How to sing without singing
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
-- The Ovenbird By Robert Frost
In his poem, The Ovenbird, Robert Frost writes of a mid-summer and mid wood bird -- who sings even though his song is not the full-throated warble of youth.
In my yoga practice, I am an ovenbird, though at 65 well past the crises of middle age. Still, my body and the postures I frame with it, question “what to make of a diminished thing.”
I seek a more balanced, less exuberant tune – one in which I push myself to do more, while I allow myself to do less.
It was not always so. Well into middle age, I was rewarded by growth as I met the challenges of ever more difficult poses.
But increasingly my practice raises greater challenges: Do I go into upward facing wheel (known colloquially as a backbend) just because I still can? Or do I drop such feats from my repertoire? When do I give up headstand and shoulder stand? Maybe next week. My upcoming bone density exam may aid me in the consideration, but the arguments I hold in the practicing moment continue.
Once meeting goals, mastering new postures and gaining new skills were part of the subtext that drew me to the mat. That mat’s one place where I learned to listen to my body talk, where I often heard my body sing.
I’m still listening; it’s still singing.
But more often it’s humming: “let go, do less.”