Claire Kleynjans :: Quietness, soup-making, and undoing the knots

Don’t stay still because you’re scared, don’t wait for permission, and don’t let anyone tell you who you are. Don’t let people treat you badly. Do more yoga! Write more poems! Read, read, read. Fill out that passport form, and don’t look back. You are enough.

CKleynjansEagleArms

What is your personal definition of ‘success’?

Success is being able to live your life as your most free and authentic self, and finding and doing the work you are best fitted for. Being able to self-fund your dreams is also a pretty wonderful aspiration.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, Alma says, near the end of her long, useful life, “I am fortunate because I have been able to spend my life in study of the world… knowledge is the most precious of all commodities.” I think there’s something of success in that, too.

What are your measures for a good day?

Waking up naturally, yoga, sun, coffee with husband, cuddles with kitty, opportunities for quiet writing and reading, being outside (beach swim or walk), time to think and breathe properly, not being rushed… A day in which good work gets done peacefully.

Although I have to admit, any day when I get to stay home and hide is a good day!

What is your current favourite asana, pranayama or meditation technique?

I’m loving dolphin at the moment – I’ve been thinking about building strength and courage, and you have to get to the core (my weakness) to do it! Dolphin is challenging for me, and I’ve also been pondering the idea of being comfortable with discomfort (Lucy, you were telling me about this last time we spoke, and it is so relevant!) – particularly with yoga and creative projects. It seems as though if we wait until we feel like doing something (comfortable, prepared, every star aligned) we’ll never do it. The podcast Magic Lessons is all about this idea, too. I can tend towards fearfulness and inertia, so doing what I don’t feel like doing is a sound principle!

Who has been a major influence in your life, and what is one lesson you have learnt from them?

My grandmothers. One was a passionate traveller and educator, who made sure that growing up in a country town never felt small; and the other is an artist and voracious reader of books who introduced me to poetry and ceramics, and whose collection of National Geographics was a glorious distillation of the natural world.

They taught me that it is possible to achieve extraordinary things even though you might be suffering. This truth has never let me down.

Where is your favourite spot in your home, and why?

We have a big outdoor sofa on the balcony, in the treetops. The garden below is wild and green, with majestic old trees and even a little silvery creek winding its way along the bottom of the slope. It’s the perfect place for reading, drinking (tea or wine, as you prefer), heart-to-hearts, napping, feeding the birds tidbits, and dreaming.

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What is your favourite way to chill out right now?

Making soup. It’s akin to meditation. And it’s high reward: just knowing that there is warm, comforting food in the house, and that you can feed anyone who happens to turn up, is very soothing.

As Melbourne playwright and living treasure Hannie Rayson writes in Hello Beautiful, “I am at my best self when I’m cooking soup. Capable and calm. I rarely think, ‘I should be writing,’ which is not true of almost every other activity. Writing is an affliction. It is for the selfish and the insufferable. Soup-making is a job for the angels.”

What are you reading right now? 

I’m wandering my way through a great op shop find: A Gardener’s Log by the legendary Australian garden designer, Edna Walling. But I need to stop to google what all the plants look like, so I can only read it for a little while. Jack Gilbert’s Collected Poems is a colossus of beauty which is filling in the gaps. I also just listened to Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and Helen Garner’s Everywhere I look on audiobook. Helen herself reads her book, and it is the greatest delight to be driving and laughing out loud at her sharp and beautiful words. She is funny, honest, earthy and dazzling. Her writing makes me joyful but despairing (that I will ever be able to write anything even half as wonderful). We are so lucky to have her.

What’s something you would say to your 20-year-old self?

Don’t stay still because you’re scared, don’t wait for permission, and don’t let anyone tell you who you are. Don’t let people treat you badly. Do more yoga! Write more poems! Read, read, read. Fill out that passport form, and don’t look back. You are enough.

What does it mean to be a great teacher? How has your perception of teaching changed since you started?

A great teacher is someone who creates an environment where learning, and the individual, are honoured and respected. We teachers must strive for consistency and authenticity, so that our students can feel safe in our care. We must be ready to take delight in achievement, offer comfort, and notice what is needed, and when. We must also trust that what we have to offer is worthy and sufficient. “You are enough.”

When I first started teaching, I felt like I had to deliver, and entertain. But that soon became exhausting, and over time, my teaching has become no less fun, but much quieter. Students don’t need a performance: they need honesty and integrity. In the English class, or the yoga shala: it’s all the same.

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What does it mean to be a real life yogi?

Hm. I suspect it is, and should be, different for everyone. But maybe what links us is the wish to come closer to one’s own self. To inhabit, for even a short time, a quiet, still place and find that sense of sufficiency and wholeness that yoga offers. Yoga requires us to be fully present, to keep gently gathering ourselves back in, and to know ourselves. Yoga teaches us we can’t leave our spirit at the door when we do things with our body, and the other way round. And for many of us, I think, yoga gives us back our bodies: for women, especially, and anyone who’s had any kind of trauma, it’s easy to feel that your mind and body are separate ­­– that your body is something to be controlled – a source of shame, or disappointment. Yoga can undo these knots of lived experience.

 

~*~

ABOUT CLAIRE

I am a yogi, poet, writer, and editor, and what my friend Christina refers to as an “apostate” high school English teacher. It was actually teaching which drove me straight into yoga’s waiting and wide-open arms, in a desperate attempt to realign and once again be able to hear my own heart amid the cacophony. These days, yoga and poetry are the ways in which I seek communion and better understanding of both the world and myself in it. I can also often be found tucked up with at least three books, and a warm cat.

FIND CLAIRE

instagram : @clairekleynjans
facebook : ClaireKleynjans

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