Sunday, February 14, 2010


Yes, it has been a long time again - life has been getting in the way of my practice, but there is no better yama to discuss this than Aparigraha, which means non-possessiveness or non-grasping. And I have had a lot of ideas on what I want to write for this post, but today the universe intervened again and a new idea was spawned. My dear friend from college, Anna, is a freelance writer and this week published her interview with a Russian poet. The poet was raised a musician but one day stopped writing music and started writing poetry. And I remembered my own story, the one that got me here - full of not grasping. So waiting led me to exactly where I need to be, though definitely not without some painful grasping and breakdowns to get in the way.

When I was young, I wanted to go to Stanford to play basketball (to those of you on my teams, you know this was never going to happen, but I can dream, right?). It was not until I was in 8th grade and drumming on the basketballs that I realized music was the path for me. My freshman year in high school, I signed up for basketball tryouts but never went to them - instead I took 3 band classes my senior year and spent more time with my band teacher than my parents. After being rejected from music school, I found my way to a small liberal arts school located inside the University of Michigan. I continued to play music but only in Marching Band and the non-music major Pops Orchestra. I fell in love with traveling through those years and absorbed the world, spending a total of 13 months living in France, and I decided to go to law school because my dad and my band teacher thought I would make a good child advocate.
I did two things in law school: study and yoga. I had learned about yoga prior to law school, but there is no better time to practice than when you are hunched over books surrounded by the law all day. I started going more often. But that pull to yoga was in direct contrast to the life I was beginning to live in school. I remember telling people that I had never made a major life decision on my own. I went to the University of Michigan because my family went there (it was my choice, but it was not a difficult one), I went to France to teach because I was accepted, I went to law school because people said I would be good at the law. In law school, however, I found myself stuck. I did fairly well academically, so doors should have been open, but the job market and my distaste for life at a law firm (for me, not for others) meant those doors were being slammed in my face instead. I took the rejections personally, thought I had made a hugely wrong decision, and wondered how I was ever going to get out from under a mountain of debt while working at Starbucks. I literally did not know what to do, until I let go. 
I was blessed with what I consider the best opportunity upon graduating from law school. I clerked for the Presiding Family Court Judge in Pima County, who was transferred to be the Presiding Juvenile Court Judge while I was working for her. I saw the nitty-gritty of the family and juvenile courts. I met attorneys practicing in the area where I want to practice, and I saw what worked and what can still be improved. In short, I found my path. And that job literally fell in my lap. I had been rejected from job after job, and my resume suggested that should not have happened. But the universe had different plans. I found out about the job with my first boss from about five different people, including a friend of hers, one of my professors, career services, the Dean of the law school, and even the judge herself. The universe was right, as usual, and it was an amazing year. My current job, while not quite as universe-driven, is still right where I need to be. It allows me to see the entire legal process and how the law operates in the absence of face-to-face contact. I have a new appreciation for the law as law, and a fresh understanding of where my future legal career will take me.
Perhaps most interestingly, my current job has given me the opportunity to drum on basketballs again, but this time moving away from music and towards yoga. I have been saying for years that I miss playing music, and I do. When I moved to Phoenix in August, I decided that I was going to do a Yoga Teacher Training Program. Classes are Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The first week I was working, one of the other judges sent out an email that the orchestra with which he plays was looking for percussionists. Rehearsals are Tuesday evenings. I fretted for about 2 minutes. I saw myself drumming on basketballs and knew that the Universe was speaking to me again. I chose yoga, without regret. Might I seek out an opportunity to play percussion again? Of course. But I had to stop grasping onto that past. And it was then that I realized that I really never have made a decision in my life. I know the answer when I let go and listen. The only times I have been distraught about what to do are the times when I try to decide against what my heart says, when I allow societal norms to dictate my decisions, when I grasp onto a particular outcome instead of allowing my life to unfold. This job and that decision have allowed me to be in a place where I see how important it is to me to integrate law and yoga in my life. These are not either-or decisions - I know that they must coexist.
On the mat, I have learned also to grasp less. As I mentioned in my New Year's post, many yogis have a tendency to grasp with their toes in postures. But when we let go of that, sink into postures, and feel the strength, support, and energy of the Earth below, we truly find the pose. Not grasping is, however, different than no direction and not using your feet in a pose. Quite the opposite. The feet are the foundation in standing postures. Direction is how we ensure that our lives are fulfilling our passions. Not grasping is about trusting. You trust your feet enough that you don't hold on with your toes. You will not fall. And if you do, you will catch yourself. You can stop trying to dictate the outcome of the universe and open up to the possibilities knowing that if you are following your passion, the doors will never cease to open. I used to be scared to death that I would not find a job, and I would be crushed by law school debt. But now I know that somehow life will work out. The average lawyer changes jobs 5 times in his career, and most lawyers change jobs at least once within 5 years of law school graduation. We are not a profession designed to hold onto our past. The law changes, society changes, and we move along.  
I have no idea how I will integrate my passion for helping children in the legal context with my passion for yoga. I know that one catalyst to becoming a teacher was my desire to teach yoga in a Juvenile Detention Center, but that is only one way. I know I will find others. In class this week, we talked about how you can teach yoga and keep your day job. One of the most uplifting statistics I read during this recession is that enrollment in both Yoga Teacher Training programs and attendance at yoga studios is up. Yes, that expensive habit called yoga is attracting more and more people each day. People are willing to take the plunge, step off the known path and into one that might be a bit scary, but it is full of possibility. As I wait to hear about whether I will get to go to New Zealand on a Fulbright scholarship, and I wonder what I will do for money once my job ends in August, I am no longer having the freak out sessions I had my second and third years in law school. I am here for a reason.

Of course, some days my toes grasp the mat a little too tightly, I forget about the mountain of support I have in the world, and I worry that August will roll around, and I will find myself jobless and in debt. This is why yoga and the law are a practice. These yamas are a bridge, and each new job is also a step along the practice of law. Interestingly, what makes lawyers ethically competent is the ability to read and learn. We never know the answers, we just continue to get as many tools in the toolbox and trust our instincts and our colleagues to do what is right.

Namaste and Blessings.


  1. The more I grasp, the less I seem to be holding. It's a lesson learned over and over - definitely a practice!

  2. @Michelle - so true, so true. Thanks for the reminder.