There is joy and an important sense of renewal in each effort to begin again. ~ Sharon Salzberg from The Fractal Moment blog post
For a long time, I had a rocky relationship with radishes. But a few years ago, in a miraculous shift of events, I went from detesting the bitter, crushed-aspirin, sorry-excuse-for-a-vegetable things to dancing a little happy dance when the gorgeous Easter egg variety show up in the market. (You can read an essay about it here.)
You’d think I’d learn. You’d think I’d learn that just because I didn’t like something one time doesn’t mean I won’t like it ever. You’d think I’d learn that just because something didn’t go well once doesn’t mean I have to abandon it forever. You’d think.
The act of beginning again is the essential art of meditation practice. ~ Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness
The very first time I ever sat down to meditate; I listened to a guided one by Sharon Salzberg. In it she says,
If you find your attention has wandered, that’s fine. See if you can practice being patient, being gentle and beginning again. … If you have to begin again a million times in the course of one sitting, that’s the practice. …If your mind wanders or you get lost, nothing is spoiled, nothing is ruined. Just begin again.
Almost every time I sit, I can hear Sharon’s voice in my head: Nothing is ruined.
Years ago when I started taking yoga classes, I found myself disliking one of the people I practiced with. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I got this dislike feeling and I stuck with it. I let the thoughts and feelings of dislike solidify. Like a hard M&M shell of No Like, I found myself avoiding her and setting up my mat on the other side of the room.
When I saw her, I felt like I’d swallowed a peach pit.
And what’s the sense in that? I thought. So I asked myself what would happen if I chose to like her. I greeted her when she came into the locker room. I asked her about her practice and listened when she talked about her job. And when she unrolled her mat next to mine, I smiled and (I realized with some amusement) I was genuinely delighted.
I do this. I think something – I hate radishes, I don’t like that person. — and then I take those thoughts really seriously. I forget to begin again. I forget that nothing is ruined.
At the beginning of this year, I decided to teach all the sixteen routines I’ve created in my sixteen years of teaching. It started off nicely with a string of routines that I enjoy: Supernatural, Dunyakan, 1GiantLeap, Big Blue Ball, Covers Uncovers. But then like the proverbial needle dragging across vinyl, I came to Sense You All.
Ug. The Worst Routine I Ever Did. The Worst.
Sense You All was the last routine I created before taking a sabbatical from teaching in 2012. My feelings about teaching and the practice of Nia were ambiguous at best, off-the-charts-negative at worst.
When I taught Sense You All for the first few classes, I kept thinking my choreography was terrible and confusing. I was convinced that all my students hated it — not just some of them, all of them. After teaching it only a couple of weeks, I lost all my notes, all the bars and choreography — hours and hours of work. I sent out a message to my fellow teachers at the time, had anyone seen my folder with all my Sense You All notes?
Nope. Nobody had.
You’ll just have to start over, said Samantha cheerily.
The heck with that (I actually muttered something more colorful and succinct), I’ll never teach it again.
Now as I return to my routines in 2016, I think, Maybe I’ll just skip that one. Nobody will notice. Nobody will know.
Gahh, but that wouldn’t be impeccable. It would feel like a cheat. And besides, there is something sweet about sixteen routines in sixteen years.
Instead, I decided to begin again. I listened to the playlist and, well, gosh, the music was pretty good. I remembered some threads of choreography but mostly I started over. Little by little, I found things that fit together. Now the routine is coming together into something new. Like my relationship with radishes and my yoga friend, my relationship with Sense You All wasn’t ruined. It wasn’t spoiled.
I only had to be willing to change my thinking about it, to be open to it in a new way.
I only had to begin again.