Wild Writing: “As You Go Through Life”

The Poudre River, from our walk this morning, just before I noticed a mink running along the ice

The Poudre River, from our walk this morning, just before I noticed a mink running along the ice at the edge

We recently started our spring session of my Wild Writing class, and I’m so glad to be back at it. In class on Friday morning, after I read my last piece, Laurie said “blog it” before moving on to the next person, so here it is.

Prompt: As You Go Through Life by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Laurie doesn’t typically share poems that rhyme, but like she said, this one just has too many good lines. I was surprised when I Googled it to find a link to share with you that it was published in 1910, that the poet is long gone.

“Bend and let it go over you.” I keep coming back to this when I’m teaching yoga — that balance isn’t about finding a fixed point and sticking there, stable and still, but rather it’s about all the tiny (and big) adjustments we make to keep from falling over, to stave off collapse, and how even collapsing, giving up and going over, is part of balance. We fall over, we soften into it, and then, if we’d like, we get up and try again.

It reminds me of the story Pema Chödrön tells about her teacher, how she asked Chögyam Trungpa in a moment she was having a really hard time what she should do, how to handle it, and he told her it’s like standing in the ocean, how each wave crashes into you, knocks you down, takes you in and under, but you get back up. And in time, you get stronger, you learn to move with the waves, and instead of feeling like you are drowning, like it’s so bad and so hard you are going to die, you are able to move with it, to meet and ride the wave. Bend and let it go over you.

I wonder if students who aren’t teachers understand that a teacher only ever teaches one of two things — what they know so well they have it memorized, so it’s safe and easy, requires no real effort and little attention; or we teach what we need to learn, what we are trying to figure out, what seems so big and complicated it feels like we’ll never be able to understand it, what terrifies us, what makes us tender. In one case we phone it in, in the other we send out an S.O.S., it’s almost a cry for help, but we know, we trust that there is help to be had, that our bones know, and if we keep asking the questions, either answers will come or we’ll surrender to not knowing.

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