Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It only gets easier after it's harder

Right now my daughter Lucia is learning a new song on the piano. It's by Brandi Carlile-- "Before it Breaks." It's really cute to see her playing a real song. When she first started practicing this song, she was still new to combining the chords with the melody and she struggled mightily. She reached peak frustration minutes after starting her piano practice. I tried different techniques-- play the right hand separately from the left. Just sing the song. Take a break and play another song. But the truth was, it was going to be hard for the first little bit while she learned it. One day before practicing, to get Lucia geared up, I found a YouTube video of Brandi Carlile playing "Before it Breaks". In the video , she introduces the song by saying, "I'm just learning how to play piano live. This song took me 9 hours to play. I cried twice."

Lucia snickered a little bit. "9 hours!", she gasped, feeling smug that she could probably get the song in less time than that. But she got the message-- learning this song was going to be hard work. The rest of the video, of course, is Brandi Carlile crooning and playing the piano with what seems like very little effort. I watched Lucia as she mouthed the lyrics and watched this "rock star" singing the song she was learning. Riveted. Inspired. Excited.
For the next week or so, Lucia practiced "Before it Breaks" a lot. And it got easier for her. A lot easier. She memorized it. She loved it. And next week, she's playing the song in a recital.

Sometimes I use Lucia's piano playing when I teach as an analogy for how yoga practice, and certain postures in particular can sometimes feel. Some days, practice is so goddamned hard. It feels pointless. You wonder why you bothered to come to this literal torture chamber. You ask yourself when it will ever get easier. And why isn't it getting easier. It's because it is always harder before it gets easier. I am not sure what it is about the human brain, but we tend to focus on the experiences that are hard and barely give a wink to the moment when "it" (piano, yoga, fill in the blank) finally gets easier.

The next time you are practicing yoga, or piano, or your challenge of the moment, try to remember that, if you're in a rough patch, a hard time, that you're on a path that's taking you somewhere else. Eventually, you'll get to the place where whatever it is isn't so hard, and maybe one day it will even be easy. The easy part only comes from experiencing the hard stuff. And, then, when you reach that moment, like when Lucia finally "got" the song, take a moment to appreciate that you got there.

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