"Now we begin again," begins The Yoga Sutras, one of the great texts outlying the foundations of all modern yoga. Today I sit down to write my ninth book. Since I was 1996, I published six books, wrote a seventh one I decided not to circulate because I outgrew the topic by the time I was done, and ghost wrote an eighth for a beloved teacher. When I opened a new file this morning entitled "The Book," the first thing that emerged was this blog -- the first in a series of commentaries on the demanding endeavor of writing a book. I realized that by sharing my own development and progression during writing itself, that others might gain some benefit from the process itself and not just the product, and hopefully inspire and further their own projects. I have counseled countless people on writing over many years as a consultant, graduate school professor, and friend, and it has been a true honor to help people bring important messages and teachings into the world.
Twenty-one years ago, as a young woman wandering around India on a one-way plane ticket and having never published anything, Yogi Ramsuratkumar, a great holy man who I met in Southern India, said to me, "Mariana will write things for people all over the world to read!" I was baffled by why he said that and had no idea what it could possibly mean. The idea that I could write say or write anything that the world would be interested in reading was outlandish.
When I returned from a year in India, I visited the spiritual community of my teacher Lee Lozowick, in the desert of Arizona. I had arrived only two weeks before, and just decided to move there, when he said to me, "Your first job here is to write a book." I thought he was out of his mind, but he made it possible for me to be supported by the community while I figured out how to write a book.
I look back with loving appreciation at the existential young woman I was at the time. I lived and worked from a tiny trailer on the community property. It was so hot in my trailer that I would write in my bikini, moving between my tiny laptop to cooling myself off in the hose outside the workshop nearby, sweating out the desert heat and the panic of trying to place together tens of thousands of words cogently. I was a terrified, self-hating, and passionate young woman, with a blazing love for truth but a self-esteem that was so fragile that the flutter of a butterfly's wings could knock it down. I was fully committed to following my teacher's instructions -- that is why I was there. I was aware and grateful that people were washing dishes, cooking meals, and working on community businesses, so I could have the luxury of writing a book. But it often felt closer to a curse than a blessing.
Each day I would sit down with an open document, as I did today, and feel like I was gazing into the bottom of the Grand Canyon with someone about to push me off the cliff. There was a great void from which I was to produce words and sentences that others would understand and want to read. I had severe doubts as to whether anything I had to say could possibly be what anyone else wanted to hear, much less the thousands of people. How could I possibly know which, of the millions of words available in the English language could be the right ones? I believed I was unintelligent and lacked vocabulary, but I committed to the project because I knew it was a gift. I worked seven days a week for 10 hours a day for a year and wrote my first book. The next year I wrote another, and the following year, another.
"The pill gets bigger but easier to swallow," a friend said to me once, in a discussion about the increasing demands of life when we take on more responsibility. Each time I write a book I take on a growing edge -- something I need to know more than something I have fully grasped. It is the deep passion for the question that gives me enough motivation to enact the labors of love that writing a book requires, but that means I continue to write into the unknown. I feel most alive when I am working on my edge, but also most afraid.
This time I am writing a book about the subject that I have been delving into for several years -- the integration of yoga and Western psychology. When I first went to India and the saint told me I would be writing books for the whole world, I had just finished graduate school in psychology. Since that time I have been immersed in yogic studies and psychology and psychotherapy, pursuing these subjects in tandem throughout my life. Some years I have focused on writing, others in teaching these subjects in graduate school, others teaching yoga, and most recently focusing on my psychotherapy practice that specializes in offering psychological support on the spiritual path. Between yoga and Western psychology, there is an endless wealth of resources for physical, psychological, and spiritual healing and thriving. I am excited to articulate why and how this is, and how anyone can begin to make use of the benefits of yoga and psychology in their lives. Although I have gained a lot of knowledge about my subject, to fully enter the knowledge streams of yoga and the deep psyche is to perceive the depths and endlessness of each, and therefore to recognize that one is always a beginner.
Today I begin a book again, and I still can sense the old fears, trepidations, overwhelm, and self-absorption that inundated me when writing my first book. The vestiges of wondering who might want to read what I write, how I could possibly do my vast and profound subject justice, and who am I to write a book anyway, are still felt. Yet instead of feeling like I am shaking in terror in front of the Grand Canyon, it is more like looking into a deep pool with an unknown bottom, which I am about to dive into. I know it is a great privilege to write books, and with a young child filling every spare minute of my life, the issues of writer's block, self-esteem, and procrastination are a luxury I can no longer afford. There is much more to say on this process, yet to spend any more time on this initial blog would be a cleverly disguised way to procrastinate writing the book. I look forward to sharing this process with my generous readers, and growing together in our integration.
I will be teaching Yoga & Psyche at the breathtaking Esalen Institute October 3-5 in Big Sur, California. See the Esalen website, or my website, for details.
Follow Mariana Caplan, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marianacaplan