Karma: A Writing Exercise

Sometimes small talk becomes bigger talk. Settling onto the bench in the yoga studio lobby, I asked Claire, “How are you?”

She sighed before answering, “This morning I woke up late, and my boyfriend wasn’t there. I found him on the couch. I wanted to grab my purse and go, but there was a huge spider on it. I just stared at it, and while I was trying to figure out what to do, the spider raised its front paws, I mean legs, and moved them around like time didn’t apply to him.

“I had to wake my boyfriend up, and I was like, ‘Help,’ and he just killed it. I think part of it’s still on my book. But I was so glad that I could just grab my purse and go, because I was running late, and today was the last day for that public-speaking class that I teach to the middle-school students.”

“And how was that?” I asked.

“It was tough! I had to be a little hard on the students. One of them kept taking out his tablet. I told him twice to put it away. I was going to take it away from him, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to confiscate things. Anyway, I just had him come sit next to me.

“Then this other boy, he’s really smart, but he doesn’t do the work. They were all supposed to give their final speeches today, and he wasn’t ready, but I told him he had to do it anyway. He was going to have to improvise, and he did it, and he nailed it. It was so good.

“I explained to the class that it’s better to be prepared, but sometimes in life that’s just not possible, so you just do the best you can, and sometimes it works out like it did today. So, I made it through the end of the class, and I was happy for that boy, and still kind of stressed from the other one who kept playing with his tablet. When class ended, they were the first two out, and I was holding the door open for all the other students, and then those two boys, one at a time, both came back and wanted to give me a hug. So, now I’m here on kind of a high, ready to lead your yoga session.”

“That’s nice,” I said. “I had something like that happen in a middle-school writing class that I taught…”

Then I stopped – it was Claire’s moment—and pivoted. “It’s great when stuff like that happens. That’s why as a writing coach, I was happy to get your email last night with your blog ideas. Two of them intrigued me a lot: the one about what yoga instructors can learn from the dog whisperer, and the one about the real meaning of karma.”

By then, I’d removed my shoes and socks, and finished some stretches. Claire started toward the studio, and said over her shoulder, “Let’s talk about that after class.”

I followed her and unrolled my mat. She brought blocks and bolsters and resistance bands. Once she started instruction, all the spider and speech-class excitement drained from her voice. Her ability to calm herself helped me trust that she could lead me to calm myself. I fell into the easy rhythm of breath she prescribed.

Most yoga instructors encourage us to remain present. Claire says to “let go of anything that will not be of use in your practice.” That phrasing resonates, along with how she says it. But, in this lesson, mid-Happy Baby, my mind wandered to writing instruction, and after “namaste” I told Claire my thoughts.

“What you said about the spider was eloquent. You tell me you struggle with writing, but you have tremendous access to language. The way you described the spider – ‘raising its front paws,’ you said, and then you corrected yourself, ‘I mean legs, and moved them around like time didn’t apply to him’ – that’s incredible description. You have the words, and it’s just a matter of writing them down.

“So, based on what you told me about your morning, and given your list of blog ideas, this week’s homework is to write about karma. I see some connection between karma and the way your day has gone.”

“What kind of connection?” she asked, and I said, “If I answer that, I think you will benefit less from this exercise. But, I’ll tell you what. I’ll do the same exercise, writing about this last hour, and next week we’ll compare notes.”

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