“practice, and all is coming”

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois often told his students: 99% practice, 1% theory. This goes against my grain a bit—I love me some book-learning—but the more time I spend on the yoga mat (his laboratory) and in the garden, the more I realize the wisdom of his recipe. I’ve been studying gardening books for several years, and they’re pretty useful at planting time—what will do well in my climate, how far apart seedlings should be spaced, who needs a pole to climb, who likes mulch and who does not, etc. But as I spent my Sunday morning weeding, it occurred to me that, after several years of practice, I finally have some practical knowledge under my belt. The only weed I know by name is the dandelion, but I recognize just about everything that likes my dirt, and I know pretty much everything I need to know about these little green squatters. I know which ones can be removed with a quick flick, which require my fingers to follow long horizontal runners beneath the soil, which require the help of a tool. I know, by feel, the moment when I can give a sharp tug at a certain angle and have the whole thing come away cleanly. As a result of practice, I’m able to organize visual and tactile data and perform some pretty delicately calibrated actions with my muscles. It is an activity that is completely absorbing and, while admitting of a certain amount of verbal description, completely resistant to useful verbal instruction.

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