Bruce Black is the author of Writing Yoga (Rodmell Press/Shambhala). His work has appeared in Elephant Journal, Blue Lyra Review, Tiferet Journal, The Jewish Literary Journal, OM Yoga, Reform Judaism, Mindbodygreen, Yogi Times, Yoga Mint, Hugger Mugger, Yogatropic, Cricket, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. He received his BA from Columbia University and his MFA from Vermont College, and lives in Sarasota, FL, where he offers workshops on writing and on keeping a journal to deepen one’s yoga practice.
What do I do best?
When I was younger, I used to think I played basketball better than anything else. But then I started running for my high school cross-country team, and I thought that running was what I did better than anything else. In college I thought that reading was what I did better than anything else. And now I suspect writing is what I can do better than anything else. But writing, like life, is so unpredictable. It’s like fishing. You never know if you’re going to catch anything, or if you’ll find the words you need to write a story. Maybe what I do best now is learning to be patient. To wait. Without wanting. To be in the moment. Breathing. One breath, then another.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Since I started practicing yoga a dozen years ago, I’ve learned to pay close attention to my inner voice. It’s a voice that can be demanding and critical, and it can undermine my best efforts to begin (and complete) a project. But thanks to my yoga practice, I’m able to recognize when I am too critical of myself, too negative, too impatient. I’ve discovered that when I listen with care, I am able to treat myself and others with more kindness, more compassion. My inner voice lets me see beyond my own needs. It expands my perspective to include other people and their needs, too. When I listen more closely to what my body is telling me—to back off if I feel sore or tired or anxious, for instance—I can take action to change what I do and become a better version of myself.
What are my aspirations?
My aspirations? To see the world with greater clarity, to act with kindness, and to use whatever gifts I may have been given in life to leave the world a little better than I found it.
My Biggest Success?
It may seem silly to consider success something other than writing my first story, finishing a 5K race, teaching a successful class, or publishing a book, but I consider my biggest success having raised (with my wife) a kind, thoughtful, and considerate daughter.
My Most Challenging Moment?
I’m a quiet kind of guy who prefers to sit at the back of a classroom rather than stand in front of it. When I was studying for my graduate degree, I had to step up to the stage and read aloud one of my own stories. I didn’t want to do it, but one of my teachers cornered me and suggested (in a way that left no doubt that it was more than a suggestion) that I needed to get up on stage and read my work. And so I listened to him, stepped onto the stage, and found that I actually enjoyed standing in front of a crowd to share something that I loved. That decision—to overcome my shyness and speak in front of a crowd—led to my decision to leave behind a career in publishing to begin teaching. Even now, years later, the decision is still sending out ripples that impact my life each time I stand in front of a class to teach. If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith, pushed by my former teacher off the ledge of doubt and insecurity, I might never have discovered just how much I enjoy speaking in front of a class, willingly sharing what I love.
When I was a high school runner, my cross-country coach used to tell us “No Pain, No Gain.” Now my yoga teacher tells us “No Pain, No Pain,” which has become a personal mantra of sorts. It has helped me stay alert for times when I might be causing myself (or others) to suffer. It’s a mantra that reminds me to pull back, that life isn’t about going through pain or enduring it but rather about recognizing pain and learning how to steer away from it (or navigate with care past it).
My Favorite People/Role Models?
When I was younger, I admired distance runners Frank Shorter and Steve PreFontaine, and hoped one day that I’d be able to run like them with grace and beauty and determination. Today, two of my favorite people are yoga teachers Rita Knorr and Jaye Martin, who I’ve studied with for the past decade. Each is full of boundless energy, passionate about life, curious about the world, and creative, and they are able to share their creativity, curiosity, and passion for life with their students in a way that inspires us to find our own passion.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Although I live in Florida and enjoy its abundant resources—its clear water, gleaming beaches, nature preserves, and hiking trails—my favorite travel destination is Vermont, a place that feels like home although I’ve never lived there, except as a graduate student years ago. Something about its green mountains and the enduring spirit of its people draws me to it like nowhere else. Plus, I love Vermont apple cider (made from fall apples), Vermont maple syrup, and, of course, Vermont apple pie!
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Bagels from NYC (especially “everything” bagels), purple ink, Gel pens, cheap journals (as well as more expensive Moleskine journals), my iPhone, books—especially children’s books—and eggplant parmesan, light on the cheese, please.
My Current Passions?
Every morning I walk two miles to begin my day before sitting down to work. I carry my iPhone with me and take photos of anything that catches my eye—a heron in flight, a bright red hibiscus, long shadows on the sidewalk, palm fronds silhouetted against the morning sky. I love the way photography helps me become more aware of what’s around me (in much the same way yoga helps awaken me to the world), inspiring me to open my eyes, really open them, and to see life in all its mystery and beauty.