I’m currently reading Art and Fear. The premise of the book is about how artists or writers or creative people can be stunted in their creations by fear – fear of what other people think, fear of themselves, fear of failure, etc. I picked it up because once upon a time I went to art school, and then I graduated and stopped and never painted again.
Now that I’m reading it, it’s applicable to art, but I’m finding more often the parallels between “art” and fear, and yoga and fear. And how, really, yoga could be considered an art form. It’s creative. It’s relevant to dance. It requires you to open up your mind and once you get into the rhythm, it moves you, instead of you being the person generating the movements.
One of the parts the book talks about is the first step. So many people are paralyzed by just that first step – making the first brushstroke, laying down your foundation for your painting – that they never pick up the brush. Because, what happens is: each move you make, every brushstroke you place, limits the further possibilities for your painting. The more you paint, the more you limit what the painting becomes – when the painting is finished, it can only be one image, and it is only that image because you continued to further limit what it could be by choosing what it is to put on that canvas.
That in and of itself is terrifying. When your possibilities are endless, when the canvas is blank, when you never get started – it can be anything. The potential is enormous. And potential is good – we like potential. It’s nice to think about what it could be and dream. When we start making moves and limiting our potential, we make mistakes. We limit ourselves to a certain set of rules or a certain color scheme or a certain movement pattern. Potential becomes action and that action isn’t perfect. When the canvas remains blank, or when you never start doing yoga, or you never actually begin to formulate your thoughts into words and words into sentences, the end result is perfect. Because imagination has no limits and it has no mistakes.
What we – as individuals, as artists, as yogis, as people in any profession, anywhere – need to understand, is that by not taking action, we are also saying something. An art piece or a sun salutation or a piece of writing tells us about that person – it is an expression of themselves, with their strengths and flaws and everything between. But when we do not take action, that says infinitely more about who we are. When we don’t take action, we tell the world that we aren’t comfortable with who we are, or what we might be, and we’re too afraid to find out because we might not like what we discover. Even when we DO take action, or start a painting, or start a yoga practice, we find our flaws, and our imperfections, and it’s scary and it’s real and it’s out there. It’s not always fun.
But we’re facing reality. We’re looking it in the face and accepting who we are and making an effort to learn from it – with each new painting, with each new essay, with each new yoga practice, we leave with a better sense of who we are and where we exceed and where we fail. And we can only get better if we are first prepared to take that first step, and to continue and be persistent – even when we want to quit.
It’s the only way we learn. And I, scary as it may be, am ready to face reality.