Honoring the verb to be

As a writer I’ve been taught a relentless hatred for the verb to be. It is flabby, weak, uninspiring and dull. Yet, like crabgrass that refuses to yield, the verb to be is an arduous foe, constantly cropping up in my articles as it already has several times in these sentences. God I hate the verb to be.

So imagine how counter I find the yogic teaching to simply “be.” No active verbs, full of tension, drama and angst needed on the yoga mat, I’ve been told. Nor in life for that matter. Just be. (Even as I write this I stop and reconsider my first graph, nagging at letting those is-es stay for artistic effect… I’m twitchy over it I tell you…)

Be.

Be? BE what?

And therein lies the secret I’ve spent three years, several times a week quietly, fluidly, clumsily, breathlessly battling with the chatter in my mind to find what it means to be.

I get it mostly even as I admit I really don’t. The present moment is a restless embrace. It doesn’t last long. It refuses to easily allow being savored. But I’ve had enough moments to know where I’m headed even if its a fuzzy, muddled conception at best. Or was anyway, until the other day when suddenly the fuzz cleared and the crackling blur gave way to high-def clarity, even if for a mere moment.

I stood in Warrior One. I always strain a bit more than necessary in Warrior One. I’m a Warrior Two guy. That hip barks at the twist of Warrior One. So there I stood, struggling along when I noticed The Bride. She looked radiant on her mat beside me, effortlessly holding the pose, arms up, leg back like a photo in Yoga Journal.

As she mentioned she’s relatively new to yoga. She stubbornly held to the happy clappy bouncy flouncy mantra of fictional targeted fat burns and more-is-more exercise videos while I went about my yoga practice alone.

It took everything I had to let her be.

I nudged now and again. I glanced her way, eyes provocatively (so I thought) luring her to the mat. I couldn’t hide my annoyance at Jillian Roberts or Michaels or Go Daddy whoever she is. But mostly I let The Bride be.

Eventually she dabbled. I held back my enthusiasm. I even joined her bouncing around — “Come on girls…” notwithstanding — to show my solidarity and openness to change. It took a long time, and still, somehow, I let her be.

Finally, I could recognize her ah-ha moment. She started joining me in yoga practice. First, once a week. Then recently it began to change. She started to adjust her workout to fit mine. She started asking to do yoga. I could barely contain my enthusiasm. Still… somehow… I let her be.

Her first poses were less than beautiful. She had never really been taught. I wanted to spend just a few sessions working with her, showing her the proper poses and helping her find the energy of her inner self shining through. We’d do our practices and I found myself glancing over at her — something I really never do with anyone else in other settings — to see how she was doing. The saggy leg or the sloppy sun salutations twitched my nerves just a bit, yet somehow, strangely, I let her be.

Then came the other day as I struggled with my Warrior One I looked her way and saw what she had become, all by herself, in her own way and her own time. In that moment she was radiant.

I smiled and returned to me… present to myself for the first time in awhile in our practices because of my preoccupation with The Bride. A few moments later I heard her voice, quiet yet clear ask me, “how does this look?”

I saw the energy in her pose. I recognized the purposefulness yet less-is-more signature of a budding yogi.

“Beautiful,” I said. “Really beautiful.”

That’s what it’s like to simply be and it was wonderful, demanding a pause, to be in the present and honor it. I do so, even allowing the to-be verbs run amok in this post, welcome, for today only I hope, to simply honor the wisdom of the verb to be.

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