Yin

But what about yin. In my later years as I start to practice yoga with more determination to stretch further, I realize that I am more of a yin than a yang person. In fact, as I look over my writing I realize that this concept of yin dominates.  I recently observed to a friend of mine, “It seems like my character always ends up, alone, in a room by him or herself thinking about life”. Without fail, my introspective nature leaches into my writing. If I wanted to write poetry, this would not be a problem, however, for the past couple of years I have been working on a novel.

Traditionally speaking, novels are yang. Think about it. Take the basic plot that you learn in elementary school. You begin with an initial incident, develop setting/character and establish conflict. Hopefully, you get all of this quickly because if the reader isn’t hooked within those few pages then you’ve lost your audience. Everything in your story leads to that final scene where the protagonist battles it out to the bitter end. This scene will be fraught with action, emotion, and near death circumstances.

Joseph Campbell took that basic plot pattern a step further when he developed his theory about the heroic journey. This monomyth is an archetypal one which runs beneath the surface details of all stories and, as Joseph Campbell points out in his writing, also runs throughout our lives. Perhaps, this is why it is so powerful and why Hollywood does so well at the box office. In spite of the superficial nature of many of these movies, action adventure stories still predominate the main stream. Heroes continue to defeat the “dragon”, win the girl, gain the riches, and return home “kings”of the world. The classical hero lives.

But what about those other stories, you say? The unhappy stories. The tragedies. The antiheroic stories. The fallen hero stories. What about Trainspotting, MacBeth, Catcher in the Rye, or even Batman, the Dark Knight Rises and Watchmen. Lord of the Flies. The Walking Dead. Breaking Bad.

In many ways, these stories break out of the Monomyth pattern. Quite often, there is no happy ending. The hero does not get the girl. Nor, does the hero gain riches or return home a winner. However, if you look closely at the stories you will notice a couple of things. First of all, they do fall within the cycle even if they don’t fulfill the entire pattern. Antiheroic stories for example, exist within the “abyss”.  In this dystopic world the hero is stuck and is unable to gain his revelation which can lead to a transformation. Even though antiheroic stories end with the hero being unable to effect his own life, the people surrounding him, his government, and his world the stories generally contain a yang element because the hero tries to create change.

If Yang is the masculine principle. If it is light, active, outward and upward moving then what does that say about the literature we read today? Have we been conditioned to read from a masculine point of view? If so, what would happen if the writer were to write a story using a yin perspective? If a story was developed upon the feminine pattern? Or the goddess archetype?

According to yinyoga.com, yin describes things that are relatively dense, are heavier, lower, more hidden, more yielding, more feminine, more mysterious, and more passive. A person practicing yin yoga strives to hold a stretch for 20 minutes or longer. The goal is not to move swiftly from one pose to the next, rather the goal is to release the tension in the muscles so that you can give into the stretch. Thus, the strength of yin is to absorb the pain and move beyond it.

I have encountered stories that are yin.  At least, they dwell longer on the yielding to life, rather than the “doing” in life. Life of Pi, Griffin and Sabine, The Tattoed Map, Orlando, and The Grand Budapest Hotel come to mind. Looking at and contemplating my list, I realize they all have certain things in common. An Eastern mindset or influence. A vast landscape upon which the hero enacts his/her story. A broader sense of time. As more of these stories make it to the big screen, and capture the attention of mainstream audiences I wonder if this type of writing will gain in popularity? Have we had a surfeit of yang, and are we now looking to balance our lives with a little bit of yin?

When I consider stories like The Grand Budapest Hotel, however I appreciate the brooding mysterious nature of time that never seems to change yet, I also love the adventure. I enjoy the characters’ moral evolution in The Walking Dead , but would this exploration be as interesting without the zombie battles? In the end, Pi’s life boat makes shore and he reconnects with life, and Griffin leaves the comfort of his home to find Sabine.

Where does this leave me with my own writing? Perhaps, it is time for my characters to leave the room. As Taoists would point out Yang cannot exist without Yin, Yin cannot exist without Yang.

Warrior

“Yang, the masculine principle: light, active, outward and upward moving, hot, extrospective                                 (http://yogafortoday.ca).”

 

It’s not surprising that my first experiences with yoga were “yang”. Most of the classes that I took at the recreation center were yoga-aerobic. Remember the days of high impact aerobics? Step aerobics? Weight aerobics? Yoga was just another expected evolution in the aerobics trend of that small town in Northwestern Ontario. This was, of course, in the nineties when women, a la Jane Fonda, were supposed to attend aerobics class in high cut leotards and shiny tights. We were to be the “rock stars” of physical fitness. Of course, in reality, most of us shuffled into that first class in overlarge t-shirts and baggy sweats while the more self-confident participants actually wore shorts and tank tops.

 

Yoga, at that time and in that place, was introduced as a great way to warm up or cool down. The hook to get us there was the assurance, “Don’t worry, we don’t meditate or do that touchy-feely stuff.” Except for the one woman or lone man at the back of the room who actually wanted to do that stuff, we were all fine with attaining a modicum of grace while stretching into downward facing dog, cobra, and warrior.

 

For me, the challenge was to get the pose exactly right: stance, breath, and the transitional footwork from one pose to the next. When I stayed focused in yoga, I was lean and strong. I was a warrior.

 

I was “yang”.

Yang

feet firmly plant

mountain pose

while hands drop loosely

shoulders straight and eyes trained

 

breathe through nose

forearms cross (block)

right foot slides forward

knee bends to 45

while left foot roots into terra firma

weight balances equally

arms strongly hold at shoulder height

hands like blades

eyes focus over right hand

 

warrior two

 

– prepare to transition –

 

shift forward, weight on right foot

left front kick then

fall back

settle on left foot, over your shoulder

look

back kick with right foot

then side step,

block

Namaste

I had studied karate at a local dojo in North Western Ontario for three years, but because of a bad bout of mononucleosis and an injured hip decided that I needed to retire my gi for stretchier pants. Also, I will admit, I had reached the point in martial arts where I either needed to develop a more competitive attitude or get out. With a blue belt, there could be no more avoidance of sparring, breaking blocks of wood with a bare hand, or training for longer hours than I had time. Thus began my inner questioning. What exactly did I love about martial arts? Where could I get the same fulfillment without the stress of competition?

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Am I Preaching to the Choir?

When I was taking my ESL Part One course this fall, one of the questions we were asked to consider was, “Are students who may be reluctant to talk in class in front of others more comfortable engaging in electronic “conversations”?”

As the Technical Resource Teacher in our school, my answer is a resounding, “Yes”. Computers do assist with learning on many levels, from delivering a variety of content, to practicing skills, to enabling communication, to teaching responsibility. Computers do not teach, nor do they solve all problems, but they can help us to look at curriculum in a different way; they also encourage us to create a layered way of thinking.

Computers, on a very basic and practical level, force us to think sequentially. Just think about all of the steps you go through to find that file you need to upload to your blog. For ELL’s and every other learner, using a computer requires that you can follow written, oral or visual instructions. Often, the path to creating a document, editing a photo, or finding something online is not always as straightforward as you would assume if you knew nothing about computers. Simply creating a document in Word is a good way to test students’ comprehension. Either they do it, or they ask for help.

While on vacation this Christmas, I’ve had ample opportunity to consider how computers can also assist with the creative process. The question came up when my sister asked me what on earth I was doing on my laptop, iPad and iPod for so many hours in a day. (Honestly, I didn’t realize that I was glued to my devices for that long. I have gone skiing, attended 2 bonfires, a book making workshop, made 5 wreaths and several other gifts, watched a couple of movies, indulged in many interesting conversations with real people, and even gave my dog a haircut.) However, in comparison to a sibling who spends relatively little time on computers, I guess the question is valid.

As a writer, I can honestly say that I would not want to go back to the pen and paper method of recording my thoughts. Yes, I do jot notes and sketch diagrams of ideas but when it comes to the nitty gritty of painting an image or developing an idea it’s the computer and nothing else for me. I love the swiftness of recording my thoughts, the satisfying click of the keys and (a little anal here) the cleanliness of the white screen. Unless I choose to use mark-up in Word’s review pane, I experience the absolute joy of an untouched document. Visual perfection.

Another added benefit to working on a computer is, of course, the value of saving multiple drafts. Of course, with that privilege comes great responsibility. Experienced drafters will shake their heads when I admit that I committed the ultimate sin when I first started work on my novel last year. Yes, I created more than one draft but if took a while for me to remember to number and date my work. It didn’t seem like such a big deal until I took a 6 month break from the work, and then tried to pick up where I left off yesterday. Needless to say, I spent a fair bit of time sorting my files into folders. I know. Computer Survival School 101. What can I say except that I was so caught up in the creative process that my usual neat-freak went on vacation.

Lately, I’ve been sampling and following a lot of blogs. Also, to my pleasant surprise, I have found that people have been following me. In spite of my sporadic posting it would appear that I have something to say that other people want to hear. Although I do enjoy a great dystopic novel, I must admit that I am a fan of a computer driven society. Where else would I be able to meet, carry out a conversation, share ideas, and learn from others with the click of a button?

Essentially a logical/sequential platform, computers teach layered strategies of thinking, creating, communicating which can add to our understanding of being.  I would even go so far as to say that my imagination has grown because of the interactive nature of computers and the internet.

My 250 Word Challenge

The Door

Only in the dark, could a glimmer be so bright. Or so Davis thought, when the door swelled beneath his fingers then burst through the grass like a budding mushroom. It drew him to his feet. Beneath his aching hands, the cool metal pulsed with the promise of release.

(Continue reading at Indies Unlimited, Flash Fiction Entries and vote here for your favourite.)

On Christmas Day, I read a blog by Martin Crosbie, whom I met at the Rural Writers’ Retreat in Smithers this fall. He reminded me through his article on Charles Dickens’ self publishing journey for A Christmas Carol  that even those “greats” began somewhere. That those classic authors we teach in school succeeded because of hard work, confidence, and a belief in their creations. Most of all, I guess, our writing and artistic heroes make it because they make a point of creating and publishing. Thanks to my Christmas lesson (even though I thought I was on holidays), I joined the writing site Martin recommended called Indies Unlimited, AND, my first New Year’s Resolution to publish comes in the form of entering a flash fiction contest. Learning to tell a story in 250 words or less is quite an experience! Although it was a bit painful to slash 100 words from my story I decided that it was worth the experience of (1) actually sitting down and writing and (2) putting myself out there in a competitive context.

Please, check out Indies if you haven’t already. Although I am very partial to my own story I promise you that the other submissions are creative and thought provoking, You might even be inspired to try the next writing challenge.

Into the matte jumble

clouds

Into the matte jumble

of thumb-pressed cotton

the shadow fell

through

fell

too slowly for the eye to notice

still

there was a sense

a notion of change

in the pulpy towers of cumulous

a cumulative knowing

that some Other being

was there.

 

It was

Not the green-yellow palette

Of pre-apocalyptic sky

 

although more reasoned minds

would wonder at this blindness

this unwillingness to see

what was so obvious –

nor was it the pinprick

of explosive force

that shattered preconception.

 

It was the subtle immersion

into the light-well

the realization of drowning

that brought her to life.