that’s particularly helpful with many of the things that we accomplish day to day. I am a firm believer that our physicality expresses many things about us, but to shut out all other sensory input in favor of the being solely focused on what we can see means that we miss a lot of life. (Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that, right?)
For example, if I relied on my eyes to make my pinch pots “perfect,” I would really have a hard time noticing the thicker lumps of clay near the rim and the bottom. If I channel my attention to my hands and particularly the very sensitive finger pads, I can make a beautiful pinch pot with my eyes closed (think of Patrick Swayze in Ghost…;)), and I know I enjoy mushing my fingers in clay and experiencing the sensory input a lot more than I like starting at something and evaluating whether it is suitable.
How does this apply to yoga?
Often, we see people doing all these poses, these beautiful poses, and we want to do them too, so we look at pictures, videos, instagram posts, read books, and keep an image of that pose in our mind. This is helpful and part of the process, but it becomes an obstacle when we are so chained to the image and appearance of the pose that we forget to feel the pose…breathe the pose…taste the pose…smell the pose. You know what I mean?!
What business do we have trying to imitate shapes like poorly trained/untrained acrobats? That can end in laughable fails or serious injury. When we EMBODY our beautiful bodies, feel our feelings, do OUR thing, then we arrive in shapes and mental planes that we never could have dreamed. No picture can show the internal experience, though some masters of photography, through skill and chance, come close at capturing that inner world at times.
I’m off to teach some yoga now. You can be sure I’ll be mentioning this string of thoughts. And someone will probably think “yeah yeah, I know that already, lady!” and I will deserve it.