Remember yogis: Focus on the practice, not the outcome

A few weeks ago, someone did some illegal dumping along the side of the road in my neighborhood.  One day, there was nice brush and trees to look at and the next, there was a huge pile of broken cinderblocks and construction debris. I don’t like illegal dumping but I do like moving rocks and making art so in light of last week’s post, when I had the urge to go and build something out of that pile of stuff, I did it, and I invited my sister, Emily, along. (I also invited my 9-year-old, but she didn’t think that sounded like fun so she missed out. Big time.)

Emily and I drove to the dump site and standing there in front of the pile, we discussed texture, form and concept.  When we were satisfied with our discussion, each of us put on a pair of my mom’s gardening gloves and we got to work.  We worked in relative quiet,  though we’d occasionally run an idea by each other and we received a few encouraging honks and waves from passersby. At one point, I stopped and watched Emily stack small pieces of the broken cinderblocks to make a tetris-like wall section. It was nice to be there doing something fun and silly with her.  I eventually went back to my work with larger cinderblock fragments. The whole thing felt light and easy. I loved having the chance to work on a project that has no timeline or obligation or finished product required.

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Illegal dump site in my neighborhood

After a couple of hours, Emily and I successfully incorporated 90% of the dump pile into an art piece. We were sweaty and covered in dust. We felt beautiful, creative and accomplished and our creation was a manifestation of each of these qualities.  We took photos. We told our parents to be on the lookout when they drove by and I texted some of my friends. We giggled a lot. Our sculpture made illegal dumping into something creative. Maybe even positive.  We were able to do something together on one of the first sunny days in a long while without distraction and it felt really good. I couldn’t help but think of the artwork of  Andy Goldsworthy, one of my very favorite artists.  He takes stones, leaves, ice, mud, branches and other things found in a place and makes things.  Here are a few of his wall-sculptures:

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I drove by the wall a few times the next day and admired it in the daylight. I was so excited. The whole thing felt silly and playful.  I spent some time imagining how I might rearrange the materials to make the next cinderblock fragment sculpture. The following evening, Emily and I drove down our road on the way to yoga class and, of course, we were excited to see the wall together.  I slowed down so we could take a look. When we got close, we looked. We didn’t see it. We thought we missed it, but then we realized that we didn’t miss it.  We passed the location of our wall and there was no wall. It was gone. Cleared away! Someone moved out the sculpture and the remains of those illegally dumped materials just like that.  That was almost better than seeing the wall.   We laughed about that…a lot.

I loved this whole experience of feeling curious, laughing and building with my sister in on old shoes and my mom’s gloves.  I loved seeing the wall and then seeing it gone. The actual creation was no Andy Goldsworthy, but I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t matter. It was wonderful and the experience reminded me of Yoga Sutra 1.12 which says we reach a state of yoga through practice, abhyasa, and detachment from the outcomevairagyam.  We do what we need to do even if it does look like a pile of broken bricks in the end. Here’s a photo of the impermanent and inspired sculpture that once was. It isn’t about the result, people.  It’s the process, the practice, that counts. 

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A work of yogic-inspiration? Yes. The neighborhood wall that was only up for 2 days.

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Amanda teaches yoga movement, breath and meditation in Austin, TX and online.  She offers individual sessions to those interested in developing a daily home practice.  More information is available under “classes” tab or contact her by clicking HERE.

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11 thoughts on “Remember yogis: Focus on the practice, not the outcome

  1. Quite a few years back I lived in Los Angeles. I liked to visit art galleries and one of my favorites was the Temporary Contemporary. So called because it was the LA Museum of Contemporary Art temporarily housed in a warehouse. There one day and I followed my nose to an installation of road kill. The artist went around until he found a road kill, and then he epoxied it into art. It was interesting. But I digress.

    Amanda, you are so good at teaching that yoga is not found only on mats and in yoga studios. You’ve got me thinking about the gunas and the swirling forces of nature. You and your sister stepped into a tamasic moment and turned it sattvic with your practice. And of course the whole thing gets taken up again, and you contemplate the lesson in impermanence. Swaha!

    1. Aaah, roadkill as an exhibit. You know I’d be in intrigued by that one, Bharat 😉 I’m a fan of temporary/site specific art installations. Time and place. Kala and desa.

      I love your reflection on the gunas! And it’s so timely because I’m just starting to look and think about experiences/moods with this lens.

      1. I know you would. Anyway, don’t you already have some like roadkill exhibits around the house? I’m thinking of something from an earlier post. Anyway.. The gunas, yes. The gunas are pulling our strings and even satwa is still a guna. We’re being Nature. Unless we can transform, or is it transcend? I’m glad you’re on the case, Amanda!

    2. Yes, I do have a bug collection and a few dried up lizard specimens on a shelf. We’ll see where this reflection on the gunas takes us. Feels like I’m just beginning to glimpse their meaning and purpose.

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