I’ve been doing yoga. What can I say? You get to wear flared stretchy pants and do poses with silly names (plus, you know, breathe and stretch for an hour). Admittedly, I struggle at times with yoga-speak: you know, that low, soothing, align-your-chakra-find-your-spirit-animal-visualize-your-best-self talk. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the Vortex Capital of the Universe, where the air seemed to reek of burning sage and gauzy shoppers chatted about auras and crystals over their wheat-germ smoothies at the health mart. But I’m working on being less judgmental (can’t you tell?), so in yoga I roll with the lingo without so much as an eyeroll. I do all right, hangin’ out in downward dog, getting my warrior on. But that final pose, savasana, the corpse pose: I can’t do it. I cannot just lie still with an empty yet focused mind. The instructor (who really isn’t too yoga-speaky at all, in truth, and is quite nice besides) tells us that if our minds start to wander to bring our awareness to it, and then “let it go.” So I’ve been trying to do that, to bring my mind back from its meandering (e.g. What would happen if that ceiling tile worked loose? or Who invented toothpicks? or Can I finish the googolplex of things I have to do by morning?)
Somehow, I started envisioning balloons as part of the “letting go” process. That is, I imagine that I tie the thought to the string and then watch it rise up and disappear. (It’s possible that someone suggested this technique to me in another context, but I can’t remember. My memory=hide of old cat.) For whatever reason, this balloon business works. It’s quite pleasant to watch that imagined little colored orb go up and up until it is a speck, and then gone.
I decided to try this strategy with other mental incursions — to quiet the voices, as Anne Lamott might say — especially when I sit down to write (which is hardly at all right now), or at night when I can’t sleep. Worries about bills? Turquoise balloon, neat little bow, and out the window it goes. Condescending comment in workplace? Orange balloon, up up and away. Annoying tailgater? Red-balloon her ass. Barking dogs, again? Send those owners up on a shiny Mylar.
As is probably no surprise, sometimes the string gets wrapped a little too tight around a wrist, or, well, sometimes around a neck. Sometimes the balloon encounters a sharp tree limb and pops over the most unfortunate places (hellmouths, etc.). So I try again, with another balloon, with another ball of string. Some days, I have a lot of balloons in my sky.
But I suppose it’s not a bad thing to remind ourselves to refocus, to ready our busy, yapping minds for the nearly silent world of writing and art-making. That inward, low-hum focus is like none other that I know. Settling down into it can be a doozy on the best days, but once I get myself there, by whatever means necessary — woo-woo tactics and all — I find what awaits me is another kind of floating.
I like your metaphor, Bryn! I have done yoga for a few years now, and I struggle with the same exact thing: listening to and accepting the vocabulary without rolling my eyes. And I too have had problems quieting my mind during corpse pose. The metaphor I came up with was of a barge that would slowly float off to sea. I would put my baggage onto it and give the barge a hefty push, but sometimes the floating away process is slow and uneventful. But eventually it floats away!
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