All glory comes from daring to begin.
It rained the entire week. The rain came in torrents every day and there were peals of thunder followed by downpours. The storms mirrored the intensity of the workshop. We spent hours soaking up a deluge of knowledge and information from an exceptional teacher.
The teacher said something that has remained with me ever since. What he had to say comes up in every life situation that requires action (which sometimes is no action). Whenever I need to take on anything new or focus to make myself better—heal the world, write a great novel, or lose five pounds—I remember his words and the pounding rain.
Each practice began with three OM’s and a Sanskrit invocation that they say if practiced twelve thousand times makes its meaning clear. I’ve been practicing it ever since. I may have reached twelve thousand times, but I never counted—it counts to me that I do it.
We practiced using “eyes of discernment”—eyes that usher in a softening heart and bring understanding. We focused on the inner ear, which we learned softens the brain (!). Each morning we began with standing poses, always emphasizing alignment. We discovered that alignment goes far beyond the physical self. While working on the hinges of the front leg, we “contacted” the kidneys and the fire in the energy of the arms. We learned that the “brain” of poses is in the calf of the rear leg (!). The hips learned over and over how to be “courteous” to each other, ultimately surrendering to “embrace.” By the time we were finished with these demanding practices, our courteous hips were ready to receive royalty.
Physical work was intertwined with knowledge, and information was intertwined with insight into the mental body, the emotional body, the psychological body, and the spiritual body. The teaching was rich and complex and it was stitched into a formative experience for me. There was endless wisdom about pace, about eating—what, when, how—and anecdotes that transcend the telling but seeped way in. The lesson of the worthwhile: it is earned with sweat. Nothing heartfelt or worth having is gotten without toil. Ultimately, the greatest pleasures of life are earned this way.
At the end of the workshop someone asked our teacher how to practice, how to start, and how long to practice once you get started. The teacher was eating some dried fruit and nuts and continued chewing for a few moments (a typical Yogi).
Then he said: “If you go out and try to pick up a big rock, or a boulder, you will struggle to lift it and to throw it any distance.” He paused and then continued.
“If you go out and pick up a small stone and toss it, you will throw that small stone a great distance; a much greater distance than the big boulder.”
This wisdom over the years keeps gathering weight and meaning for me. Over the course of my life this idea of the small stone has become a boulder of strength. It is a solid and reliable rock. I think back to my son who was learning to walk when he was four, defying the prognosis that he might never walk. It was one small step at a time.
At each point in my life since, I have prepared for challenges by gathering inward the best parts of myself to get myself going on creative paths. That means working on giving myself to things beside myself—to new endeavors—continuing to be the best I can be. I had to love and nurture in all the ways I always meant to. It begins with one small step, one small stone. No gobbling.