We Are Always Falling

I’m reading a book called The Poetry of Yoga, which is about the practice of yoga as reinvention or self-knowledge or philosophy—you know, the weird liminal, subjective things I like. Yoga, like gardening,  is one of those things I do for the sideways benefits.

In the book he says, “Falling is what’s always happening. To hold a yoga pose is not possible; it’s a sensuous dance, moment by moment. And rigidity is simply the illusion that we can create a world in which we are not falling.”

Isn’t that interesting?

To change the subject a tiny bit, the robotic scientists working on making humanoid robots that walk like people do are stymied. Apparently, the way that people walk is so complex, they haven’t been able to duplicate it with a program. One of the scientists explained, (I’m paraphrasing) “There are dozens of points in the stride where if the feet and legs and body aren’t held just so, you fall. If any one of those aspects are wrong, you fall. You’re falling all the time, you just don’t know it, because you know how to compensate.”


Because when you think about it, we are always falling. Not just physically. I mean, psychologically. Spiritually. And almost any other -ally you can name.

Control is an illusion. But we’ve found ways to compensate.

We grow systems. We learn to be flexible. We learn to focus on our locus of control, and not worry about the things we can’t help. We expand our skillsets, and embrace the knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses— all so instinctively that we don’t realize we’re always falling.

So when you do have the stark realization that you’re falling, you can remember. You were falling all along. We call that living. And you’re doing just fine.


13 thoughts on “We Are Always Falling”

  1. This reminds me (for some reason) of that old video… I think it was one of the early slow motion videos… showing a horse galloping in place and the fact that all of its legs are curled up and it just flies through the air for a few split seconds.

    1. ethanwaldman That was actually a big deal when it was discovered. It had previously been thought that a horse was so huge it had to have at least one foot on the ground in order to support its weight. Because, obviously, horses don’t fly 😉

  2. That’s fascinating about getting robots to walk like humans. I didn’t know that. 
    I like how opposite this idea is to all the “climbing the ___ ladder” talk you usually hear. Everyone’s concerned with getting ahead, getting higher than everyone else, reaching new heights. But I like the idea of falling better. Less frantic, less competitive. And less focused on what other people are doing. Not that striving is bad, but I think sometimes we have our focus wrong. We’re so worried about climbing we don’t realize how capable we already are of, as you put it, compensating.

    1. PilotFireI think that’s the fifth or sixth Laurie Anderson reference from you in the past couple of months. Perhaps I should start paying more attention to her work since she’s clearly a huge influence on you (and you’re an influence on me). Laurie seems to be the epitome of the quote, “If I was any more open-minded, my brain would fall out.”
      By the way, that video hypnotized me. I think my eyes where like swirling pinwheels while watching and listening to that YouTube clip.

  3. michaelwroberts

    It’s like the way that digital artists brought human-like movement to the screen. They had to start tracking actual humans. I remember the first time I watched Iron Man and thought, “Digital works here because he’s supposed to look like a robot. Well played.” 
    Great thoughts here. I get so very disappointed when I try to control too much. There just isn’t a good enough system to account for every eventuality.

  4. I’m sure this could have a few different meanings. Falling could be physical, or I think of falling short like making mistakes, and you mentioned psychologically too – emotions have highs and lows too. But, the takeaway is similar to me – and it’s that falling is just human. We have to give ourselves some grace. Staying down for too long is the thing to watch out for – that’s when I think of states like ‘rock bottom’ chronic depression or apathy.

  5. What beautiful writing, Shanna.  I am glad to hear that because I was always falling in yoga.  I’m a bit messed up on my left side from a car accident when I was 17, so I often fall over when in poses.  I am not practicing anymore.  When I hear of your practice, Erin’s, and anyone else’s, I feel a yearning and remember fondly how all the 60+year old women looked like the women in your photo and I couldn’t even get close to touching my toes.  Still can’t.

    1. tammyrenzi As if touching your toes was the point! =D I kind of love/hate it because I have so many old injuries that I’m forced to notice when I pay attention to my body. But, paying attention to my alignment does mitigate most of them, so I try to maintain that perspective.

  6. So much truth here, Shanna, and beautifully written. I don’t have much to say but shared it all over because it’s fantastic… a great reminder. 🙂

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