It's This and That
By: Tracy Bleier
Years ago, I used to teach yoga in exchange for a spot in a coveted writers retreat led by my favorite writing teacher. The retreats were intimate—only six to eight writers. They were private, held at a gorgeous inn with plush beds and multiple hearths and delicious coffee. I never left those days without having some aspect of my life renewed — whether it was about my writing or how I was seeing the world. I loved that my teacher included yoga and meditation as part of her retreats. It was nice to remind other writers how much of a resource our bodies are when we remember that we live inside of one.
There were countless takeaways from my time on these retreats, timeless tidbits of wisdom I packed into lines of my notebook and use in my yoga classes as inspiration to this day.
The key arrives way before the lock.
The whole world is a work of art.
One of the five senses is not thinking.
When we weren’t workshopping each others writing, which involved the writer staying quiet while we discussed where the writing felt most alive, our teacher read some of her favorite quotes about art or writing, but they were really all about life. Words by Joan Didion, Virginia Wolf, Rececca Solnit, Faulkner, and Dillard entered our circle and I got the chills.
But the biggest takeaway— (aside from the fact that it was on one of these retreats that I generated the opening lines to a memoir that I would spend the next few years completing)—There were two things that my teacher shared that forever changed the game for me as a writer and as a teacher. The first was something she said during our morning session. We sat in front of a roaring fireplace balancing coffee and our journals on our laps. We hardly knew each other, except that in our hands were the pages of the stories we wrote— intimate slivers of our lives crafted into essays, memoirs, or poems.
“When you are reading good writing,” my teacher said. “You don’t even remember that you are reading. You are transported into the land of someones’ consciousness and that consciousness might as well be yours.”
You don’t even know that you are reading.
I think about that every time I teach a class. Where in my teaching can I help others feel transported like that? What can I say right now that would let these humans into my heart, or better into their own? What can I do that may help pull us all closer to one another? It takes a moment. Sometimes it takes a lot of silence. But at some point out of nothing arises the thing to say. Writing is so similar. Out of the ether arrives the word. The sentence I was waiting for. If I push too hard, if I stomp too loudly. If I stay and bear the tension that only silence can recognize then the words come, for that moment. Teaching holds this space too. It’s a lean into the silence, one ear pressed to the air, eyes closed. I don’t need to look. I only need to trust, to sense that out of nothing comes the word, the sequence, the rhythm — the entire practice.
The other thing this teacher said was something she shared during a private conference between us. It was the first retreat I had been on and I showed up with barely any work— a few older pieces I wrote that pertained to my life in yoga. I was concerned that the writing I had done for the past years had pinned me into this corner of sounding always like a yoga teacher, and not just me, Tracy.
“It’s this and that. You are a yoga teacher and you are living your life.”
It’s this and that. It’s both. It’s not one or the other. It seems obvious. Here I am living in the world as a yoga teacher but the world I experience is not just through the lens of the teacher. It is also through the eyes of a Woman. Daughter. Friend. Wife. Mother. Human. On a daily basis, these worlds collide, blend, marbleize and inform each other. These are roles that alternate and orbit around me, but at the center is always myself. And that is the being I meet when I teach, write, and live.
It takes mightiness to admit being human. It’s easy to put on the expected roles, to stay at arms length from the gooey center. If my heart is truly open that will reflect in my teaching, in my writing and in whatever ways I choose to express myself. In spite of a racing heart, a stomach in knots, a mind saying there’s no way I can say that, write that, share that, I find that on the contrary these tremors are the symptom of moving in the right direction. As a teacher, writer, human with so little time on this Earth, there’s no way I risk a chance at losing human connection by not saying, sharing, or admitting what in our hearts we all feel.
I am immensely excited for what we will create in our next module, Expressive — five days of practice, mantra, poetry, storytelling, art making. Your teaching. Your art. Your life.
You will amplify.