Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Today is a special New Year - a blue moon. The last one was in 1990, and the next one will be in 2028. Other than the fact that this is cool, it has absolutely nothing to do with this post. But it's still cool! (As an absolute, but important parenthesis, I want to say that my initial reaction to this was that it was so special, I had to do something huge to honor it. But recently, I have tried to move away from that mentality, to recognize each moment as special, to stop saving good bottles of wine, tourist attractions, etc. for a special day. I could say a lot more about this, but the NY Times already has. Click here for a great article.)

This post is, instead, about community and today's "aha" moment! In a sense, I'm taking a break from my discussion about the yamas, though this aha moment was inspired by one of the yamas, I will get to it later and its significance to this post. But this morning, I was doing Uttkatasana (Chair or lightening pose), and I found myself gripping my toes. Now, I have known for months, years probably, not to grip my toes. I concentrate on it, work not to, and work to ground through the heels. But today that concept took on an entirely new meaning, and it has to do with my pectoral muscles.

As I mentioned previously, I have some hamstring issues, and I wrote about a new understanding of that in a previous post. Something I learned that night, which should have been obvious to me previously, was that the pain in the back body is often caused by tightness in the pectoral muscles. Well, for me, that pain had been traveling down into the hamstrings. Since that day, I have been working on stretching across my chest, and the hamstring is slowly but surely starting to improve. I was stretching my arm against a wall right before my Uttkatasana this morning, and it all came together.

In Yoga Teacher Training, our teacher has often talked about the front body representing the individual, the self, the ego and the back body representing the community and our support. Modern culture, especially in the United States, is all about the individual. Culturally, we love stories of people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and overcoming all apparent obstacles. I recently saw "The Blind Side," which was an awesome movie, but I came out of it wondering why we cannot help all those kids. While talking to someone about this, she asked what we should be doing, and I said supporting them. Her response was, "Eventually people have to take control of their own lives." That statement felt like a baseball bat to the chest, and I did not have a good aswer until today.

Buddhism teaches about the Triple Gem or the Triple Refuge: 1) The Buddha (himself), 2) The Dharma (his teachings), and 3) The Sangha (the community of his noble disciples). Jesus also had his disciples. Jews come together to study Torah. In other words, we cannot do it alone. I look around my yoga classes, and I see a lot of gripping toes. I see a lot of people leaning forward when proper alignment to protect ourselves is to lean back. Walking down the street, I see people who have their necks pressing forward, or worse yet, forward and down. Sitting at our desks, many of us hunch forward, breathe shallowly, and often forget we have a back . . . until it screams so loudly, we have bulging discs and need surgery.

We have forgotten the community, the sangha, our back body. We have forgotten that we don't have to do this alone!

I understood before today that the gripping toes were a reminder that I need to let go. I understood that the pecs were helping to cause the hamstring pain. But this morning's "aha" moment was that there is a world of support out there, that I exist within a community, and that our bodies are a constant reminder that it is okay to reach out to that community. Because officially, this blog is about lawyers, I'm going to merely point out that lawyers excel at being individuals. Even within a law firm, new associates literally fight for the best cases, try to outdo one another, and end up burning out. In law school, we were encouraged to find mentors, to attend as many social gatherings as we could. I hate small talk as much as the next person, but I have secretly always loved going to cocktail hours (and not for the free cocktails). It is there that communities are formed, mentors are created, and once that happens, you cannot exist in a bubble. You have to be a good person once the community is smaller. It is at those plastic events where I have discovered that the people I respect the most in this profession are the ones who have never gone it alone.

Thank you all for sharing this journey with me, for being part of my community, in whatever capacity you are, even if I have never met you in person. May this new year be filled with joy, love, and lots of community.

Blessings and Namaste!

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