Wednesday, June 24, 2009

System overload!

Wow... I think I'm having writer's block!  Or blogger's block.  Whatever.

I had about 10 different topics in my head that I want to talk about, but I just tried writing about a couple of them and I was just NOT getting anything coherent.  Now I have 4 saved drafts to be revisited at a later time.  Yoga brain on overload!

I am so excited for next week!  The excitement really didn't hit me until tonight, 1o minutes before class.  I walked into the studio and the owner asked me "when are you leaving?" and I said "tomorrow night!"  Which I am!  (And I'm not even packed!!)  I'm driving down to LA tomorrow night, taking the red eye into Boston, hanging around Boston on Friday, then driving out to western Mass for my Dad's wedding on Sunday, and then getting up at 4am on Monday to drive to the airport, fly back to LA, and drive to Palms Springs for advanced!  Augh!!  Anyhow... after I said that to the owner, I went into the yoga room, sat down on my mat, and suddenly realized, "Oh my god!  I'm actually going to spend all of next week doing yoga with Bikram and Raj and all the crazy champion advanced people!  That is so awesome!!"  I had to get up, run out of the room, share this revelation with a couple people, and then bounce around like a pinball until class started.

A word on "all the crazy champion advanced people."  Some people have the misconception that I fall into this category.  Many teachers have told me that I am "very advanced."  This is a lovely compliment which makes me feel good about myself, but first of all, I hate that label for its implied value judgement, and second of all, I don't think it's even accurate.  In the grand scheme of things, if I HAD to put a label to it, I'd like to call myself like a middle intermediate.  High intermediate, max.  I have SEEN the real yoga champions, and while I think I might get to a similar level SOMEDAY, that will probably take me another 5 or 10 years of really hard work!

So for the most part, I just LOVE hanging around with the hardcore pros.  I love being closer to the middle of the bell curve, where I can look around at the other people in the room and think "how the HELL are they doing that?"  It gets me so inspired.

But there are always these fine lines, which I've been acutely aware of in the past few days.  There is a fine line between well-deserved pride and vanity, and there is another fine line between inspiration and jealousy.

Jealousy is a pattern that yoga has really, really helped me to break away from.  Back when I was in ballet, jealousy was a way of life.  "Look at her great feet" and "I hate her" were always said in the same breath.  You might say that you were happy for someone, but you never really were.  In yoga, it's been really different.  When I see someone else making progress, I'm really excited for them and really inspired to do better myself.

Or at least... I think I am.  Usually.  At least... it's easy to be excited for someone who is really improving... unless someone improves so much that they're suddenly doing better than ME... and then... yeah... there's still this nasty, uncomfortable side of me... it's very quiet, but I can still hear it sometimes... and it says that that's not ok, you can't let that person get ahead of you.... why is it so easy for her when you had to work for so long... that's not okay....

I really hate that voice.

This is kind of a confession.  (I'm not a Catholic, but you know, sometimes I feel like confessing to someone!  I have no freaking clue where that urge comes from.)  I was looking at pictures a couple night ago of a wonderful friend of mine who's at teacher training.  I met her at championships last fall, we've practiced together in LA, we're always so happy to see each other, she is a total rock star, and I love her for it.  And her new pictures are STUNNING.  She can do SO many amazing advanced postures now.  Ones that I still can't do.  And my gut reaction to these pictures - it was "WOW, beautiful" and "SHIT, NO, she's gotten so much better than me" all in one heartbeat.  Jealousy: there it is, uninvited.

I think I'm writing about this just to purge it from my system!  Because those emotions (which are few and far between) are some of the last traces of the lifestyle that was no good for me, that I've been leaving behind.

Something in How Yoga Works really struck a chord with me.  The girl was talking with her student about the fine line between well-deserved pride and vanity.  She tells him that since it is so easy to slip from being honestly happy at our own progress into thoughts of vanity or negative competitiveness, the best thing to do is to keep an eye on our feelings towards others.  She says:

"... if we're doing yoga because we want to inspire other to do it too, so they can heal themselves too, then if someone like the Sergeant began to do yoga, and suddenly got very good at it - able to do things we ourselves hadn't been able to do even after years of work - then I think our feelings about that would tell the story."

"I mean, if our motivation was pure, then we'd be excited and supportive: we'd let him know what a wonderful job he was doing.  And if on the other hand we had started to slip into vanity, then I think we'd feel threatened somehow: we'd feel unhappy about his progress.  And then that - that very basic, disappointing form of dislike for someone - would really start to choke our own channels, and ruin whatever progress we had been making"

And the student's answer is great.  He says: "I do see, and I can tell you freely that my motivation, as always, was sort of mixed: a little hoping to inspire the men, and also hoping that they'd be impressed with me."  And the teacher admits that we probably all have that same problem.

So I would like to be as good as that student, and admit freely that I also can struggle to stay on the right side of this very fine line.  And I know that I've been living on the right side of that line more and more, and I am very happy about that!

And one thing that really kills any of my lingering ego is the experience of being part of a big group of amazing yogis, because vanity is such an individual emotion, you know?  When you're swallowed up in the room, part of this awesome collective of powerful energy, nasty little ideas like that don't even stand a chance.  There's no place for comparison, no room to be self-conscious.  You just do, and strive, and everyone is doing it together, pulling together, increasing our energy exponentially, and if just one person in that room is healed, we are all healed together, and we are so much better together than any of us could be alone.

And in a place like that, there's no room to look at someone with any kind of negativity.  Only inspiration.  Only "how did you do that, can you show me?"  Only "that's amazing, you're beautiful."  Only "let me help you, I bet you can do this, too."  Only, "YES, you've got it, that's right, good for you," with total sincerity.  Only inspiration.

I am excited.  :)

EDIT TO ADD:  I just had another thought!!  And I think it's more useful that all these other long-winded ramblings.  The thing about all these other forms of competition - in school, or the workplace, or athletics - is that they are a zero-sum game.  One person's gain is always going to be someone else's loss.  Yoga is not a zero-sum game.  When one person gains, we ALL gain!  That's what changes everything.


Duffy Pratt said...

Good to be talking about this now. In the advanced series, envy can lead to injury.

hannahjustbreathe said...

Hmm... I wonder if jealousy is somewhat inherent in sports or any form of competition. I mean, you marvel at what your teammates or competitors can do physically or how they can outperform or outmaster you. But, even in that marvel, within your acknowledgment and appreciation for their talent and skill, is a deeply rooted thorn of "Well, why can't *I* do that, too?"

And yet another reason why I love yoga over all other forms of athletics...

I cannot believe your whirlwind trip next week. Crazy!! But awesome. I'm still on the mend---home from work again today---but I would really love to come meet up in Harvard. We shall see!!

bikramyogachick said...

I'm so excited for your trip. Can't wait to read about your adventure when you return.
On the jealousy thing: There are alot of professional dancers that dance in shows on the strip that come to my studio and have beautiful postures. I always admire them, an never jealous. But I have found myself noticiing when "normal people" come in and after only one year have passed me up and I'm at two years. I always just sigh and remind myself that I couldn't even get my foot in my hand for standing head to knee (and now I'm finally kicking out!) or standing bow (and my foot is over my head now!) nor could I lay back in fixed firm for 6 months (I can lay back and get my knees together now!). So when I compare myself to myself, well that's when I flush with pleasure and get encouraged to keep going.

Have a GREAT trip!

The Missus said...

GREAT topic, J!

In Toronto, I have only had one teacher who I think is pretty bad. I feel this way about the teacher because I think they became one simply out of vanity reasons. They lack the ability to inspire us in class.

The other teachers are all fantastic. They seem to genuinely want to inspire people to heal. And it shows in their dialogue and instruction.

thedancingj said...

I agree with all of you guys. :)

Michelle, I think you just NAILED it for me. I don't think we (or at least I) get particularly worked up when we see someone we've never met who has a killer practice. I LOVE seeing that! The only thing that stings a bit is when we see someone we know, someone who used to be at our level or a bit behind, suddenly doing much better than us! That's when we have to remember EXACTLY what you said: the only person you can compare yourself to is you.

ActionJoJo said...

Hi, I hope I have the right person! Is this Juliana? As in, Juliana who practiced at the 9am class in Noho on Sunday, June 28. If yes, then I practiced next to you and I was visiting from NYC. We talked about Otto's Max shorts presentation of Chippendales meets Bikram at the 09 championships. ;)

Wow -- so cool! I've followed your blog ever since I started practicing a few months ago. It's been great fun to read what you write and I'm so thrilled that I got to meet you and talk to you briefly!!!

thedancingj said...

YES, it is me! Wow, I can't believe that you have read my blog!! That is so fun. Of course I remember you!! I hope you had fun in NoHo... Charlie is such a good friend to me and I think he does an amazing job with the studio out there. Hope you've been enjoying your travels, and don't let Otto get too out of control with his menswear down there! xoxo