When I lived at Esalen Institute, a friend asked if I would do some yoga therapy with him. Kevin's knees in particular were challenged, so he wanted me to help him gain a greater sense of flexibility and stamina. After looking at his posture and watching him walk, I said, "First you've got to go push some weight to build strength."
"I play baseball and hike all over the place," Kevin replied.
"That's good," I nodded. "But you've got to do some resistance training or anything I'll be able to share with you will get lost in the shuffle and won't get integrated." I went on to explain that in my yoga classes, we aim to balance strength, flexibility, and relaxation. "You've got to have stability before flexibility, though," I told Kevin. "Because without strong roots, there's a greater chance of over-stretching or injury."
"I don't want to lift weights," Kevin admitted. "I'd rather just play sports."
"Okay," I shrugged. "If you change your mind, let me know."
As the months passed by, Kevin continued to play ball, hike, and participate in weekly Dance Church, but his knees dogged him at every turn. Eventually he went to the gym and worked on developing strength in his legs, core, and back. Then he asked me once again to see what yoga could do to help him. After a few sessions, I saw great improvement, but reminded him to keep up with resistance training, no matter what.
"Being strong and long go hand in hand," I said. "The stronger you are, the better I can work with your muscles...and the more flexible you are, the easier is it to mix things up in the weight room."
Nowadays I'm taking my own advice, both in the gym and as a writer.
This weekend I had the opportunity to rise to the challenge given by a prospective literary agent who asked me to rewrite the first fifty pages of THE LACE MAKERS. How ironic that this experience came on the heels of Harper Lee's death, for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD cracked open my consciousness, allowing me to see the world from a very different perspective. I reread the novel every year or so, and every time I learn something new.
I once thought I was more like Scout -- scrappy, fierce, and a lover of mild, yet mirthful profanity ("Pass the damn, ham, please" being one of my favorite lines). But as I peel back the layers of my life, I've come to understand that I'm much more like Boo who prefers the shelter of solitude, even to my own detriment...which is why the daily challenge to put myself out into the world has been unbelievably worthwhile. It's like mental resistance training to stand firm against my tendency to shift back into Hermit-mode whenever positive change is imminent.
The other day I was talking with someone about the possibilities of publishing and he said, "One day your novel will be made into a film."
Without missing a beat, I replied, "Then where will I hide?"
He smiled. "You'll have to change your name again."
I've given it some thought, but I don't really want to do that. I need to own it all...not only the novel, but my propensity to retract whenever good things come my way, for I've learned that exceptional challenges always bring the best things to light.
When I first started lifting again last November, I couldn't do too much, but I've stuck with it and am now mixing it up in the weight room three times a week. What a surprise to now be able to pull a 100 pound plate off of the leg press! And even more surprising to be able to do wind sprints on the treadmill at a pace I haven't been able to accomplish in over twenty years. The momentum takes over and I can barely feel the movement of my legs, for it's as if I'm weightless, effortlessly flying, which is often how I feel whenever I come into my office to work on a project.
After nearly seventeen years of writing, editing, and resiliently moving forward, I've been able to focus and rework half of a manuscript in three days. And even though I just found a rejection email from the literary agent in my inbox, I'm getting back on the starting block and will try again.
Perhaps all of this time I've spent rewriting and reworking THE LACE MAKERS is preparing me for the challenges and surprises the future will bring. Developing endurance, flexibility, and lightening quick reflexes, I can welcome the unknown with confidence and the strength to meet every experience as it comes, be it on the track or in the publishing world. I'm striving to trust the process of the training and my ability to act in the moment, for I've discovered that the practice and the execution are inherently one and the same. In the end, I'm getting stronger every day...for it's all preparation for the next step.
Whatever that might be.