Then I was totally inspired by Chris’s incredible blog post, about the depression she was now emerging from. Chris is a yoga teacher – we trained together – and had managed to keep teaching through her depression, and then turn her very painful experience into a gift. It had bowled me over, particularly given my recent feelings about blogging and exposure. At a gathering of yoginis last week, at my house, I told her how courageous I thought she was.
Then I asked her how her book was coming along, and she said she’d set it aside. It’s a book about how yoga can help with parenting, and I’d had a long conversation with her about it eighteen months ago. “But you’ll get back to it now that you’re feeling better?” I asked. She said no, not yet, because she didn’t feel she could preach what she didn’t practise. I fell silent, puzzled.
Leonie, another yogini, had just started a second teacher training course, with the magnificent Sama Fabian. “So far it’s been all about digestion,” she said. “Not just food. Everything. We’ve done hardly any teaching practice yet, we’ve been focussing on our own digestion.”
Chris nodded. “Exactly. You have to sort yourself out first.”
“But I bet you do incorporate what you’ve learnt from yoga in your parenting,” I said. “And also, do you really have to reach infallibility, before you can share your ideals?”
Chris seemed to think so. In the case of her book, anyway. I spent a few days feeling muddled. Am I a yoga fraud? Should I jack in the teaching, concentrate on my own practice, my own digestion? But I kept remembering that book, The Road Less Travelled: a self-help book advocating self-discipline, responsibility and restraint, written by self-professed heavy drinker, dope smoker and womaniser, M Scott Peck.
I googled M Scott Peck, and it sounds like he did make a bit of a mess of things. Or did he? But on Amazon it says of The Road Less Travelled: “Perhaps no book in this generation has had a more profound impact on our intellectual and spiritual lives.” And he kept trying, he kept battling his demons. And he was honest, he kept laying himself bare.
His biographer called him a “wounded healer”, so I googled “wounded healers,” and came across this quote by Angel Williams: “Only the wounded healer is able to heal. As long as we think that spiritual leaders need to be perfect, we live in poverty. I have a perfect teacher inside; there is no perfect teacher outside.”
As I read these solemn words, I remembered, years and years ago, going to a yoga lesson with a teacher who was not only very fat, but who sat munching crisps as she called out instructions. I’d been appalled and impressed in equal measure. I got into a fantasy about being a crazy, maverick yogi, a shambolic visionary, having a few stiff drinks before teaching, taking a cigarette break halfway through. Loving this alter ego character, I jotted down some notes for a story.
Saturday. In my calm, sunlit bedroom, studying yoga, while my family watch football, and weep and wail. I sketch parivrtta ardha chandrasana: revolved half moon. It featured in Graham Burns’s class this morning, and I loved it, that spiral, like a whirlpool, holding me in place. Graham’s class all about equalising, centring, digesting. The rain lashed against the windows, and then the sun sparkled in the raindrops, and clouds gathered, and the rain lashed again.