April 2018

Monday, January 28, 2013


Years before neurosurgery, my new friend Rose and I were playing a friendly game of Scrabble. Because English is not Rose's first language and we had agreed that this would be a friendly game, I played my tiles casually, smugly believing that I would win the game without much effort.

Then Rose made a play that looked a lot like a block. I thought, "Lucky play." The next play she blocked me again. I seem to have forgotten that though Rose's first spoken language was Mandarin Chinese, her first rule of games was "Compete to Win."

I became less smug and more serious after that.

"One should never be smug" is a lesson that I have never learned, as I am often called to review it. If I were an old school teacher, I might punish myself by requiring me to write a whole page of "I should never be smug" in print.

A couple of weeks ago in yoga, I was again smug. Near the beginning of class, my teacher Victoria cautioned us to be gentle in our "first downward dog of the day."

"This may be the first downward dog for these other yogi yokels," I thought, "but I always do my private practice before I come to class." I felt superior, and smug.
Later in the class, Victoria repeated one of her mantras: "Be noticing what you are noticing." Because one my directions for reading poetry when I was teaching was, "Notice what you notice," and because I have written that yoga is body poetry, I was pleased with myself. "How wise I must have been," I thought smugly, as I did a yoga pat on my back with my left foot.

However, one should never be smug.

Thursday morning on Facebook, I read an Eleanor Roosevelt's quotation instructing me (yes, she meant it for me) on how to remain humble: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

So in yoga class on Friday when Victoria offered to help me rise into Warrior One, a pose that, since I've had neurosurgery, I only do with wall support. I thought of my friend Eleanor's quotation and said, "The thought terrifies me, but I'll try."

Victoria helped me rise into the pose, and for the first time in six years, I remembered what muscles to use in order to do this pose.

We might have left well enough alone, but Victoria helped me through Warrior Two, Triangle, and Reverse Triangle (three poses I do with wall support in my home practice) and finally into Moon Pose.

Moon pose? You've got to be kidding. One leg on the floor, one hand on the floor, the second leg raised parallel to the floor, the second hand and my gaze raised skyward, and my body twisted at my hips.

"You can do this," encouraged Victoria.

"Nope," I said, as I fell solidly to my bum and nearly pulled Victoria down with me.

I was glad to try these poses out of my comfort zone, and now I'm cured: Smug no more.

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