Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture
– verb (used with object), -did, -done, -do·ing.
1. to reverse the doing of; cause to be as if never done: Murder once done can never be undone.
2. to do away with; erase; efface: to undo the havoc done by the storm.
3. to bring to ruin or disaster; destroy: In the end his lies undid him.
4. to unfasten by releasing: to undo a gate; to undo a button.
5. to untie or loose (a knot, rope, etc.).
6. to open (a package, wrapping, etc.).
7. Archaic. to explain; interpret.
Before 900; Middle English; Old English undōn; cognate with Dutch ontdoen.
I've always liked the undone better than the done.
Those prom hairdos? You know the ones: the artificially-curling-ironed Shirley Temple tendrils spiraling out just above each ear, oh-so-contrivedly released from the updo itself, which has been, of course, artfully stacked upon the wearer's head with the utmost of care, and then protectively shellacked with enough canned Aquanet to freeze it there for days, or at least long enough to survive a few hours' awkward "step-touch, step-touching" on the ballroom dance floor?
Yeah. Hated those. Ha-ted.
Or, while we're on hair: the dudes with the thick gelled hair [cough:: Newsom ::cough] swept to the side, carefully parted, frozen in time like some 1950s Levittown businessman on the train back to the 'burbs after a day at the office? No thanks. Hate it. Always have.
I prefer things undone.
Shirts - untucked. Hair - unruly, mussed, wild. (The unrulier, the better). Scruff - unshaven. Foreheads - unbotoxed. Boobs - unaugmented. Eyebrows - untouched. Fingernails - bare. And don't even get me started on cologne.
[Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture: raw cotton.]
The rawness, that undone-ness, well, I guess it just feels more real, more honest. Sure, there's some measure of aesthetic satisfaction, some cosmetic something-or-other, some notion of constructed beauty which we've sort of collectively come to culturally agree upon as "pretty" or "desirable" or "cute." Just take a look at any of those parodies-of-femininity grasping after their 15 minutes of fame on The Bachelor, or their equally caricatured Bachelorette counterparts rocking hard abs and freshly-ironed-but-contrivedly-unbuttoned-Marina-dude shirts, or any of the contestants on any of the beauty pageants or reality shows or talent contests that we have deemed worthy of determining who is hot/smart/talented/clever/charismatic or not. Real Housewives of New Jersey, anyone?
Done. All done. Every hair in place, every boob carefully lifted, every nail painted just so. The definition of done. Processed. Manufactured. Constructed. Altered. And that's fine, if that's yer thing. Not mine. Feels too artificial, too contrived, too mainstream, too expected. I'd rather have a bit of grit and dirt and muss and, well, authenticity. Less effort spent on self-presentation and more on self-development, being, learning, thinking, loving, doing.
At my house, growing up, my sisters and I were always done with a capital D. Done, baby, done. Teal blue accessories matching teal blue ribbon matching lacy white socks matching teal blue belt matching teal blue jelly shoes matching teal blue barrettes clasping carefully-curled ringlets matching teal blue purse matching teal blue ughhhh, and on and on, ad infinitum. Not my style, this vast attempt at being "done" - though that childhood influence surely explains why, of course. (And, even now, I admittedly dig a certain ironic done-ness, that red-lipped, vintage, retro kind of beauty, so over-the-top that its doneness becomes a kind of self-parody. I can go for that, for sure. But that's neither here nor there.)
Point of all that is: undone. Damn, do I dig the undone.
The intuitive, the instinctive, the unbuffered, the unsanded, the rough-around-the-edges raw loose gritty real earthy authentic unprocessed unmeasured unprotected vulnerable undone.
We spend our lives doing. Doing what we think we're supposed to be doing, with whom we're supposed to do it all, with the skills and words and thoughts and sayings we're supposed to be using, doing, doing, doing. Crossing things off the to-do lists. Hitting certain markers at certain points in our lives - college degrees, a few solo adventures, marriages, mortgages, kids, you name it. And we feel, often, in spite of ourselves, that if we haven't "done" those "doings" at certain times, in certain places, in certain ways, to certain degrees, well, we've failed.
Which is, of course, a load of hooey.
One of my long-adored, favorite definitions of yoga - one which I increasingly find myself falling back upon as I teach, watching folks fight to attain one twisty pretzel-y ninja trick or another - is that yoga is simply a process of undoing. Some years ago, so long ago now that I don't really recall where or when, I first read this definition, and I thought to myself: "Hellz yeah. Now, ain't that the truth?"
Yoga - union, yoking, drawing together, mind, body, spirit, the ostensibly separate into the certainly whole - is not about doing. There's nothing you need to do, there's nothing you need to achieve, there's nowhere you need to be. You don't need to master that one-armed handstand, you don't need to pop into a vertical split, you don't need to balance on your one pinky toe whilst spinning hula hoops and juggling balls with the other. Screw that. You need only to stay. You need only to undo. You need only to open into that Pigeon twist, to thread the needle and feel your shoulders softening, your jaw melting, your eyes closing, your hips opening. Now, that's yoga.
Undoing. Undoing the impulse to get up and run out of the room when difficult sensations arise. Undoing the years of grace and sorrow, joy and frustration stored in your bones. Undoing the temptation for your mind to judge and curse and wonder and wander. Undoing every harsh word, every learned tendency toward destructive self-talk. Undoing the accumulated samskaras, those emotional and psychological ruts, grooves, you've worn into your being over these years in the body that is yours. Undoing the habits, undoing the patterns, undoing the immediate urge to react, to judge, to close off, to shut down, to tighten, to constrict.
Many of us come to the mat having already gotten very good at driving ourselves into the ground. We've spent years slamming our bodies around, earning shin splints and bruises and ripped muscles and damaged joints in the meantime. We're quite talented at turning ostensibly healthy, life-giving hobbies - beautiful, artistic, prana-rich pastimes like dance and hiking and running and gymnastics and swimming and cycling and the like - into punitive means of grinding our bodies into the earth. We've been practicing a long time, reaching, always striving, to achieve certain race times, to be cast in certain dance roles, to check off names of mountains climbed.
What's really radical, then, after so much practice at this doing - and you see this revelation amongst yogis when they're first offered that initial glimpse of grace, of ahimsa, non-suffering, the unfamiliar freedom to back off a bit - is encouraging the undoing, the coming undone. This idea that we already come to the mat with everything we need, and usually quite a lot more - a little baggage here, a little extra oomph there, a little extra ego there - is the engine of the practice. So our work - or, rather, our unwork - is to release all that baggage, to soften the oomph, to deflate the ego a bit.
To undo the expectations we have for ourselves, for our practice, for our asana, yes, but also for our meditation, our minds, our lives. To undo the temptation to judge when we fall out of Virabhadrasana III or our minds run to the memory of last night's date instead of staying here in half-lotus with the incense and the silence and the patter of the rain on the sidewalk outside. To undo the ego's need for constant ambition, constant achievement, constant goal-setting, constant affirmation.
To undo the stories we bring with us, the histories that we think define us (hint: they don't) and the concepts we think limit us (hint: they don't) and the doubts we think trap us (yup, you guessed it: they don't). To undo yesterday and undo tomorrow and just be right here, right now, undone, hair in the face, belly flopping all over the place, pants falling down, pedicure chipped, heels cracking, old mat leaving traces of rubber all over our ever-wrinkling skin.
It's so easy to be done. We're good at it, culturally, personally, so well-packaged. We train to be so, from little-on-up. We learn to primp and perfect and curl and tweeze and iron and present and spray and shazaam, once that's all done, life's supposed to be perfect; but hey, friends, don't we all know: no matter how much Aquanet you spray, that pouffy prom 'do is gonna fall out all over the place once you hit the dance floor and kick off your heels and start shaking your groove thang. Yeah, you'll be an unruly, gown-clad disaster in no time, tendrils flying, sweat dripping, bobby pins flinging, bangs flopping.
And that's the point. Because in that undoing, in that sweat-dripping and hairspray-failing and tendril-flinging, you're dancing, you're living, you're breathing heavily, your heart's beating, you're smiling, you're laughing, you're out of your head, you're standing too close to someone and smelling the shampoo in his sweaty no-longer-perfectly-gelled hair, and babydoll, you're more alive than you'd ever be had you just stood on the wall and nursed a cocktail, afraid to move lest your perfect updo be spoiled in the process.
So undo. Dive into Kurmasana and stay there and really feel your hamstrings ease, and your spine open up, and your eyes well up. Fold forward into Paschimottanasana and notice your jaw loosen and your low back decompress and your breath slow and your mind become gentle. Fall back into Ustrasana and watch your hair flop back and your sternum crack open and your belly hang out and your hips thrust forward and your quads engage and your heart release.
Undo the tension. Undo the fear. Undo the tendency to stay closed off and tight and fearful and controlled. And chuck the goddamned Aquanet already, mmmkay, babes?