Learning new things is such an important part of life. I recently met a woman on an airplane whose mother was celebrating her 103rd birthday. Apparently she attributes her longevity to constantly learning new things and keeping herself challenged.
When it comes to the process of learning, I find there to be a certain paradox. On the one hand, progress is gradual and is achieved by constant and consistent practice. On the other hand there are instances when there is a clear ‘breakthrough’ moment. And how sweet those moments are.
When I was in my mid twenties I moved to Aix-en-Provence (charming town in the South of France – go if you ever get the chance) to learn French. The next year I was going to be enrolling in a Masters program in Paris and knew I would be in France for at least the next three years, so it was important that I learn the language. At the time the task did not seem so insurmountable, given that I already spoke Italian (my mother is Italian and I spent much time there growing up). In fact, I was brimming with confidence and assumed that in no time at all I would be chatting away in French and all would be smooth and easy.
I was wrong.
After 2 months being there, studying, and submerging myself in the French life, I still could not understand the language. Everything I heard sounded like one incredibly long French word. I just couldn’t manage to hear any separation between the words. It was frustrating to say the least, but I just kept on studying, and perusing the streets and reading the signs around town and so forth. All in all it was pretty pleasant really – just that I was not accomplishing what I had set out to do, which was to learn the damn language.
Then one morning, about 3 months into my stay, I woke up and went down to the local café (as I did most everyday while I was there). I ordered my coffee and glass of water as usual, only this time something was different. I actually understood the mumblings of the bartender! Not only that, I understood what the local Frenchmen standing next to me at the bar were saying to each other (I always marveled at how they could drink white wine and smoke so many cigarettes before 9 am). What prior to that moment had sounded like one long extrapolated French word, now sounded like a coherent string of French words that formed a sentence; and I understood it. I knew then that my study and determination had paid off. And it all happened in one great moment. The breakthrough moment.
The same can happen in yoga.
I am sure those of us who have practiced with some consistency can recall a moment in their practice when a posture that previously felt daunting or awkward, suddenly felt right; as if finally the alignment and the breathing and the calm have all come together and you simply beam with energy.
These breakthrough moments can serve so much to inspire us and continue fueling the desire to deepen and continue an endeavor.
So whether it’s learning a language, practicing yoga, experimenting with art or anything else, I believe the basic lesson to be the same. Invest yourself honesty and consistently in what you want and what you do, and then stand by as witness to the successes that will inevitably come your way.
Nicholas (aka Nico) is a film guy living and working in New York City. Originally from California, he settled in NYC after working and studying abroad for a number of years in the field of International Relations. Seven years (and a massive career change) later, he continues to enjoy a lifestyle full of work, travel and diverse cultural experiences.
Nico discovered yoga about a decade ago while living in San Diego, and has since carried the practice with him. He enjoys not only the physical component but finds the philosophy behind yoga to be very rich and beneficial. Nico also loves to surf and to cook.
He lives with his lovely fiancée Eli (and their fish Patrick), and they will be married this coming January in Miami.
Eli has an awesome blog. ThompsonandPrince