The other night I got a really strong urge to write, I didn’t know what about or why, but I knew I had to get some words on a page. I opened up a new word document and just let it flow, Peter Christopher-style.
Peter Christopher was one of my writing professors in college who died of cancer when I was a junior. When he was still teaching, and even after his death, his name was always brought up in conversations among writing and linguistics students–he was THE teacher you just HAD to have. He was THE one that was gonna pull the best writing out of you, THE guy that could really teach you how to be a writer, THE professor that would make you fall in love with writing.
Rumor had it that his class would completely change your life. We called him PC for short.
I signed up for his Magical Realism class and prepared my mind to be blown. It was different from how I thought it would be. I went in there thinking I was about to meet some super inspirational, deep, wisdom-filled guy who was going to teach me how to write. PC was all of those things, but not in the way you’d think. He wasn’t in your face about it, preachy, soft, or sugary. He hated fluffy stuff like adjectives. He wasn’t at all like a yoga teacher.
PC pissed me off every single day. Even when I didn’t have a class with him. I can’t even describe why. Something about his no frills and bullshit made me mad. Like he could see right through all of our acts and for someone like me, who at this point in my life was pretty good at acting, this cracked me wide open. And no, it didn’t feel good, it got me mad. He made us write every single day, for at least fifteen minutes. When he asked us if we were writing every day we would lie about it. We lied to him all the time about the work we were doing because we wanted his approval, we wanted him to think of us as writers. But he knew. He’d say things like hmm…well…it seems to me like it wouldn’t kill you guys to be writing some more.
He had us do a lot of free writing–where we would just sit down, no thinking, just writing, and get it all out. “Keep your pen moving,” PC would say. Even if we had nothing to say, he would make us write, I don’t know what to write. He said that eventually something would come. “Don’t cross things out that you think sound bad, just keep going. Just keep writing. Don’t stop. Have it be like a stream of consciousness. Just get some words on the page.”
So this is what I did almost every day for fifteen minutes while I was in his class. And the other night, this is what I did too. I hadn’t done this in a very, very long time.
What came out was a lot of blabber, a lot of I don’t know what to write, and something a little more surprising–anger. It was anger like PC used to make me feel. That anger that comes with getting really honest, the stripped down to the bones, no one cares about your feelings kind of honest. The kind that we hate but that’s really good for us.
It turns out that I’m angry about a lot of things, but especially about yoga. About how yoga is supposed to be this thing that helps us get closer to that kind of honesty, the truth, but that sometimes, it’s actually just another thing that covers it all up. It’s full of the stuff PC hated: frills, bullshit, fluff, adjectives.
Over the years, I’ve bought into a lot of the frills and fluff that yoga promises. If you just eat like this, you’ll be happy, if you practice every day, you’ll be a better person, if you’re ever angry or sad or hateful then, well, something’s wrong with you. You must not be doing enough yoga.
Yoga teachers usually don’t admit when they’re flawed, especially if that flaw is anger. We’re supposed to be peaceful and calm and enlightened and shit. But we aren’t. I’m angry that no one admits when they’re angry anymore.
Anger can be kind of a good thing. Noticing the things that really piss you off can teach you so much about yourself. When something really gets on your nerves it’s worth it to wonder why. I’m pissed at how full of shit yoga can be because for a while I bought into some of yoga’s shit and I don’t like that.
The things that make us mad are really just reflections of what we don’t like about ourselves.
PC taught me that. Well, actually, I taught me that. But PC pulled it out of me. No OMs, lavender essential oil, soothing music, vegan-friendly restaurants, Yoga Sutras, eye pillows, lululemon pants, coconut water or kombucha required.
That’s the kind of yoga I love. Just me and my mat. And that’s the kind of yoga I try to teach. Stripped down. Maybe a few lessons every now and then but nothing frilly. Nothing fluffy. And definitely no adjectives.