May I direct your attention to Amanda Green
? She also is enrolled in the YATNA yoga therapy training. I read her blog before that training started and, I fear, was a bit star struck in the dorkiest way imaginable when I first introduced myself. Fortunately, she didn't hold it against me. In her blog (which she writes/posts every Thursday so sign up and get the links emailed to you!), she often takes up one of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra-s and talks about it in a way that brings it out of the esoteric and makes it relatable to everyday life, all while being funny and honest. It's no small feat!
This week, her post is about her two daughters taking piano lessons
. I won't say too much because I want you to go read it for yourself but the gist of it is "Do it well. Do it with a good attitude. Do it for a long time. And you will become it." This is her paraphrasing of YS I.17. She illustrates it with how her daughters are taking up their piano studies in different ways and then brings it back onto herself, examining her yoga studies (and life in general). It's good stuff!
For me, her post points to something that I have been thinking a lot about lately - namely, making mistakes. When we are learning something new, we make a lot of mistakes. I think this is where "do it with a good attitude" comes in. If I am getting frustrated and angry with myself about making mistakes, then chances are that I won't get to the next step, "do it for a long time". Sometimes that is fine - we don't have to be experts in everything. But sometimes we miss opportunities to just enjoy our experiences when we are caught up in "I can't do it!" or "I should be better at this!"
I have been both teacher and student a lot recently. Watching others learn - and watching myself learn - is what got me thinking about how we react to our mistakes. When I begin to learn something new, it is as if there is a grey, wooly fuzz all over everything. I can't see clearly; things are vague and I am bumping up against them unexpectedly i.e. making lots of mistakes. For pretty much my whole life, I have hated this part of learning new things. I couldn't wait for the fuzz to clear and the shapes to sharpen so that I could be able to see through it all with technicolor clarity. I would work, work, work to get to that place as quickly as possible. And I have refused to try new things because of not wanting to experience that grey, fuzzy place.
As I think about it more, I realize that there is something quite beautiful about that grey, fuzzy place. Because I have no idea what I am doing, I am paying attention like crazy. It is actually a pretty wonderful state to be in. I have started to think that maybe I should savor that state, or at least, appreciate it just a little more before rushing towards mastering my skill.
Ok, so maybe if you are George W. Bush and you are sending soldiers into Iraq, you don't get to savor your mistakes. But for most of us, what's a lousy drawing? A sloppy yoga asana? Missing the cue to ring a bell in the zendo? Or even a poorly worded reply to our children or loved one? My experience has been that, if I can be sincerely trying without trying (through gritted teeth) other people can accept our mistakes more light-heartedly too. After all, we all make'em! Of course, there is also sincerely apologizing when our mistakes hurt someone.
It's so useful to make mistakes. It's so useful to make mistakes so it would be good to have a way of making them that allows us to hold them loosely and lightly (while still paying attention like crazy). Then, we get that ananda (see Amanda's post) sooner rather than later. The grey fuzz will clear eventually too. But the joy of it is always there for us, no matter if we are buried under grey fuzz or floating through life with razor-sharp clarity. The joy of it is always there, even in the mistakes.