Thursday, June 13, 2013

My name on a poster! 'Cause I'm doing something!

            I confess to being sort of bad at self-promotion.  It's honestly not false modesty.  I, um, sort of think I'm brilliant.  It's just that I forget to talk to friends about my writing life because often the two seem like two different worlds.
            So here are two bits of information that I keep forgetting to tell people:
            1)  I'm having my first book published!  It will be called Beltenebros, or the Beautiful Obscure, and will be published by the local house babel/salvage.  I discussed it a little bit here.  I just keep forgetting to talk about it in person.  And...
            2)  I'm reading at Club Hollywood, just off of Aurora, the absolute height of glamour, on Bloomsday!  (June 16th, for normal people.)  Seriously, I'm a little crazy excited to be doing a literary thing on Bloomsday.  I shall say all my mea culpas to Saint James in preparation, and we'll all have a good laugh.  It's a party for the release of You Will Get in Trouble, by local writer Ryan Johnson, and there is a very cool looking poster about it below.
            If you feel like coming out and drinking and listening to work by five local writers, I'll be there. Being too good for self-promotion.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Protection and Opening

            Thoughts on Chapter 7 of The Artist's Way.  Part seven of twelve on creativity.

            "As animals, we instinctively know that we must protect our vital organs, our throat, and our face, so we have a natural protective response to cover our front bodies.  But when you do a backbend, you take a position that is the antithesis of your natural protective posture and intentionally expose the soft parts of your body, which in an animal, when on all fours, are always protected...
            By opening your front body, you demonstrate a willingness to be in the world, to feel, to be hurt, to be ecstatic.  Backbends allow your emotional body to be receptive and responsive...In fact, the more vulnerable you allow yourself to be, the more connected you are, which enables you to listen and respond to what is occurring in the present moment.  But if you hide in the illusion that you can be safe and protected, you end up responding and reacting only to what's in your head."  - p. 123, Moving Toward Balance, by Rodney Yee

            For a yoga teacher, I'm pretty anti-woo-woo.  I can get into it for a little while, but I am not of the opinion that holistic thinking presupposes a lack of meaning.  But I skirt along the edges of the yoga and modern dance communities, so I come across a lot of woo-woo, and I tend to get impatient with my companions who go — *ahem* — a little far in my opinion.
            Which is all to say, I'm not really going to go into weird territory here when I talk about how certain asanas affect people.  There are some strange connections; while teaching, I noticed that there seems to be something to the apparently bullshit statement that we "store" emotions in our hips.  If you haven't practiced yoga much, that might sound totally foreign, but it's sort of a commonplace amongst yoga teachers.  And I have to say, from watching students as well as myself practice hip opening postures over and over again, in different stages of life, there's definitely something to the idea that some sort of emotional release is happening.
            Even easier to accept, though, is the idea that opening your chest and abdomen to the world would feel vulnerable.  As with inversions, people who are new to backbends inevitably tighten and clench up.  This strikes me as completely natural.  You certainly don't see a lot of apes stretching out and exposing their abdomens to foreign groups, and if/when you go to a yoga class, while I'm sure you don't consciously think anyone in the room bears you ill will, realistically most everyone is something of a stranger to you.  While your consumer brain tells you that the cost of entry is supposed to ensure your safety, your body knows the risk involved.
            All well and good.  In fact, I strongly encourage everyone I know — whether trying new physical activities that involve risk of injury, or trying a potentially humiliating creative or intellectual venture — to very, very honestly evaluate their boundaries and honor them.  It's easy to let talk of "say yes to life!", or "be open to play!", or whatever, turn into an admonishment for compulsive people-pleasers to put themselves into emotionally draining or even dangerous positions.  I think we can safely say that our ape ancestors are quite contentedly open to life, and you don't see them just casually wandering into foreign family groups and then lying down on their backs with a contented "I'm sure everyone here is as nice as me" expression on their face.
            The above quote from Yee remains firmly lodged in my head, however:  "[I]f you hide in the illusion that you can be safe and protected, you end up responding and reacting only to what's in your head."  Psychologically, we all have a heart-space/belly that we protect, and we do so for excellent reasons.  Especially now, with the complete break-down of communal supports and structures, the tribal weave that should be holding us all together in safety, something deep and genetic in us knows that we are in fact not safe.
            I've written about this in a related post, but in the earlier post I was talking about the scariness of the inside of our minds.  Here I want to point out the scariness of the outer world, and the simultaneous need to connect with it.  Because Yee is right; you can't get an accurate bead on what to worry about and what not to worry about if you're compulsively protecting yourself all the time.  And, I would argue, you aren't going to work towards your full creative potential if you cut yourself off from life in this way.  It feels like creative impulses come from within, but I'm pretty sure they actually arise out of some feedback loop between us and the outside world.  Spend a lifetime throwing up one wall after another, and pretty soon the loop breaks down and you're just leaching off your brain/self without giving it the sustenance of actual life.

            June 16th is Bloomsday, which you could celebrate many different ways.  You could support your local town hall (assuming you're in Seattle) and listen to Dubliners, and later that evening head to Club Hollywood to listen to yours truly do a reading. Or, if you either don't live in Seattle — rendering the above options difficult — or you do live in Seattle — and are therefore averse to leaving your home, ever, for any reason — you could just read the last chapter of Ulysses, which is by far the best.
            I can't come up with a prescription for myself.  Something along the lines of, "In these circumstances, always open and say 'yes,' but in those circumstances, always say 'no' and try to shield yourself."  Anyone who's put some thought into life knows that it's too complicated for that.  But I do lean towards the "open" end, and the last chapter of Ulysses moves along the same lines. Molly offers one of the loveliest affirmations of life, and of openness to it, that I've come across yet in literature.  Here is the very last bit, in all its run-on glory:

...O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.