Getting back to basics — it’s in my hands

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.

devanagari practiceI’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…!

sutra 1.1 writingI’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!]

mindfulness colouring booksAll 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.

5 thoughts on “Getting back to basics — it’s in my hands

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  1. ‘Tadasana’ of Sanskrit. I’m a big tadasana fan. 🙂
    All I know of Sanskrit is sounds but I found it easy to start with repetitions of shlokas. A sound based learning, sort of like how children pick up language. A few years ago, I decided to learn to chant the Gita and got a CD and played it on repeat mode until I could replicate the sounds before I started to look at the text. Even with the Yoga Sutras, I started by listening and then writing it down daily. So far it is working. I figure if there are enough repetitions, they may just express themselves in time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really interesting! I guess we all have different ways of learning. I’m intrigued by language and linguistics and for me seeing words written down helps me make logical sense of indo-european patterns (as much as I can!). That said I’m trying not to make this too academic and to enjoy the process of learning as much as the result of it. I have also been listening to the Yoga Sūtras too, just for the sounds as much as anything else at this stage. Perhaps the understanding will follow in time, yes!
      Thanks for sharing your experiences with this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Leaning Sanskrit is something I would love to do but for now I will stick with colouring, I’ve got quite into mindfulness colouring recently and find it really soothing though I find it hard to make time to do it. Really interesting post as always.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it — and I appreciate the feedback always! I really like the idea of these mindfulness colouring books, but somehow I just find myself resenting using energy up in this way when it seems to contribute to nothing in particular. But I’m having to relearn what is a productive activity and what I spend time/energy on… I think you’ll understand.

      Liked by 1 person

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