[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]Everything is hard before it is easy. — J.W. Goethe[/mk_blockquote]
When I came across this quote on Pinterest, instantaneously, a list of activities where these words apply in my life sprang to mind. Creating spreadsheets. Baking a pie. Hitting a backhand volley. Playing a piano piece by Bach. Playing that same piece in public. Almost every single yoga posture I practiced on my mat this morning.
So much truth in such a neat little sentence! It is truly an aphorism – a pithy observation that contains a general truth. It is almost breathtaking in its ability both to soothe and inspire – to soothe the ruffled feathers of frustration and to inspire the persistent, patient hard work needed to figure something (anything!) out. I couldn’t wait to see if it resonated as much sense with my family as it did with me. So I asked them, “Can you think of something that was hard before it was easy?”
My middle child listed skiing, being on stage and putting on makeup. I asked what had changed to make those things easier and she said, “More experience just made doing them easier.” Smart girl.
My youngest said that making her bed was hard when she was little because she wasn’t big enough to reach and she’d get frustrated, but now that she was bigger it was easier to do. Good angle – growing makes things easier. (For the record, she NEVER makes her bed. Just sayin’.)
My oldest said auditioning. And throwing a Frisbee. When asked what had changed, he looked at me like I was dumb as a stump and said, “Practice. Duh.” (Perhaps another aphorism?)
After his long list of athletic activities met with a lukewarm response from me, my husband said it was really hard to think like a lawyer when he first got out of law school. He went on to say, “While it isn’t necessarily easy now, it feels natural.” Ahhh. Maybe easy is an oversimplification.
When we’re new to something, it’s hard. Especially if it’s something that requires many steps, or a subtle mix of movements or ingredients – like baking, applying make-up, playing a complicated piece of music or moving into a yoga posture. We need to fumble around a bit. We need to try out a few different ways of doing it until we discover the way that works for us. We need to find our own way. In essence, we need to build up some experience in order to develop proficiency and even ease. Interestingly, we all don’t find the same ways to proficiency. It’s fascinating to me to watch different students move into the same yoga posture. Everyone goes about it a little differently depending on their own strengths, weaknesses and preferences. Finding the way that works for us is not simply a matter of following instructions. Like my middle child pointed out, it requires exploration and experimentation.
Sometimes, as my youngest pointed out, we need a little more than practice. Sometimes, we need to grow a little bit. In her case, she had to literally grow longer legs and arms so that reaching across to the far side of her bed was possible without kneeling on the same sheets and blankets that she was trying to smooth. Though my arms and legs haven’t grown in a long while, I can definitely relate to her experience. I’ve tried plenty of yoga postures that I wasn’t strong enough or bendy enough or even brave enough for — yet. Like my daughter, I needed to grow a little bit before these postures became easier for me to do.
Sometimes, as my son mentioned, it’s simply more repetition that we need. While practice may not make us perfect, it certainly makes us better. Whether it’s getting comfortable with an experience such as auditioning or performing, doing it more often can cure us of nerves. Repetition also makes the new thing not-so-new. Practice smoothes the rough edges of our efforts. Familiarity allows us to focus on the nuances of what we’re doing so that we can do it better rather than pouring all our energy into the act of just getting it done. This, too, I’ve seen on my mat. I vividly remember the jerky, spastic way I felt when moving through my sun salutations when I first started practicing yoga. Even before I accomplished any proficiency to speak of, my movements began to smooth out and fall into an easy rhythm. “Practice. Duh.”
Sometimes, it would be impossible to say that the thing we’re doing has become easy. As my husband pointed out, though he has been an attorney for over 20 years, thinking like a lawyer (something he does every single day) isn’t easy, but it does feel natural to him now. I’ve been seriously working on a series of postures (Ashtanga’s second series) for over two years now. The thought of saying that these postures are easy now is outlandish enough to make me laugh out loud. This is, hands down, the hardest thing I’ve tried to do – definitely in recent memory, but maybe ever. But, when I step back to look at my journey over the course of those two years, I see, while they are in no way easy, these postures do feel natural to me now.
I can even say that they feel “easier.” What’s changed for me in this series is an amalgamation of everything my family shared with me. I’ve explored and experimented with these postures enough to develop a degree of proficiency. I’ve been able to add my own experiences to what I’ve been taught to create my own “take” on them. I’ve grown a bit – developing (some of) the strength and flexibility that I didn’t have initially that makes these postures more accessible. And I’ve practiced (duh!) them an awful lot.
Take a quick look at your life. What is hard for you right now? Now, take heart. Whatever is challenging you right now, remember, with a little growth, some experience, and a lot of practice (duh!), one day it will seem easy (or at least natural) to you.