I saw a play long ago about Georgia O’Keeffe. There is one scene that will stay with me forever. In the scene, she agonizes before her empty canvas. She is disheveled, tormented, ready to paint and, yet, not ready to paint. She holds a brush. The paint is there, ready, as well as her clean slate of a canvas. Waiting. Waiting. The audience holds its breath. I am holding my breath. Stieglitz enters the scene. He watches O’Keeffe. Her eyes do not leave the canvas as she says to him, “It’s the Indelible Mark! Oh! The Indelible Mark!”
You see, she is waiting. She is waiting for some unseen force, some unspoken agreement that allows her to BEGIN. Once she puts her brush to the canvas, the Indelible Mark will be made! But what is the Indelible Mark? The Indelible Mark is the start of something fantastic, creative, and inimitable! It is the mark that cannot be removed. It is the indelible/permanent marker that my mom used for marking her frozen garden produce before it went into the freezer. It is the indelible/permanent ink used for tattoos.
But wait! There’s more to this concept of the Indelible Mark. Georgia was agonizing over it for a good reason. The first mark is crucial to the outcome of the completed work of art. The indelible mark is a commitment. Once it is made, there is no going back. The mark takes on a life of its own. The brush and the painter become the instrument for the creation of a master piece. If you make an indelible mark on society, you will never be forgotten, your songs will be sung, your poetry will be quoted, your theories will stand solid and become a foundation for scientists or philosophers. Georgia knew that once her brush touched the canvas, she’d be on a journey, a journey on uncharted territory.
So why would a yoga teacher, such as myself, take such interest in Georgia agonizing over the Indelible Mark? Because the hardest part of any yoga class is the first few seconds, the opening, the start! There I am sitting before the class. I am observing the energy. I am watching. I am waiting. I am reading energy. Is the class energetic? Are the students lying over bolsters? Are they chatty or are they frighteningly quiet? Like Georgia, once I begin, I am on uncharted territory. I never go into class without a preconceived class plan in mind. In fact, for the first four years of teaching, I used to write out my class plan for each session. Once I begin teaching the yoga session, I am Georgia O’Keeffe at her canvas. I am a river rafting guide. I am leading the class on a river run and I am steering the raft. I only have so much control over the current. The river flow is stronger that I am and we will just have to go with it as safely and sanely as possible. I will use my wits. I will use my experience. I will do my best to get us home –to shavasana- safely. I am your pilot, but sometimes if is as if I am not in compete control of where the river is taking us and I am left to channel and become purely intuitive through much of the journey. I have to stay focused and alert to every bend and run of the river.
Sounds crazy, I am sure. However, if you are a teacher (and most people are teachers and don’t even realize it!), you will know what I mean. It’s all in how you start which generates the course of action and will eventually lead you to completion!
Whether the session is one hour long, one hour and fifteen minutes, or a two- or three-hour workshop, time becomes duration, and the asana (postures) become the means to create something exquisitely unique! The indelible mark, the artist at the canvas, the teacher before the class, and the parent before the child are integral parts of a journey of uncharted territory with the possibility of a uniquely exquisite outcome!