Last Thursday, while teaching a dance class for 2&3 year olds, one of my most focused, strongest little students was distracted by, wholly engrossed in, a hangnail on her little thumb. Even though music was playing, and all her little friends were dancing, and counting and singing- she had her chin buried down close to her chest and was picking away at that tiny little flap of skin by her nail. I asked her what was going on, and she extended her thumb to me, the skin red and pulled, a sad expression on her face.
Lets face it, hangnails hurt. They sting, they throb, they grab our attention and won't let go. But what do we do? We keep picking, we keep pulling, even though we're in pain.
Sound familiar? How do we usually shed our skin? It's quite rare that we emerge from our old patterns without experiencing some pain. We attach, we cling, and this makes the process of letting go a particularly challenging one, even when we know that something betters awaits us on the other side.
Personally, I've been feeling a little antsy. To use the snake as a metaphor, I feel like I'm surrounded by an old, dry skin and I just haven't managed to slither out of it yet. It feels frustrating at moments, but I know that I have to keep moving forward, taking action, to eventually be free. I've been trying to be extra mindful and loving towards myself-making more time for my yoga practice, practicing abhyangha, being a little more creative with my cooking and making more time to connect with friends.
I have found great comfort as well as freedom and creativity in this commitment to making a habit of ahimsa towards myself. In her book The Creative Habit, famed American choreographer Twyla Tharp argues that all creativity is augmented by habit and routine. For most of us, this thought stands directly at odds with still-prevalent Romantic Era thinking surrounding divinely-gifted talent or genius. Tharp notes that,
"There's a paradox in the notion that creativity should be a habit. We think of creativity as a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition. That paradox intrigues me because it occupies the place where creativity and skill rub up against each other."
When we practice and develop a skill, whether its sun salutations on a mat, or scales on a piano, through our commitment, we are opening ourselves up to ever more and more possibilities. Our skill, our strength, our prowess grows and offers up opportunity in ways we could have never anticipated when we first began. Before you know it, you just might find yourself standing there, bold and inspired, fresh and light, gazing back at that old skin.
In a totally literal way - a great habit to adopt right now, and totally apropos in celebrating the year of the snake is to exfoliate. Next time you hop in the shower, bring a loofah or scrubby in with you and literally shed that old skin! It's a great way to stimulate circulation and get toxins moving out of your body, and you'll feel so much smoother and softer as a result.
So let's re-cap - snakes, transformation, hang nails, letting go, Twyla Tharp, habits, and exfoliating. Yup, sounds about right to me :)
With love and namaste,