Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

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I credit Sir Ken Robinson among the final encouragement I needed to quit my job; to step off of the moving sidewalk to suck-town. To leave a career I used to make myself miserable. A former coworker asked me recently whether I missed any part of that life. I responded that I hadn’t realized how relieved I’d be to eliminate small talk, but that I almost missed the built in excuse for my anxiety and out of control stress. Which is insane.

In his book, Finding Your Element (which  a. I HIGHLY recommend, and 2. we ironically read as part of an office book club… I made it through the first four chapters and submitted my resignation. Boom.) Robinson brought to my attention that analysts and lawyers and accountants tend to be more miserable people because we spend the majority of our life ferreting out errors, striving for nitty-gritty perfection, and, well, analyzing. We see what we look for. And when we practice seeing the worst in people, projections, and data sets, guess what. We see the worst. In everything.

In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, the word for “analytical thinking” also means “unwholesome thoughts.” I don’t want to experience the world that way anymore. That’s not me. My favorite sunglasses have pink lenses. La vie en rose.

Crawling out of my corporate hell hole and into this truer life, I find myself furtively segmenting and editing myself for different imagined audiences. Trying to sterilize, neuter my offering. Eliminate all potentially embarrassing or disenfranchising elements. What if curse words offend? What if my students see I’m still learning and lose faith in me? What if more advanced practitioners read this and find me a pathetic poser. What if I think I understand something, inscribe my opinion in this stone of internet and realize days or years later that I had it all wrong? What if I’m not as funny as I think? What if I misuse semi-colons?

Well,

I fucking love cursing. Ask my parents. And my in-laws. My poor in-laws.

I would never want to study under (let alone be) someone who isn’t compulsive in furthering their understanding of our craft; someone who isn’t willing to try something new, reconsider a conviction, or say “I don’t know.”

If my open-hearted honesty strikes you as trite, then maybe we weren’t meant to be friends. And I’m cool with that. Because you probably suck.

Or maybe you’re just not into open-hearted honesty. Which is cool, too, I guess. …I catch myself equivocating here. As always. It’s kinda been my thing. Kinda. Maybe. Probably. Or not.

Your vibe attracts your tribe.img_0903

If my attempts at lightheartedness come off as immature or crass or boring or played out, oh well. In my writing and teaching and life I’m trying to not attach to results and reactions; e.g., when teaching, it is in my control to prepare my sequence, alignment cues, theme, playlist, and self. I work to remain fully present in class, reading and adjusting to the room, with my students’ safety and success in my sights. It is out of my control whether anyone laughs at my dorky jokes, whether I can remember the real word for “foot palms” (every class…), or whether people fidget during savasana (our final resting pose).

Imagine taking the dog on a long walk or having sex and feeling like a failure if your actions don’t result in poop or orgasm, respectively (and hopefully never simultaneously). The effects of our actions are largely out of our control in these, and really all, situations. All we can control is our breath, our effort, our focus, our intention. From the Yoga Sutra, “attachment is the residue of pleasant experience.”  We want that compliment, that gold star. That bag of poop. That O-face. We (I) get so wound around the axle obsessing over negative feedback and missed targets that we (I) tend to miss the brilliant opportunity afforded to approach The Failure (and life) with a beginner’s mind, to take it and everything as a learning experience. Like the late, great Dave Oliver said, “Pain is not good, pain is not bad; pain is information that something needs to change.” If I don’t like my results, I can review the information and adjust as I see fit. But there’s really no sense in taking it as evidence that I’m the worst.

If a student walks out of my class (which happened!!!! In my second week!), so be it. In all likelihood, it had very little to do with me; maybe she would have loved my class yesterday. Or maybe not. For whatever reason, she wasn’t picking up what I was putting down. And that’s okay. I’ve had plenty of teachers I dislike. I’m sure they have plenty of students who adore them. If I try (as I’m often inclined) to change to appeal to everyone, my inauthenticity will repel the students I’m truly the best fit for, leaving me a roomful of people I can’t relate to. Mass exodus would be a different story. But even then, it’s only information.

If safety is a concern and a student can’t set their ego aside, I must step out of my comfort zone and tactfully insist they take a modification instead of not wanting to make waves, be too firm. Luckily, our experiences to date (yes, especially the super shitty ones) transpired to uniquely equip and strengthen us to rock the rest of our days. In this case, having logged thousands of hours of my own stubborn, injurious, ego-driven practice leaves me uniquely qualified to handle these situations. Humor helps. Discretion helps. Non-attachment helps.

In class, as long as my students are safe and I’ve brought my A-game, I’m happy. And their results are theirs, not mine. Including their successes, their applause. My heart soars when a student thanks me after class but just as their frustrations and rough days are not mine to own, their good days are all theirs. In writing, if someone likes it, yay. There’s a possibility for real connection. When someone doesn’t, whatever. It’s just information. I’ve been so scared to put myself out there, priding myself on my status as my own worst critic. But all the cool kids have real critics. My idols include Matt Stone & Trey Parker, Ana Forrest, Henry David Thoreau, Joe Rogan, and Lena Dunham. Would they be where they are if they let themselves give too many fucks about what other people think? Would anyone give a shit if they didn’t share their honest opinions, their lowest lows, their unedited self?

If I look back on what I’ve committed to internet-paper with disdain someday, then future-me is a dick (and I really hope that’s not the case). Sure, I’ll get a few things wrong along the way. But if the internet suddenly develops Bullshit Police, I doubt I’d make their list of offenders.

In closing, I will absolutely use semi-colons wrong; yes, yes I will.

 

How to beat yoga

Spoiler alert: you can’t.

If I were prone to climbing on top of houses, I would shout from the rooftops about how I can’t imagine life without the healing, spiritually-engaging & revitalizing practice of yoga. How it saved my life. How it is and should be accessible for everyone.
So then, what keeps me from going back to yoga class after a hiatus? A hiatus I continue to prolong with excuses.

What is it that terrifies me?

My vague “but I don’t really feel like going (at all this week)” examined betrays a litany of fears. fear blog pic.PNG

What if my shirt rides up? What if I don’t like the teacher’s voice? Or sequence? Or playlist? What if I get there late? What if I’m too hungry, or worse, too full? What if I push too hard and hurt myself? What if I’m not strong or open enough for five full upward facing bows but wrench myself into them because I need to look like I know what I’m doing? What if this class, in some new and horrible way, proves that I do in fact suck at life??

Oh look, I’m already late.

What if I’m not good enough? I speak from experience here. I faced all of these blunders and horrors. In some cases, I made the same mistake for over a decade (see: push too hard…hurt myself).

“Yoga” was the rocky shore I thrashed my shipwrecked self against, not seeing the logical path to salvation was in patiently scaling the slippery boulders. Longing to be perfect at it, not realizing that it is and always will be a “practice” not a “perfect.” Aching to achieve something, but not even aiming my striving in the right direction. I consistently stopped breathing in a violent attempt to make the “right” shape.

Ignoring teachers’ instruction to avoid lotus until my hips were open enough, their gentle pleas to practice at 80% of my edge (“edge” being the ultimate expression of the pose my body is capable of in that moment, where breathing becomes a chore and I’m teetering on pain/strain), I’d work at 115% of my neighbor’s edge (How else could one “win yoga“?), all the while holding my breath, not understanding that the real work was in obeying my coach, my breath, while coaxing it deeper, reforming my body into its ideal vessel. Abandoning steadiness and ease for a gold star. I know now that as soon as I lose control of the breath and don’t back off to regain it, the yoga stops. I am so grateful to have learned this. However long it took is how long it needed to take.

So, if all of those “what ifs” manifest into a 90 minute clusterfck, so be it. I’ve learned and grown through and from all of those trials; e.g., my fitting room vetting process now includes forward folds and twists and usually some (kickass) dance moves. And those are all edge cases anyway. Not to be expected, not the norm. I can count on two hands the classes I’ve regretted attending in my 18 year relationship with yoga.

To be clear, there are days when I straight up shouldn’t go to yoga (at least not the westernized, go-go-go, yang practice we all picture). Like today, as I’m in that sweet spot where I might be able to beat back the cold I feel coming on. Or any day when I’m genuinely worn out. The above does not apply to those days. And on those days, yoga still has plenty of magic to offer. As I learned yesterday in an illuminating yoga training I almost didn’t attend (fear, man), physical postures should only comprise ~12.5% of our practice. An over thinker my whole life, I’ve recently become a diligent student of my ulterior motives. The faster I’m able to recognize fear and grasping among them, the less agony I put myself through over “shoulds.”

I’m through letting fear make my decisions for me. Giant kitchen knives, back bends, long overnight hikes, and my best friend’s resting bitch face used to scare me. They’ve all improved my life beyond my wildest dreams.

So, what keeps me from completing a piece of writing and sharing it? What terrifies me?

There are a thousand facets of the above that I already want to change, to perfect. But I know I need to try to learn and that perfect is the enemy of good.

Finally, in the spirit of practice, of facing down fear, of non-attachment, growth, and honesty, here’s this… Tada!