The Art of Beginning

by Mona Keddy

The art of beginning … a blog. Today, I begin. In beginning, my intention is to more deeply articulate what I know and to use the writing process as a medium to clarify, synthesize and delineate my experiences.

I have thought about writing for years — okay, decades. And I did write. I kept a diary like my mother and sister still do, did the morning pages suggested in The Artist’s Way and even did some creative writing while teaching a course on the same topic. Through each segment, I was relatively consistent but there were large gaps (years actually) with no activity. Now I am making that intention to write concrete. With yoga as a focus and my consistent practice as a guide, I look forward to a regular writing experience.
In thinking about starting this blog, I remember the process of starting yoga. Having no clue what I was getting into at that time was, in reflection, a bit of a blessing. Now, yoga is everywhere and often, new students have some vague idea of what is involved when they walk into their first class. I had no clue. I didn’t know what yoga was even as the voice inside me was saying, sign up for the course. I remember “asking permission” to sign up from those around me at the time and of wanting the support of others. Getting myself through the door was challenging.

Now as a studio owner and yoga teacher, I also hear from yoga students how challenging beginning can be. New students come into the studio saying something like, “I have been walking by the studio for months (or more) and today is when I am finally coming in.” We all have had, I think, some experience of this kind of beginning. The rolled up yoga mat in the corner, the closed door of the studio and the blank paper or computer screen are all thresholds that need to be crossed. One of my early yoga teachers would say that the hardest part of the practice is unrolling the mat.

Yoga philosophy texts recognize this. Imagine even hundreds of years ago, students were struggling to begin. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras begin: “Now, we begin the study of yoga.” The Bhakti Sutras begin, “Now we begin the study of Love.” In these simple statements are the inherent understandings of the threshold, of being poised on the precipice and of impetus needed to cross over. Now. Now we push across: we walk through the door, unroll the mat, sit down to write. We carve out time and space; we separate and delineate time to practice or write. We position it as separate from the rest of our day or life. We concentrate on the act of beginning.

Psychologists talk about the fear in beginning. Fear of the unfamiliar, of the performance so to speak. I also recognize in myself the desire for an invitation to cross over the threshold, a permission to take up space. Interesting enough through psychology, we also know fear and excitement share many internal similarities. The internal sensations get labeled as fear or excitement in our mind. So, in the trepidation is also great excitement. The unknown has the potential to yield great outcome. As they say, you cannot win if you don’t play the game. Getting involved, taking action is important.

So, now we know, beginning can be hard and can yield great results. Still, how do we begin?  How do we harness the internal push that propels us over the edge? First, we listen to the voice inside that says do it. That voice is perhaps the beginning of a new brain pattern that will eventually break the old patterns. If we listen to that voice and follow its lead, we develop a new internal set-up.

I know through my yoga practice that, once the mat is unrolled and the opening poses have been completed, something changes. There is a palpable shift that moves me forward. Even when I don’t feel like practicing, once I begin, more follows. Rarely does it happen that I stop earlier than planned. Often once I give myself permission to begin, I stay longer. Just do 5minutes I say to myself and then an hour later I am still on my mat. The act of beginning opens up the possibility of more. I look forward to more writing.

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