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Eat Your Words!

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

What can I say about spring that hasn’t already been said? Certainly, I love the fresh color and new life that arises this time of year, and I believe in my heart that every spring is worthy of celebration. I happily agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson who declared years ago, “The earth laughs in flowers.” But even the comic Jim Carrey can describe this time of year better than me: “Flowers don’t worry about how they are going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.”

Spring aside, I actually do spend a good deal of time trying to find just the right words. As a yoga teacher, it’s important that I honor traditional poses by describing them deftly, offering verbal cues and images that will help students be more fully present in their own bodies. Every student is different, and this variety means that the more various ways I can explain things, the more students will learn… Riiiight?

In reality, I often feel exceedingly chatty during class, and I wonder how much talking I really need to be doing. No one can beat silence in terms of power and pure potential. But unlike palaver during a yoga practice, I don’t think language itself is the problem. Canadian teacher Barrie Risman puts it this way:

Using our intellect in asana is how we crystallize our experience so we can assimilate it, integrate it, and make it our own. The use of words, in particular, is crucial in this respect. Language is how we as humans make sense of our reality on every level, so why not our bodies in asana (i.e., yoga poses)?

I’m reminded of Ezekiel, the Biblical prophet who delivered messages from God to the Hebrews during the Babylonian captivity. Before one tricky mission, God offers Ezekiel a scroll (presumably inscribed with divine pronouncements) and tells him, “Eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it,” and then go “speak to the people of Israel.” Ezekiel eats the scroll and squarely declares, “It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.”

Ingesting the scroll, incorporating it into his very body, Ezekiel receives the vital nutrients he needs to become an enriched, fertile and fruitful spokesperson for God. What he takes in will be manifested in what he gives out.

Like Ezekiel, we might each consider carefully not only the words we speak, but also the words we receive. In your yoga practice, or while listening to music or reading, begin to notice what phrases and ideas grab you. Find the ones that taste like honey-- itself the product of careful consumption. I encourage you to write these words down, repeat them to yourself, or share them with others. As they fill your stomach and your mind and heart, they will become sustenance during whatever you have been called to do, for today or a lifetime.

Then (probably for the first time ever) you might find yourself emulating Jim Carrey this spring: blooming without worrying about how it will happen, and trusting that courage alone will make you beautiful.

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