I haven’t been writing much publically over the past few months.
Every once and awhile I’d open up this blog, stare at a blank page for awhile, then close my computer and walk away. Or, alternatively, I’d open up the blog, feel guilty that nothing had been posted in so long, try to bang out a quick piece, and then delete the mess I’d word-vomited onto the paper.
“Am I losing my touch?” I would think worriedly every few days, “What if this whole writing thing is just going to get harder with time? Shouldn’t it be the opposite?”
When I first started this blog, I was writing every single day. One, two blog posts a week, every week. Didn’t matter a tad that it was my senior year of high school, I was teaching yoga five or more times a week, and getting ready to move off to college for the first time. The first few years of my blog, in fact, where overflowing with my words. I felt like a kettle overflowing with ideas, sentiments, revelations: and I wanted to share them all.
Typing up my thoughts was my way of processing of how quickly my life was changing. Before I knew it, I was in front of a camera, filming a documentary about my life. I was living in Santa Cruz, away from my home studio that had served as my endless source of inspiration. I started traveling, meeting new people and learning from new teachers.
Writing was how I pieced together all the puzzle pieces I collected along the way, and writing was the only puzzle I’d ever enjoyed working with. The themes that emerged as I navigated a new chapter in my life felt like secret clues the universe had conspired to place along my path, putting them in the mouths of the people I encountered and carving them into the pavement I stepped upon. Writing was a synthesis of everything I found, and it gave me faith that I was walking along the right path to see it all fit together so effortlessly.
And I did it all publically. My blog was my journal.Writing a blog feels a lot like speaking to an empty room at first; I found safety in the fact that there weren’t too many eyes on it, and even as the number of eyes increased, I don’t think I fully processed that they were actual people. I was used to, like, my mom reading it. Maybe my friends if I sent them the link. The idea that people around the country – around the world – were reading my diary took a long time to sink in.
This past summer, it became more real. I started traveling around to meetings about the film and where it would be shown next. I started being flown out of the country to talk about a film with my name in the damn title. I started getting news about how the film would be released later next year (a secret that’s eating away at me every day). I started bumping into people in real life that had read my writing, and realizing that they knew YogaMaris before they ever met Maris Degener from Clayton, California.
I’d never claim to be a celebrity (although there is an entire page dedicated to pictures of my feet on the “Internet’s Biggest Celebrity Foot Fetish Website,” but please don’t go looking for that one), but I am getting a sense of what it’s like to not have privacy all the time. And while my blog had once masqueraded as being private, it simply isn’t anymore.
I’m not sad about that fact. In fact, I’m honored and overflowing with gratitude. The idea that I have a platform upon which I can support others blows my mind every single day. It’s a gift I will never take for granted and one I never want to give up. But it does mean that not every single thing I write should be a blogpost anymore: both for my sanity, and for the benefit of those who read what I write. Because when I feel the pressure to only write for others, the well of inspiration runs dry pretty damn quick.
So I stopped trying, stopped forcing, and stopped shaming myself for not having a blogpost ready. I took a summer to mostly travel, mostly see the world. I gave myself space to move back to school and begin assisting a teacher training without needing to write about it all in a way that felt well-worded and complete. In fact, I gave myself full permission to not create anything for anyone else’s eyes.
I took on the intention to stop speaking and start listening again. Truly listening. I dove into books. I jumped into weekends of training that I was passionate about: stepping back into the role of the student as fully as I could. I forced myself out of the comfortable routine of my home practice and got my mat back in the studio. I knew that I could no longer do the “sit down and just force it out” method of creation, I needed to absorb, be patient, and wait for the inspiration to come.
I journaled every day, and in doing so found joy in a practice I never have before: writing with no expectation of it ever being read. I wrote with abandon, I wrote without regard for proper spelling or grammar, I wrote in a way that made my inner perfectionist scream but made my heart feel a little more open. I let down guards that I realized I’d been holding up even in solitude, even when no eyes were on me. I let myself just be again.
What came to me was a lesson I first heard long ago, but rang particularly true in this personal experiment:
Don’t try to be interesting, be interested. People will remember, first and foremost, how much you cared.
I’m someone who has felt pressure to know it all. In high school, my whole identity was academics: my grades were the only thing that gave me a sense of being “enough.” When I started teaching yoga, I would periodically get down on myself for not knowing everything there was to know about anatomy, philosophy, and history. When a student would come up after class and ask a question I simply didn’t know the answer to, I had a hard time saying so without feeling inadequate.
What I’ve found with time, though, is that we are remembered for how we make others feel. When we hold space for others, when we show up with enthusiasm and excitement, when we dive into new experiences with humbleness, we are leaving lasting impressions that say more about who we are than the facts we can recite.
And the beauty is, the more open you are about how little you know, the more you’ll know. One of my teachers that had been most influential in my journey always says, “The best students are the best teachers.”
I haven’t always trusted that, but I do now. Admitting what we don’t know doesn’t make us seem ignorant or unworthy, it opens us to new ways of thinking, being, and interacting with the world around us. There is a teacher inside of me that knows the path. But there is still so much I do not know, and reframing that as excitement instead of guilt has made this journey far sweeter.
A part of that practice has been rebuilding my private rituals, giving myself space to be messy and unseen when I need to be. And then, when I’m ready and the message will serve others in a powerful way, the inspiration comes through.
And before I know it, I’ve written over a thousand words on how I have writer’s block.
Photos from an event this summer with Namaste and Brunch, shared with gratitude.