After being rocketed into reading Sanskrit and finding the pace of my class too much, I’ve gone back to basics. Something my āsana practice has taught me: when in doubt go back to the simplest thing. Find stability before you move on; seek joy in the small details and linger there a while before your ego speeds you up and on, ever on.
Since my Devanāgarī character recognition is going to be my key stabilising factor in making any kind of progress (the Tadāsana of Sanskrit maybe!?), this is where I’m choosing to linger.
I’m reading out loud slowly to practice pronunciation. Hubby says I sound like I’m speaking Klingon: he only ever seems to be around when I’m practicing velar stops! He also found it hilarious when I said I’d been reciting the alphabet to myself walking down the street on my way to yoga class. Talking to myself in Sanskrit is never a sign of madness, surely?
As well as rolling these unusual sounds around in my mouth I’m also enjoying the shapes on the page, practicing the letter forms. I’m not aiming at fancy calligraphy (I have never been one for neat handwriting) and I’m using my regular fountain pen with a normal nib, not one filed off at 20 degrees which is apparently the optimum apparatus to write Devanāgarī…!
I’ve been practicing individual letters, but also trying to replicate sentences. And where better to start than atha yogānuśāsanam, the first sutra in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. Two for one — practising my writing and scriptural study. What’s not to like?!
And you’ll have noticed from this blog that I’m also trying to get into the habit of typing with better transliteration habits — to pay attention to the vowel quantities and the different consonants (e.g. that n isn’t anywhere near the same letter as ñ). English speakers can afford to be sloppy with this aspect of writing, I think. For me this is hard to get right — until I’ve learned this properly, I’m having to unlearn what I thought I knew (it turns out there is lots of wrong information out there on the inter web… Surprise!). [Please feel free to tell me if/when you spot an error!]
All this has a purpose, sure, but it’s also proving quite a soothing activity in itself. It puts me in mind of the vogue at the moment for mindfulness colouring books. They are everywhere! I got given one in the summer (colouring maṇḍalas) but I have yet to discover any particular pleasure in this. For a while instead I’ll write the alphabet out daily and take this as an opportunity to cultivate attention and develop some fluidity and fluency. It’s just another practice, another small step.