Thursday, May 19, 2011

Living on the Frontiers of your own Voice: Yoga and Writing with Author Bruce Black

(a child's christmas in wales, dylan thomas)
P ropped up against the brick of our fireplace at home is a vinyl release of A Child's Christmas in Wales read by Dylan Thomas. Anyone who has heard it read would likely remember the magic in its words and the author's lilting, choral delivery. What's in a human voice that tugs at the heartstrings? Why do children like to fall asleep to the sound of a voice reading a story?  And what exactly does the repetition of form tell us about sthiram, sukham, asanam...or stability, ease and yoga?

Author Bruce Black likes the warp and weft of words as much as he likes to trace the outlines of asanas on a yoga mat. Black began yoga five years ago when his knees could no longer stand the stress of running. A writer of fiction originally, Bruce Black turned his attention to the inner story of his yoga practice through journalling after a yoga teacher handed his whole class blank notepads. The exercise proved so fruitful that out of it emerged, Writing Yoga, a book that explores the nexus of yoga, writing and life.

(Bruce Black)
A graduate of Columbia University, where he received a BA in English literature, Bruce Black earned his MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His stories have appeared in Cricket and Cobblestone magazines and other publications, and his blog, Wordswimmer, was named one of the Web's "Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs" by Online Education News and is included in Online Degrees Hub's list of "100 Great Blogs that Young Writers Should Read." You can also find him at Writing Yoga, the blog for keeping a yoga journal. He serves as a poetry judge for The Cybils: Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards and is the founder and editorial director of The Jewish Writing Project. He lives in Sarasota, Florida, where he teaches writing workshops for children and adults and spends most of his time, when he's not reading or writing in his journal, practicing Tree Pose.

I spoke with Bruce Black at length about how writing and yoga are symbiotic practices that can help locate personal obstacles to using one's authentic "voice".  As his book details, no one is exempt from the oppressive chatter of the self-defeating inner critic.  And in our interview he talks about how having the nerve to observe the workings of your inner critic is exactly what affords you some room to mitigate the inner saboteur's influence.

"The journal was slightly larger than my hand, with lined, cream-coloured pages (blank on the back), a black spiral binding, and a cover, both front and back, wrapped in cloth on which was reproduced a Japanese painting — Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" — depicting a tall blue ocean wave, frozen at its crest just before it falls back to earth. In the distance, beneath the curl of the wave's white crest, you could see a snow-covered mountain. And entering the picture from the right-hand side you could make out the prows of two wooden vessels, coming from no one knows where and whose destination is also a mystery. It was a beautiful gift, a hundred blank pages waiting for words (and pictures) to fill them..." -Bruce Black, Writing Yoga

(Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa")