Normally when I travel, yoga is a daily occurrence or more. It calms me down, helps me sleep better and often attracts friends. This past week, however, I did a few stealthy backbends and that was about it. And man, was I suffering because of it.
In yoga, one of the internal (eternal) quests is to shed the ego, something I have a lot of trouble with. This means no mini victory dances when I get twistier than the tiny chick in lululemon pants. In fact, I’m not even supposed to compare myself to lulu. Generally, not wearing my glasses and closing my eyes helps, but there’s still that little voice that makes me keep going when my flat feet are killing me, because I don’t want people to think I’m too terrible to hold a warrior I.
This past week, I saw the harm of my ego cutting the other way. I was uncomfortable joining in the small ragtag group doing yoga in the middle of breakfast. This is totally unlike me, as there are pictures of me doing yoga pretty much everywhere: airports, bars, hotel rooms, parties, restaurants, the Sahara dessert. I laughed, gave some superior advice from afar, and watched the group of newbies look confused and redfaced. Meanwhile, my back was aching for a good chataranga. Given how easy it was to be “one of them” (gooba-gabba!) once I allowed myself to do it, I wonder how much of that otherness I was feeling was self-induced.
By one of them, I mean a part of this new segment of NU’s population. For them, I am (or was) an unknown quality. All week people told me they thought I was a freshmen, they didn’t know my name, or they thought I was 19. This is not the perception I am used to. I am used to being a leader, intimidating, respected. Even among new groups, I tend to emerge as a talker and a an asset early on. Not so in this shark pit. Do they make shark pits? Whatever, this group is so weird and intimidating it needs its own expressions.
I have no problem looking dumb/silly/whatever. I do, however, have a problem having people think I care about looking dumb. Key distinction, of course.
Presumably, they no longer think I’m dumb or a non-factor. Actually, it didn’t take long for the people I spent time with to start making the same friendly jokes I always hear about my vocabulary. And once I had the chance for some good one-on-ones I could feel my words becoming more important to my audience. I learned a whole lot from everyone else of course–there was never any question about that. I was all brandy-new to the school of business, this professor, these field studies and this social group, so I was constantly learning and reevaluating. I think I just missed feeling like my presence created learning for others as well. I guess SEI is like a really big family–you have to be very loud or very patient. And in a loud family, even the quiet ones are raucous.
So next time you see people dancing or doing yoga or laughing or really any little thing you love to do, don’t hide yourself away. Put your ego aside and join them. Somebody may even learn something.