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?
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.
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.