As some of you know, I’m an avid knitter. It’s a perfect hobby me; it allows me a few minutes to focus on something manual and creative as a respite from whatever else I have going on. I can pick up and put down a project whenever I need to and still be working towards a satisfying end point. In the knitting world, there is an expression known as “unvention.” If someone works out a new technique within the craft that they’ve never seen before, but which seems straightforward enough that someone else might have come up with the same idea somewhere along the line, they say they “unvented” the technique. It’s a lovely way of acknowledging the traditions of the craft and the valuable work of others while still allowing themselves credit for their own ingenuity.
The concept of “unvention” can be used to describe my approach to my yoga practice. I’ve taken a lot of yoga classes in my career and studied with some wonderful teachers. I trained for three years to become an Alexander Technique teacher. I’ve studied embodied anatomy and developmental movement for a decade. It’s impossible for me to separate out all these different approaches to moving and being present with myself and those around me. I’ve always allowed my excitement and enthusiasm to lead me, to explore how all these different techniques can help enrich my life. My motto is “have a go, see what happens.” It’s a philosophy that’s led me to all sorts of unorthodox syntheses and unexpected realizations in my practice that I never would have reached had I only ever studied with one teacher in only one modality. The realizations I made were my own, but I never would have made them without the teachings, traditions, and guidance of the wonderful people who I have been fortunate enough to study with.
I realize I’m lucky in many ways that my innate curiosity and enthusiasm has been strong enough to fuel my inner life, but I’ve found those qualities are constantly challenged by the world around me. We are, all of us, continually told that we don’t know enough, we aren’t qualified enough, we aren’t good enough. Experts tell us things must be done a certain way. People invested in traditions and lineages insist that their principles must always be rigidly adhered to.
One of my first yoga teachers said to me, “Your problem is you want to go off and explore when you haven’t mastered the basics yet.” A dear friend of mine once expressed her excitement and desire to combine the Alexander Technique and Yoga and was told “Who do you think you are?” Have you ever been in a situation where your excitement and enthusiasm has been dampened by someone or something else making you feel you’re not good enough?
This attitude is, to me, the antithesis of practice, the antithesis of creativity and enrichment of one’s life. If mastery is your goal, you’ll never get there without trying and failing, trying and succeeding, trying for the sake of trying. If creativity and exploration are your goal, you’ll never find them without having a go and seeing what happens. What is a life lived that has at its foundation a litany of inadequacies and insufficiencies? Probably not a very enjoyable one.
What will you “Unvent?”
I have a challenge for you. I’d like you to “unvent” something this week. It could be in any realm of your life: yoga, fitness, writing, knitting, drawing, cooking, painting, doodling, sewing, dancing, you name it. Take two things that exist within that realm that don’t have an obvious connection. Explore them together and see what associations between the two come up for you. Once you’ve taken some time to explore those associations, come up with a third thing that combines the two. And, hey presto! You’ve just “unvented” something new!
(Incidentally, I just “unvented” that exercise. It’s based loosely on the Hegelian dialectical model. My BFA in Film and Television has finally proved itself useful!)
Come “Unvent” With Me
My practice and my teaching are built on the foundation of “unventing,” a spirit I bring to every class and that I hope I am able to transmit to my students. If you explored the “unventing” challenge, let me know how it went for you. Either send me an email, or let me know before or after our next class where we can be “unventors” together!