Photo: Per Palmkvist Knudsen. Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga
Real Life is Real Yoga
How I learned to have too much fun to doubt myself
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST SUSAN BLOOD
When I was 6 we moved to Colorado, where we pretended we were westerners.
My mom bought turquoise jewelry, my dad succumbed to casual Friday and my sister and I took horseback riding lessons. One of the horses I rode was Pine, a sap-colored horse that was big and slow and some kind of Zen master.
I remember Pine because we spent a lot of time alone, just standing there on the trail.
Early in each ride, Pine would stop to admire the space between the branches and I was not capable of either kicking him (pacifist!) or shouting for help (shy!). So we stood around a lot, just being. Eventually the group would finish their ride and double back, finding us about a quarter mile from the barn.
Begin in your comfort zone
Pine was far more Zen than I, and I ended up going to riding lessons with a great deal of anxiety about whether or not my horse would go. I also had anxiety about getting the right stuff in the tack room, and finding someone new to help with the bridle each time. I had convinced myself I couldn’t do it and the stable hands had little patience for that kind of nonsense.
I was reminded of all this last summer when a friend asked if I’d take an adult sailing class with her. She’s afraid of the water and I’m afraid of everything, so it seemed like the right thing to do.
For the first few weeks we studied things like knots and wind direction and the fake words we had to use for all the real things. There were books and videos and lectures, all of which I’m fairly comfortable with.
Everything was great, until we had to start sailing. It was when we were sent to the bosun’s locker for sails that the anxiety started to hit.
Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams
A bosun’s locker is a tackroom, with sails instead of saddles.
I heard the old voices start up again: I don’t know where anything is! I’ve never done this before! What if I do it wrong? Are people angry with me yet?
Meanwhile, my friend said “these look right” and grabbed a bundle of sails. I had no choice but to push through the doubt and go rig myself a boat. And off we went: my friend who’s afraid of water, a mentor who would do anything to sail, and me.
We got off the mooring and set sail like they showed us in the video, with the mentor shouting out directions. When the boat heeled (imperceptibly from shore, no doubt), I was just about to scream bloody murder when I looked across at my friend who was paralytic with fear.
I was afraid if I started to scream she’d pass right out and then where would we be? For her, I held it together and again pushed past all the voices of self doubt.
Seeking means to have a goal, but finding is a picnic
We quickly either burned through all the mentors who were willing to sail with us, or we reached a point where they trusted us enough to send us out alone.
Before long, my friend and I were sailing from marker to marker, making extra loop-de-loops along the way which we tried to make look intentional. One time we did end up with the wrong bundle of sails and had to sail without a jib. We probably looked silly, but were having too much fun together on the water to care.
With the two of us in the boat, sailing lessons became long conversations about what we should put in the picnic hamper. My friend stopped looking like she might pass out and I occasionally braved the bosun’s locker.
Your path (and the tide) will rise up to meet you
While it was gratifying to know what an outhaul is and respond correctly when someone yells to “head up,” we were mostly happy to be together on the water, admiring the view.
There were times when we’d be lost in our own little world, happy as could be. We’d know it was time to head back when the rest of the class came back and found us, a quarter mile from the dock.
It’s a small boat we sail, but I can’t help but think that if we could fit a horse in there with us, Pine would enjoy our brand of sailing.
We sail like a Zen horse.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.