My very favorite writer, Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, one of my favorite books, wrote the following:

I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.

I, too, have been looking into schedules. For painful and complicated reasons having to do with the process of my immigrating to the United States, I find myself at the beginning of a few months of being unable to work. In our current economic climate, it is both unfortunate and funny that I have a job where I am very much wanted, but to which I just cannot go because my employment authorization has run out. I’d taken steps to prevent this from happening, but they were the wrong ones—for this I am partly to blame, but largely the fault lies with the employees of the USCIS, who gave me advice and information that completely contradicted reality. Twice. When I first found out that I would have to stop working and teaching at the yoga studio in Austin which has become a home to me, I was shocked, deeply grieved, and profoundly angry, both at myself and at the aforementioned USCIS. (Which shall not be mentioned again. I have a permanent resident application pending, and it wouldn’t be a very good idea to broadcast on the nets unflattering thoughts about an agency which has such power over my life.) But once the shock wore off, I began to look at my Immigration Vacation differently.

In the few days after the fall from grace mentioned above, I was having a conversation with one of my fellow yoga staffers about what could be the meaning of this whole mess. This is one of the peculiar beauties of working in an environment so intrinsically spiritual as a yoga studio: that I would have to quit work on account of The Man would not be discussed merely as a maddening snarl of red tape, but as an envoy from the universe loaded with meaning and possibility. One of the very first points to arise was whether I may have asked for this to happen. I enrolled in Advanced Studies this spring, seeking my next level of yoga teaching certification, and packed my schedule with so many classes that I was mildly freaking out over how crazy my schedule would be, what with working, teaching, commuting, and those other small joys of life that we know as eating, sleeping, and occasionally exchanging full sentences with one’s partner. It could, indeed, almost appear as an answer to prayer that, over the course of several months, I could dedicate myself entirely to my practice and my development as a student and teacher of yoga.

The dominating fear in the first days of adjusting to the reality of the Immigration Vacation wasn’t “How am I going to live?” (though money is obviously a grave concern) but “What am I going to do?” The thought of being the absolute master of my own time for so long was paralyzing. It would be easy to squander such a gift of time farting around on the internets and lounging in the hammock, but it would also be foolish. To spend the time well would be a challenge.

I’d been intrigued for over a year by a concept I often came across in yoga classes, that of intention. Most of my main teachers begin their classes by inviting their students to set an intention for their practice, which may take many forms: why they showed up to class that day, what they hope to create through their practice, what they wish to release. Answers may spring from the realm of the physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or have to do with one’s relationship to time or to other people. This concept of setting an intention for oneself always struck me as deeply potent and powerful, yet I found working with intention for myself to be difficult and elusive. For a long time I used the following intention, “I live and practice with clarity of intention”, in the hopes that I could fake it til I meant it. And here the universe places me in a situation which will make it inevitable for me to wrestle with this concept of intention: what got me here was a severe lack of intention (all my paperwork should’ve been filed months and months ago), and I would need to work strongly with intention to stay afloat over the course of my Immigration Vacation. Annie Dillard goes on to write:

A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.

Setting an intention and creating a schedule aren’t quite the same thing, but for my purposes they are closely related, for living these next months with clarity of intention will mean creating a strong net for catching each day. These are the principles and tools I will be calling on to stay on course: get up early, do my sadhana practices (more on this in a coming post), and sit down afterward with my daybook, and plan my day, weave my net. And, frequently and consistently, come to the blog, write, to show off what I caught.