It’s a holiday week here in the U.S. and a certain “let’s just swing in a hammock” disposition still lingers. I’m about to pull out my brand new copy of Rebecca Solnit’s “The Faraway Nearby” to sink into the essays, and what they tell us about how and why we tell the stories we do.
Glancing down to the bottom of the first page of the first piece, I notice a line of italic text, a fragment that leaps to the bottom of the next page and the next, continuing its hem-like progression across the width of the chapter.
The text—poetic, independent of the words above it—reads, in part:
“Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds. This is the title of a short scientific report from 2006, and the moths are a species on the island of Madagascar named Hemiceratoides hieroglyphica, but the title is a sentence, and the sentence reads like a ballad of one line or a history compressed down to its barest essentials. There are two protagonists in it, a sleeper and a drinker, a giver and a taker…”
My imagination wakes up. My body, too. I remember, as I turn the pages, that my mother taught me how to do this, to lift the top right corner with the pad of my index finger and flip the page, turning it with the bottom three fingers, which would smooth it down, flat of the hand and palm trailing across the fresh field of words. We opened books gently, careful of their spines, their delicate paper, enjoying the sensuality of reading, my gestures mirroring hers until they’d become yet another invisible part of me.
I go back to the words on the page, travel with them, notice where they take me. That’s how I’m reading in this holiday moment—attuned to all that. It’s how I find myself writing, as well. I hope you, too, are making time to lose yourself in the realm of words—or sky.
My tiny offering for you today is a practice for opening the mind to the world and the imagination. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with meditation teacher Jona Genova about a practice called Looking Away (you can see our conversation here). She also shared a practice called Sky Yoga, which is described below. Both are excellent tools for accessing the freest space in “writer mind.”
This week, I’m wishing you the vast openness of Sky Yoga as you write. It’s especially good fuel for an expansive project if you are nurturing one along.
Sky Yoga: a meditation for reaching into wonder
Breathe in beauty, expand creativity.
That’s not precisely the mantra Malibu-based meditation teacher Jona Genova proposes, but it’s a good working description of Sky Yoga.
Sky Yoga came up a couple of weeks ago, when we chatted about using two-minute meditations to ease writing blocks, and I’ve wanted to share it with you ever since.
Here’s how Jona suggests experiencing this simple, expansive practice:
“Recall a time when you looked at something in nature—a stunning vista, clouds drifting across the sky, a branch full of blossoms—and remember the feeling of expanse you had as you took it in. Something opened up inside you. It may have felt like a drop in the stomach, a sense of wonder. It’s different for everyone, but we all recognize it, that sense of ‘Wow, isn’t that beautiful!’”
That’s the feeling at the center of Sky Yoga, she says.
To try it, sit on your front steps at sunset and look at the sky, or settle your body in a spot where you can take in the beauty of nature, whether it’s huge as a thunderhead or small as buds of lavender. In Malibu, “I’m lucky to be able to go out and look at the waves,” Jona says. “My parents in Denver look out at the mountains as they do this. But you could also choose something in your garden or a flower in a vase.
“Gaze into the piece of nature you’ve chosen and attempt to hold onto that first feeling of expanse you get. That’s what you’re going for. You want to elongate that sensation. When your mind drifts, just go back and look at the flower or the clouds. It’s okay to have thoughts like, ‘Oh look at that. I hadn’t noticed that before,’ and to be in awe of this thing you’re looking at.
“As you do this, you’re activating two components of the meditations I teach,” she says. “One is relaxation, and the second is visualization, which works on a different part of your brain connected to creative inspiration.”
I’ve tried writing after Sky Yoga, and it’s an opportune space from which to begin, calm and filled with the presence of nature, closely observed.
“At a retreat I recently returned from, we just took our chairs, sat out on the porch and looked at mountains,” Jona says. ” It was wonderful.
“In the beginning,” she explains, “our meditation means the time we’re sitting in a chair or with our legs crossed, watching our breath. But in time we come to a place where it makes a lot of sense that our lives are all a meditation, because the real essence of me, which is something that’s pure and perfect, exists at all times.
“In the lineage of mediation I study and practice is the idea that we’re perfect,” she says. “We just need to see that shining.”
For me, those calming, affirmative words are a great balm. Let’s take them in, beautiful writer person. Let’s write through our doubts, open to the sky, and shine!
What’s Sky Yoga like for you and your writing? Share your experiences below, in the comments.
(Photo by Guy Tetreault via Flickr.)