Sunday, March 7, 2010

Not just a number

I was lucky enough to go to a reading by the fantastic Neil Gaiman at UCSB last month.  (Slight digression - I love Neil!  His novel The Graveyard Book just won the Newbery medal and is absolutely amazing.  The rest of his stuff is great, too, especially Good Omens, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett, and the entire Sandman graphic novel series, which is sort of his magnum opus.  But anyway...)  Neil started off by telling us a little bit about his crazy year, which had been full of surprises.  The worst surprise was when he was riding in a cab, on the way to do a book signing, and got a phone call telling him that his dad had unexpectedly died.  He went ahead and did the book signing anyway, and he says that he think it's probably the best thing he could have done.  He just sat there for hours while sweet people came up to him and said, "I just love your writing," and he said, "thank you very much."  Oh Neil!

Then Neil talked a bit about why he loves book signings so much.  He said that, when you become a successful author, you start hearing all these number about how many people are reading your books.  You've sold this many copies!  That's great!  But after a while, these numbers are just statistics, nothing more.  He said that at the book signings, when people come up to him and say, "hello, I loved this book," the numbers turn back into people again.

I thought that was cool.

That's one of the things I like about writing a blog (as opposed to writing a newsletter or something).  People write back!  So when I look at my page, I'm not just seeing, "oh, 100-something people read my page today."  I'm seeing, "oh, awesome, Michelle read my page, and Mattie read my page, and Luyi and Duffy and Johan and Stephanie and Catherine and the other Juliana and Elisa and Cira and Mei and my mom..."  And that is much more interesting.

This has also started happening with my teacher training group, BIG TIME.  I've known all along that I was going to be at teacher training with about 300 other people.  Ok.  That's a pretty large number.  But now there are facebook messages and discussions and emails flying all over the place, and that number is starting to resolve itself into faces.  Instead of just "300 other people," I suddenly realize that I'm going to training with Mishi from Vienna, Kris from Italy (who has 2 guinea pigs), Anna from Hawaii, Chris from Brussels (who is German and seems to be just as gung ho for training as I am!), Kacie (who was a gymnastics coach), Russ (who writes awesome poetry), and TONS of other cool people.  (Sorry to everyone who I didn't list - I love you guys, too, but the list was getting too long!)  This is SO exciting.  I can't wait to meet all these people!  Three hundred other people, give or take, are going to come together for this common purpose of learning to teach Bikram yoga.  Everyone's taken a different path, everyone has a unique story, and all of these threads are about to converge.

It's also really crazy to think of how many people's lives have been touched and changed by this yoga.  We know that "hundreds and thousands" of people practice Bikram yoga, but it's just a number.  But imagine meeting all of them!  Imagine all those faces, and all the stories behind them!  I've spent more time than I care to admit browsing through testimonials and teacher bios on all the different studio websites, because it never gets old.  There are SO many amazing stories, and every one of them is unique.  And every one of them is exciting!  I never read a testimonal and say, "Oh blah, another person who lost 30 pounds."  I always say, "WOW!  She lost 30 pounds!"  "WOW!  He can touch the floor again!"  "WOW!  She fixed her back pain!"  Every story matters, so much.  One life changed is one life changed.  How amazing.

Six weeks from today 'til teacher training...


Johan said...

Oh yes! As a side note I meet quite a few people going to TT with you last week. Haha, the inside scope. :-) But I agree, the one thing I wish I'd done different if I was to redo last week would be to bring loads of cards with the blog address on. Such a great way to stay in touch.

Yolk E said...

What a great post. You articulate so well what it's like to connect with others--fairly deeply, I think--in an environment that most write off as affectless and removed. And you're right that it never gets old! Your positive, gracious energy will fuel your teaching! (And must already with the high schoolers!)

Don't know if you like Tori Amos, but she often refers to Neil, a friend of hers--I'm sure you know that, as he did that comic of her songs. Here's a version of "Horses" in which she opens with a little mention of him :-)

(There's something haunting about this song... the melody doesn't develop the way "normal songs" do. Something mystical about it. I could ramble on...)

KatieO said...

I think there are people who live in anonymous worlds. This is sad to me. Like you, I want to see the faces, and then I want to know the stories.
"Stories sustain us--we need to share them with our friends. Even the act of telling them creates community and invites more stories."
William G. Doty
"My story is important not because it is mine...but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is yours."
Frederick Buechner
[not sure which Jasper Fforde that was...either The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, or Well of Lost Plots]

bikramyogicheryl said...

Yay for your inspiring post!! THANK YOU!

hannahjustbreathe said...

Yes, so true, Juliana. Lovely post. My blog began to feel like oh so much more than a blog when random commenters became regular readers and then real-life friends. Like you! It's a cliche, but a good one---putting faces to names/numbers is a pretty powerful thing.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the New Yorker piece on Neil Gaiman back in January?

catherine said...

I heart you, and your enthusiasm, and your writing. Your passion for this yoga comes through in your writing in ways that so many of us can only dream about. :)

I met two women yesterday who are *pretty sure* they're going to your training. Fun!

Mei said...

*waves maniacally from my side of the world.


Woooo 6 more weeks! SO EXCITING!!!!

Please don't forget to bring a Brita water filter. You're welcome, please name your first child after me.

Lady J said...

I love your genuine excitement about this yoga, DancingJ! It is absolutely contagious and I'm sure everyone can feel it around the world.