One of my favorite yoga teachers likes to say after particularly difficult poses in Bikram, have no reaction, just stand still. I’ve been thinking about how “having no reaction” seems like good Stoic practice for dealing with various frustrations in academic publishing.
A couple days ago I received a rejection from a top-tier journal on a paper that I’m pretty excited about. The reviewer said that my paper does not talk about one particular thing that everyone who writes on x has to talk about and that my lens for interpretation is not the useful key that I think it is. I do not think that x is that important to my reading or even really to the questions I am addressing and so I have no interest in talking about it. I do think my lens is a useful key. As I was reading the review, at first, I felt my blood beginning to rise. Then, my yoga teacher’s mantra occurred to me: have no reaction. I began to think about what it might mean to consider this response as information that the field gives about what it is like, but that positive or negative feelings do not need to be had in response to that information. Just stand still.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am not a Stoic. I have far too many opinions to be a Stoic. I usually so quickly go to the judgment that I have been wronged with these kinds of rejections. Sometimes, that’s true. More often than not, I go to the place of thinking that rejection is a personal judgment. It can feel like that. I think sometimes recognizing how rejections are unfair motivates us to raise important questions. I think that we need to get angry and organize to change the field, especially to become less narrow in its thinking about how publishing decisions are made. I’m working on that too. Read more
In Aristotle’s account of how a person becomes virtuous, he argues that a virtuous action is done in the way a virtuous person would do it. This account often appears circular to those who first encounter it, but I would suggest it is less circular than spiral. The person who aspires to virtue looks to the person further around the spiral who is already virtuous in order to consider how to be virtuous. By looking at the virtuous person as the model, they become a virtuous model themselves for the next person. Some readers of Plato argue that Plato presents a view of goodness as imitation. One becomes virtuous by participating in, which is to say, imitating the Forms of virtue, of Justice, of Courage, of Wisdom.
On Aristotle’s account, the virtuous person serves as a model for how the apprentice virtuous person should be, but that model is fundamentally about learning to make the judgment in a virtuous way out of their own character. The judgment in the process shifts from, what would that person do to what would I do. A person has become the phronimos, or the one of good judgment, when they are able to make their own judgments without a model, that is, when they become a model, not by having replicated the previous model, but by uniquely being able to determine what the bulls’ eye of virtuous living would be. Read more
Today is my one year anniversary of hot yoga–vinyasa and Bikram–in Indianapolis. Today I will have attended 176 classes in the last year for a total of more than 250 hours in the hot yoga studio.
I went back and read what I wrote about it in the first month of my renewed hot yoga practice (here and here and here and here last year (four times in my introductory month and then nothing about yoga all year). In the post where I first mention it (at the end of this post), I compare hot yoga unfavorably to cold running.
With this return to hot yoga in the context of a cold running routine, I’m not nearly as excited by the heat as I used to be. It’s great. I like the sweat. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m twelve or fifteen years older than the last time I did real hot yoga. Maybe it is because this studio is really not messing around about the heat. Maybe the heat just makes you think about cold. Maybe it’s because after a cold run my lungs feel bigger, like all the cold air rushed in and hasn’t left, while hot yoga makes me feel like I am never quite getting enough air. Instead of feeling like a respite from the cold, the hot yoga has me missing cold runs.
Things changed. Here I am now, in the middle of a deep freeze winter, happily attending hot yoga every day, getting plenty of air in the hot yoga studio instead of running in the cold. I have run some outside this winter, but it’s been 6 degrees out there for the last week, and I think that is below my threshold. Read more
Any day now I’m going to cry in yoga. I’ve been having this thing happen to me where I’m holding a position and I’m sure I just cannot do it anymore and I have that emotional release that happens when you cry only I don’t cry. I stay in the pose, and it is amazing. Today I had that same feeling but only because I kept falling out of poses that I know I can do and it was so frustrating.
Last week, I had a class that was really frustrating. I didn’t seem to have my balance. Poses that I had felt strong and successful doing in the class before were a struggle. I was annoyed with myself. I already mastered this! Why do I have to deal with this again? Lying there on my mat in shavasana in between poses it occurred to me that this is life–having the same struggle over again even though you mastered it before. Read more
Monday night I went to a high intensity interval training pilates class. During my third minute of elbow planks, I thought I was going to cry. I cried once when I was running a half marathon, when in the last half mile I realized I was going to PR. There’s something about that moment when you think you are reaching your threshold and you just cannot do anymore and then you keep doing it. That moment is where you realize the struggle is mental.
I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It also brings me close to tears. Murakami makes me feel guilty for the times I have stopped because of the pain. He makes me feel bad for being a mid-distance runner and not a long-distance runner. In the pilates class, which is grueling and unlike any pilates I have ever heard of, the teacher berates us for giving up. I understand that. Motivate, push yourself. That’s all good. But I had to learn to pay attention to pain in running and to take it easy–to do what looks like giving up, to stop feeling the exercise as demand.
At one point Murakami talks about the one time he ran an ultramarathon. After mile 34 his breathing felt good but his legs wouldn’t work, so he had to propel himself my moving his arms and hands. Then at mile 47, he broke through a wall. It stopped hurting. He kept going. He ran the next fifteen miles unencumbered. I think I know that feeling. It happens for me three minutes into an elbow plank. It’s when you realize that you can persist through the pain if you tell yourself to just keep on. Read more
I joined a yoga studio in the first week of January. It wasn’t even a New Year’s resolution. I tried to make plans with a friend, actually a former student from Bryn Mawr, and she said she was going to the yoga studio she just joined, so I said, ok, I’ll do that. It’s a hot yoga studio, as I mentioned in my post about how hot yoga made me think about cold running again. It’s really hot, like 105º in 40% humidity. The first yoga classes I ever went to were in a Baptiste studio on Walnut right down from the Penn Book Store in University City in Philadelphia. The classes were packed. But it felt like a serious workout. I’d run the mile and a half from my apartment to the studio to get warmed up. I don’t recall ever having had a conversation with a teacher there, except this one time when I was hungover and smelling of cigarette smoke when I must have looked like I was going to fall over and pass out and a teacher looked at me with a kind of smirk and asked me if I was ok. I might have still been drunk. Read more