February 2014

An air of inevitability

Last week I heard an NPR story that grabbed my attention.

It wouldn’t let me go, and I’ve been talking about it ever since.

It was about the Oscar-nominated movie Dallas Buyers Club. Reporter Neta Ulaby reported on the obstacles writer Craig Borten faced in getting this movie made.

Borten wrote the movie about real-life character Ron Woodroof and his experience in Texas as he was dying of AIDS. (Matthew McConnaughey plays Woodroof in the movie).

Borten struggled to get a producer to even consider the possibility of making yet another movie about a man with AIDS. But, finally he got a movie company to buy the script!

Then, the movie company that bought it went bankrupt!

So Borten teamed up with Melissa Wallack and the two of them wrote a new script. They sold this one to a 2nd movie company.  Then, the script got stuck in what Borten calls “development hell” — for over a decade.

These writers faced one insurmountable challenge after the other.

Borten was so emotionally distraught over the challenges that he developed a serious problem with drugs and alcohol (he’s sober now).

Then everything changed.

Matthew McConnaughey read the script, loved it and committed to the movie before it was funded, according to the NPR story. That was in 2009 – thirteen years after Borten sold the original script.

And at that time McConnaughey was no superstar. This was before he did Killer Joe and Mud, so he didn’t have the Hollywood pull he has today.

Before a movie company picked it up, and before there was any funding for the movie, McConnaughey committed himself to preparing for the role. He started losing weight — ultimately losing 25% of his body weight — to play the dying Woodroof.

As NPR broadcast this story, the movie producer’s words jumped out at me: Matthew McConnaughey ‘s commitment “gave the movie an air of inevitability.”

McConnaughey believed that this story needed to be told, and that he needed to be a part of it. And his belief got the powers-that-be motivated.

“We just willed that movie into existence,” says Producer Robbie Brenner. “We willed it. We willed it. We willed it.”

The concept of will brings to mind the Sanskrit word “tapas.” It’s a word we use in yoga to imply focused action. It means something along the lines of burning desire and self-discipline.

B.K.S.Iyengar says in Light on Yoga:
“Tapas is derived from the root “tap” meaning to blaze, burn, shine, suffer pain or consume by heat. It therefore means a burning effort under all circumstances to achieve a definite goal in life. It involves purification, self-discipline and austerity. The whole science of character-building may be regarded as practice of tapas.”

How can you create a sense of inevitability toward what you want to accomplish?

It takes a strong will for me to get out of bed some mornings! But once I do, I want to move toward something good, something that aligns with my priorities and what I want to create.

If you have experienced a burning desire to create something or to achieve a definite goal, what deliberate steps can you take to engage your will?

Here are a few things that help me:  attend yoga class, spend time with people who do things instead of people who talk about things, read inspiring articles & books, go for a walk in Overton Park.  Think about what might help you.

You can read or listen to the whole NPR story here.

Let it be whatever it is.

The Beatles swept the world by storm 50 years ago when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. In their first set, they played “All My Loving” and “She Loves You,” and Paul sang “‘Til There Was You.”

Ed Sullivan read a telegram on the air from Elvis Presley congratulating them on their American debut.

Six years later, they recorded a new song written by Paul McCartney, “Let It Be.”

This song holds deep meaning for me. It seems to come into my consciousness at times when I need comforting. It’s helped me as I’ve come to terms with pain in my life and learned to let it go.

In his book Light on Life, Mr. Iyengar interprets Isvara Pranidhana as “Surrender; letting it be whatever it is.”

In yoga, this is considered an active practice like Tapas (Applying your self) and Svadhyaya (Investigating your own experience).

I’ve always struggled with the concept of letting go. Holding on tightly seems to come more naturally to me.  I became aware of my need to let go a long time before I was capable of actually doing it.

At that time I thought to myself, “I can’t let go. But I am willing to be willing to let go.”

That was the best I could do. Sometimes it still is.

Here are some ideas you might use if you are considering letting things be:
Visualize something that represents the concept of letting go.  Conjure up your own image in your mind that feels like surrender or letting go to you. Sometimes I visualize water flowing freely in a river, a sailboat floating on the water, or a blue sky with fluffy clouds. This works for me. Experiment to find your own image that facilitates the thought of surrender. If I get stuck, sometimes I look online for images or find something in a magazine or book.

Focus on your exhalation. When you breathe out, you are literally letting go of your breath. And you don’t even have to try and do it. Your body has an intelligence all its own that makes this happen! Close your eyes and watch your exhalation just happen. With each out-breath, let go of your breath (and anything else) you no longer need.

Clean out a drawer or pocket. This is a practical step for the pragmatic people out there. If imagery feels a little woo-woo to you, then this is something you can do. Find a place where there is too much clutter, and clean it out.

Cleaning out my purse helps me clean out my mind. If I’m not paying attention, my bag becomes a bottomless pit of receipts, old Starbucks sugar packages, pennies, bobby pins, used tissues, yikes!

If I’m in a dither over something that I can’t control or fix or change, sometimes the best I can do is organize a small area of my life like my pocketbook or wallet. There is something about being able to affect change on a physical level.  You can see a before & after, and realize that you have power to create change, however small. So maybe you can’t whip every problem into shape, but there are things you can do to shift your experience.

It is important to know that there is no obstacle, emotion or inner state that is beyond the influence of “letting it be whatever it is.” Whether you are performing a straightforward job like cleaning your house or facing the daunting task of a tough conversation, you can listen to your true intuition and connect to your higher self.

It may not be comfortable or perfect. In fact, it  probably won’t be either of these things.

But, Iyengar says that when one practices Isvara Pranidhana (letting it be whatever it is) that “grace pours down upon [him] like a torrential rain.”

And I vote for grace every time.

Happy Valentine’s Day!