Thursday, February 16, 2012

Humbly Starting Over

Oh, isn't that how it always goes? We fervently devote ourselves to something, and then we can't keep up with our own enthusiasm. Well, it has happened to me before, anyway.

In my last post, I imposed a self-created system of deadlines so that I could learn Sanskrit in a timely manner... and then I totally walked away, overwhelmed by it. It makes me laugh now. I pick myself up and try again, this time with gentle patience as my walking stick.

Truth is, I am overwhelmed by the task of teaching myself a dead language. As one friend pointed out, it isn't like I can find a Meet-Up group in town with a group of people practicing their Sanskrit together. 

I have come up with a few tips for myself, and anyone else who has taken on a big task: 

1. When in doubt, go back to the beginning. 

I was charmed initially while reading the introduction of the text I am using. The sweetest perspective on learning itself-- so Eastern. So straightforward it seems barely worth including in the book, yet I found myself going back to find those words when I got snagged. I will paraphrase for you: 

~Review in a relaxed state of mind before doing the exercises. Then the exercises will be more enjoyable. If the exercises seem difficult, review more. Do not strain in remembering thus "programming" your mind to forget. Memorization should be easy, comfortable and frequent. ~

It's almost as if the author of the text has been where I am. Duh. Leads to my next point... 

2. Be gentle with yourself in the process of learning. 

I love that "do not strain in remembering thus programming your mind to forget". It brings me back to one of the first Sanskrit words I learned-- a favorite of mine to teach during yoga classes-- Ahimsa. 

Ahimsa is the first of the yamas & niyamas-- the ethical system of yoga, the lifestyle, the foundation of all yoga, perhaps of all Eastern thought-- the concept of non-violence. We must be non-violent with ourselves. 

When I impose standards on myself that are too high, bad things happen. :) Perhaps I become rigid and short with others, unkind, or perhaps I give up on my task altogether. No good. In order to be successful in our spiritual pursuits, we must throw out our culturally ingrained "no pain, no gain". 

3. Remember your motivation. 

When facing a big task it is helpful to keep in mine the goal, the objective, the reason for starting in the first place. Reconnect with what drove you to start in the first place. 

I want to metaphorically sit at the feet of the ancients, understand the words that came out of their mouths and onto paper thousands of years before us. Cultural context is everything, and the taste of a language has so much to do with that. Understanding the taste of Sanskrit can help me to better understand this beautiful journey I am on called yoga. 

What helps you to stay motivated to make your dreams reality? Please share in a comment below.


  1. Timely fashion and dead language don't seem to quite match up in my mind. ;) Glad you're not giving up after not having it go well the first time. The easy path is to not face the embarrassment of not having lived up to what you said. The path of growth is looking at our mistakes and learning from them.

  2. This smells of compassionate self discipline me thinks.... :)Go Erika!