A while back my husband mentioned a TED talk that he thought might capture my interest. He was correct. One of the many pearls of wisdom that reading Joseph Hubertus Pilates: The Biography left me with was the description of the atmosphere of the Pilates’s studio. It was apparently a serious place with a singular focus: exercising the body. I believe that it was Joe and Clara’s passionate enthusiasm for their work that created this environment of intense and singular focus. As I was considering this idea, I thought about Jay Grimes’s stories of trembling his way out of a lesson with Joe and / or Clara, and of my similar experience in working with Romana. While I believe that much of our common experience can be attributed to the people involved, my recent read has me thinking that the environment is due some credit as well. And so it seems that I’ve stumbled upon yet another reason to hold my tongue in my Pilates studio: we can each put our best effort toward creating an environment infused with focus and passion in which to practice Pilates by refraining from speaking anything but the most essential information pertaining to the work at hand. I’m pretty sure that we’ll make some interesting discoveries in doing so. And I admit that it will be a big challenge for me, a person blessed with the gift of the gab.
There are some other aspects of Scher’s talk that I think bear mentioning. Starting with some thoughts on the joy of work for work’s sake. Back in my twenties, I had a brief stint of sewing for money. I quickly discovered that I would never be adequately compensated for my efforts. Sewing for me is a pleasure and I must preserve that aspect of my hobby by keeping money out of the equation. (Back then I managed this by naming a price and not worrying about how that related to how much time I spent on any given project.) There is something to be said for engaging in a creative endeavor for the pure joy that the work brings us. For those of us that do something creative for money, I believe that it is all the more important to have some other creative outlet for its own sake.
Lastly, rolling around in my head is the notion that consistently cultivating serious engagement is something of a fountain of youth. There is a particular benefit to ignorance and I believe that Scher has done a fine job of identifying it. With a practice such as Pilates that only deepens with time and therefore requires years of investment to experience all the potential returns, I believe that her insight bears frequent consideration. I’ve noticed that with Pilates and with teaching Pilates, remaining curious leaves me open to new possibilities. The more sure I am of what I know, the less likely I am to be curious. And so it would seem that cultivating a lifelong sense of being a student is a good strategy for remaining serious in what I do. The alternative, being all-knowing and having no sense of my own ignorance, is nearly impossible anyway. So I’ve got that going for me.
Today I say thanks to Paula Scher for the reminder: there’s a good case to be made for being serious.