What We’re Reading – Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

“Writing as a practice.” When I first read this in the pages of Natalie Goldberg’s classic text, Writing Down the Bones (1986), I could not have imagined how profoundly it would impact my future yoga practice. The book was recommended for ‘perfecting my craft’—writing. As a writer, I searched for advice on creating more beautiful and meaningful written text, communicating effectively with my target audiences, inspiring creativity in my readers but…I hadn’t anticipated the life-transforming gift of this new and deep meditative, self-inquiry practice.

At the time, I was completing a 300 hour yoga teacher training with Amanda McMaine and exploring the physical body—bones, joints, muscles—and their essential role in the body’s form, the felt sense of energetic embodiment, and the safe practice of alignment-oriented, therapeutic asana. With ‘bones’ on my mind, the title captured my imagination. When I opened to the chapter on Writing as Practice, I realized, this was not a typical book on writing technique—I was holding in my hands the key to a whole new way to practice yogic presence, self-exploration and reflection, a practice that has become a powerful tool in my yoga toolbox.

Revisiting this book to prepare for the 200 and 300 hour yoga teacher trainings at The Essence of Yoga Center, I have been (re)inspired by the power of Goldberg’s descriptions of writing as practice. As a longtime, Zen meditation practitioner, she believes “that writing practice is learning to trust your own mind and body,” “to grow patient and nonaggressive,” to “stay present with whatever comes up and to “[e]mbrace your whole life.” This description is, in a nutshell, the essence of my personal yoga practice.

Now, with beginner’s mind, I dive back into this self-aware text, guided in my writing practice by Goldberg’s own words, “sit down right now,” “give [yourself] this moment,” “write whatever’s running through you. Don’t try to control it,” just “keep your hand moving.” Through disciplined yogic writing practice, I am able to “burn through” to what Goldberg calls “first thoughts,” the intersection between heart and mind, where my true Self resides and I find the teacher within.

post by Tanja Bisesi

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