Donna W.

What alignment means to me

I turned to the dictionary to jumpstart my thinking about this assignment and found these synonyms for alignment, all of which were pleasing to me: harmony, pattern, plan, symmetry, unity, coordination, design, congruency. With these word images in mind, I realized that my natural inclination is to crave alignment, in everything. But because I’m an obsessive, I tend to take things to extremes, even alignment. My quest for harmony, pattern and plan can resemble other synonyms for alignment: conformation, regulation, standardization. It’s a challenge for me to stay grounded in the positive aspects of alignment without slipping into the obsessive aspects, which for me are the antithesis of creativity and flow. This is good to know!

These musings led me to think about my yoga practice. I’ve always been attracted to Iyengar yoga (that obsessive personality again!), for which alignment is the cornerstone – not only physical alignment in the postures as a means of protecting joints and muscles, but also the alignment of the physical and energy layers of our being. On a deeper level, Iyengar yoga recognizes the alignment of the individual to the collective. Iyengar practitioners see human beings as afloat in a vast sea of energy; by learning how to align ourselves with the flow of all these currents, they believe, we can develop the talent to navigate in this sea in the same way a skilled sailor can learn to steer a ship through uncertain tides. A lofty goal that will take me many lifetimes to understand, let alone master!

How does alignment come into play in my art? I’ve always known that as a journalist, I much preferred reporting to writing. Gathering information, doing research, especially at the outset of an assignment, excited me. Taking all that information and crafting it into a cohesive story often was a chore. The unfortunate result of this imbalance caused me to over-report as a “circling” activity to postpone the moment when I had to start to write, producing stress and sometimes causing me to miss deadlines. I had to learn to discipline myself by following the advice of one of my mentors, who told me to buckle down and write a first draft early to help me learn what I didn’t know yet.

I’m finding that I also need to apply discipline to my fledgling love of surface design. I tend to want to skimp on preparation and get right to the main event, with less than stellar results. An unwillingness to properly prepare a piece of fabric with soda ash recently resulted in a very washed-out example of ice dyeing. I know that if I want the best result, I need to lay a proper foundation, which will require a lot of study and a great deal of humility to continually ask for help from artists who have been at this much longer than I have. I will need to overcome my fear that I don’t have enough time to do this “right.” At the same time, aware that my sometimes overly analytical approach can veer into obsession, and knowing that I have that circling thing going on that allows me to focus only on those parts of a project that I enjoy, I need to “do” as I learn – fearlessly and unselfconsciously – to avoid those negative aspects of alignment.