I’m reading David Foster Wallace’s brilliant Infinite Jest right now (although right now means for the past two years on Thursday, but if you’ve immersed yourself in this book, you’ll know that it takes awhile). On every page there are so many words and concepts that are brand new to me, and so many words and meta-stories that are simply brand-new since DFW made up so many new words writing the book. This could be frustrating if I were in the habit of taking a straight path from point A to point B, but you might all know by now that I am quite accustomed to the art of meandering, wandering, sauntering. So as I read, I have at my side a phone (a dictionary doesn’t help with neologisms), a small notebook and a favorite pen.
I like working this way.
In order to understand the poetry of ecstasy and suffering that plays out on the pages, however, I must do more than just read definitions. Reading from the dictionary (or wiki-what-not) sometimes penetrates, but most of the time the knowing that eventually comes has traveled through space in a variety of ways:
drawings help me;
poems help me;
listening to others tell stories helps me;
moving my body helps me.
Experts in pedagogy know these things. That is why they encourage teaching in various modalities. I’m no expert, but I do know what works for me, so I tend to teach that way as well. Sinking in-to things for a bit before letting them taper off.
A story that Eckhart Tolle told during the A New Earth book club he and Oprah hosted a few years ago sticks with me. He essentially said that you can know a lot about something (honey was his example), but that was different from knowing something. You can know the definition, chemical structure, all of the songs, all of the photos, but until you taste it, you can’t ever really know it.
Evolute: noun \ˈe-və-ˌlüt
the locus of the center of curvature or the envelope of the normals of a curve.
I’m deeply immersed in the Yoga Sutras right now. Right now in this case means always, but I’m working with them in a specific way that will be revealed to you all very soon (suspense!). And in the process of closely reading Edwin F. Bryant’s wonderful text The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary, I became sort of obsessed with evolutes. I mean using context clues and my skills of reasoning, I thought I had an idea of what an evolute was. And I sort of was, in the Sankhya to Yoga philosophy sense, but I was really drawn into the idea of the evolute.
And yoga has invited me to follow my fascination.
So I did.
I followed writings and drawings and animated gifs.
And then one day while I was practicing asana, experimenting with the rotation of my hip while lying on the earth and then flipped upside-down in the sky, noticing the relationship between hip and leg and knee and toes, I finally knew an evolute in my body.
And that is knowing.
Tell me, friends, how do you know that you know something?
p.s. I have a few spots left for individual learning sessions for the month of May. If you are interested in going deeper with your practice, I invite you to check out opportunities to connect one-on-one here.