Detail: Cézanne, Still Life with Curtain
Real Life is Real Yoga: Trust the Process
There’s a light on the stairs
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
My thoughts have been revolving around the concept of “a life’s work.” It feels important, necessary even, to make a contribution.
I remember a friend once asking, “Do you think the ability to put off short term pleasure is the only thing that assures long term gain?” It seemed like a trick question, as the grown up answer is apparently “Duh.”
What if I’m wrong?
Still, the hard part of that question isn’t the obvious part about learning to forgo easy solutions. I think the difficulty is in the length of time that passes between the choices made and the outcomes that result.
There are days when I argue with myself about how well my life’s work is actually going.
What I’ve learned is, unlike adolescence when the sharp feelings of being right or wrong were as easy as telling night from day, adult and long term decisions are vastly more complex in their values.
Faith turns out to be a life’s work all by itself.
The New Yorker published a wonderful essay by Malcolm Gladwell on the whole subject of the arc of a life’s work. Late Bloomers asks the question, “Why do we associate genius with precocity?”
In other words, how do we make sense of the time it takes to live out the larger questions?
Too soon to tell
Gladwell compares the work of two certifiable artistic legends, Cezanne and Picasso, and finds that arriving early at your peak may only provide a long slow decline.
What I love about this essay is that Gladwell asks what would have happened to any number of well known artists or writers if they had given up on themselves too soon. His provocative examples are people who might easily have been tempted to throw in the towel after ten or even twenty years of working without being able to point to much progress toward their ideal.
When I gather with students to talk about perception, I always begin with the simple truth: There’s what happens, and then there’s what you decide it means. How do we decide what events and feelings are telling us about who we are and what we can do?
How do we know where we are in our personal arc? The truth is, we don’t.
Keep the faith
Have you ever been tempted to give up what you believe in because based on external results, your faith seemed foolish?
Read Gladwell’s New Yorker essay then find time for your own reflection on how to make sense of your experiences of adversity and challenge.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.