My daughter Jessica is a big fan of Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter. Once in a while she sends me a link to an interview I might find interesting. Today she sent me an interview with the author Isabel Allende. At the end of the conversation between Allende and journalist Collier Meyerson, the reporter asks her if she is currently writing something. The author’s response:
"IA: I’m supposed to start a new book on Friday, because I start all my books on January 8.
"CM: Really? Why?
"IA: Out of discipline. This time, I don’t have a story, but it has happened before. I don’t have a story, but I just get there, to my workplace, on January 8, and I sit down and wait. I can wait for weeks. Eventually, if I’m patient, I get it."
Allende’s comments are a simple yet profound statement on the benefits of practice. As my daughter wrote me in a subsequent email, it “felt very inspiring to me that such a prolific writer still sets this kind of discipline for herself. And, that SHE WAITS! Amazing.”
It reminded me that I can never really predict the fruits of my efforts. Whether as publisher attempting to create a profitable website, or as a mother raising a child, or a yogi pursuing enlightenment.
Each day before dawn I roll out my mat lie down and breathe, move, meditate, and contemplate. Then I pull up the blinds, let the new day’s sun (or cloud cover) in, open the front door to the delivery of the news of the world, and turn on my computer to see what’s up with business associates, friends, and family.
I can’t control the outside influences that greet me—a monochrome gray sky, a Trump candidacy, a story that needs revision, a bombing in a far-away land, my husband feeling under the weather, or news that an old friend will be visiting New York at the end of the month. My practice doesn’t help me predict this type of randomness. But paradoxically it helps me meet it.
It’s funny that even as I practice more, I don’t get “better” at asana or meditation, but I do get more comfortable connecting with the stray pitches life throws my way.
I guess this is what’s meant by not identifying with the fruits of practice—a concept that runs through all the yoga and Eastern spiritual texts. You just practice because that’s all you can do. Sometimes the fruit that appears is ripe and dripping with sweetness, and sometimes it is worm-infested and mealy. Wishing for the fruit to always be perfect is folly, a source of frustration or anger or depression.
Allende has written 20 books and won numerous literary awards. At 73, she is at the top of her game. Her secret?
”When I’m writing, or in my daily life, I just think of the work. I love to tell a story, but I might work with a story to make it the best I can without thinking of how many people will read it or if it will influence anybody. Sometimes journalists ask me, 'What’s the message?' There is no message…Just tell a story.”
Write your truth with discipline and then pause and observe what happens. A perfect recipe for yoga practice and living.