Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are you free?

So, this post is a bit late - it was supposed to coincide with July 4, but I was in California helping my mom move out of the house where I grew up. What better opportunity than cleaning out the past to consider freedom in the yogic sense?

I subscribe to many legal blogs, not the least of which is Above the Law. For those of you who are not lawyers, or those of you who have not been graced with ATL, it lovingly refers to itself as the legal tabloid. More than anything else, it focuses on BigLaw - in non-lawyer speak, this means large law firms, the international ones that drive the legal market. To be honest, I subscribe in order to keep tabs on what lawyers in BigLaw are thinking, as I find that I am very disconnected from that reality in how I view the world.

I do not think it would surprise anyone that the legal job market is grim - so grim that lawyers are fighting over unpaid internships with county attorneys in California. Unlike many people who are out of work, recent law grads are often in debt far in excess of six figures. Another legal / psychological blog I follow is The People’s Therapist. An ex-lawyer, turned psychotherapist, comments not only on psychotherapy, but also on how lawyers can benefit from it. He writes often about the belittling life that many BigLaw attorneys (Especially associates) lead. When I take the time to read the comments on his blog posts about how crippling the legal profession can be to the psyche, the most common response is akin to, “I want to give it up, but I have too much debt, and I must work.”

Translation: “I’m trapped!”

These comments reflect a world in which people cannot see their freedom. All they see is the oppression caused by the need to have a good job, make money, have possessions, and pay off the debt. There is no doubt I have felt this way. In many ways, I feel that way now. As of August 20, I am out of a job until January when I leave for the Fulbright in New Zealand. But while the daily ups and downs come, deep down I know that I am free to move beyond these limitations. Even my debt and society cannot imprison me. This santosha, or contentment, has only come through yoga.

But how does breathing and stretching with intention create such freedom? Yoga helps us see the bigger picture. I tend to be more logical than emotional, like many lawyers; if I am in debt, I better make money to pay it down. In that sense, I am trapped by this society and not free. But yoga has helped me see that my Being is always free even when external forces might predict otherwise. Yoga has opened my eyes to the world that obligation cannot reach.

In addition to seeing a bigger world, yoga can give us the tools to be free within our daily lives. We can go to work grumpy and upset. We can go to work upbeat and happy. That is our choice. I can work at a law firm because that is what lawyers do, especially after clerking for two judges. Or I can do what makes me most interested - help children in the law and bring yoga to more people, especially lawyers. Neither is right or wrong. What we have to ask is, are we making the choice from a place of freedom or a place of obligation/oppression?

By taking us out of the world we traditionally inhabit, yoga allows us to look beyond and find that which makes us love life. It opens our eyes to a deeper connection, the one to ourselves and to each other. It is not about money or prestige or possessions. On a yoga mat, the only things that matter are breath and movement. We are able to see that these are the guiding forces of our life. We take the moments to stop and reflect, ask ourselves whether the traditional path is the one for us. In these moments of reflection, we can find that the traditional path is our path, and that is wonderful - or we can discover that we need a different path.

Yoga creates the space to ask these questions. What makes you free? What gives you life? What opens your eyes?

Namaste and Blessings!


  1. Love your postings. Why is it that they are always what I need to read? I was feeling cornered yesterday when some things were disclosed to me that will effect me directly, and I am powerless to prevent them from happening. I felt that a black cloud was following me around just over my shoulder and no matter what I did I couldn't shake it. I got up this morning and decided to put it behind me, face the morning cheerfully, and go forward with intention to make the future the best I can for myself. The problems are still there, but I am relieved of solving them because in reality they are not my problems to fix. I am not isolating myself, but I am moving forward mentally away from these negative forces. I will focus on the positive, be grateful for what I have and what will be, and trust that those clouds will not do damage. How will it work? Maybe not, but that is for the future to decide. Today I will do what is best for me in this moment, and do no harm to anyone else. That's my freedom.

  2. This can apply to anyone - lesson being, do what you love, the money will follow. I know lots of people, myself included, struggling through this recession and just trying to make ends meet. I am fortunate to know that I have a few months' worth of expenses so I will be okay for the time being (and don't need to take another job that you know I was on the fence about).

    But on the other extreme, our society encourages people to be in debt (mostly through school that they can't really afford at the time, praying that they will be able to make the payments with their new, hopefully higher salary and that they will want to stay in that profession - but also through predatory lending practices and hyping up credit cards... but I digress) and longing for a lifestyle that is really beyond their means. Or feeling that they're at a certain point in their lives and they "deserve" certain material goods for status. It makes me think of the main character in Bonfire of the Vanities, who makes a certain amount of money and therefore feels expected to have a certain kind of house for entertaining his peers, and drive a certain kind of car... As a society I'd say we have some work to do, but so many people feel that they are the only ones who can't resolve the disconnect between what they make and how they feel they "should" live.

  3. Thank you both for your comments. Toni, I'm so glad you are able to find your own personal freedom. Amy, you are so right about the need to own because you make a certain amount of money. It's bizarre. Thank you!

  4. What a wise lawyer and yogini you are! My fiancee is about to be a paralegal; in addition to being a Professor at Temple in Philadelphia, I have been a yoga teacher for 10 years. I wrote a humor book called Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie's Adventures in Love, Loss and the Lotus Position that your readers might find interesting.

    As you are learning, sweating on the yoga mat can teach us many things about ourselves when we find ourselves in sweaty situations off the mat.

    I am expanding my yoga practice now to reach out to law firms. So if any lawyers are out there interested in stretching from law to yoga, contact me at

    Great blog!

  5. Changing careers was a big lesson in freedom. Sure, it felt freeing to do so. But a new career doesn't mean an easy career! Now when I feel trapped or like things aren't making me happy I know I am free to choose whether I stay with it or change paths. I recently stopped teaching yoga actually, because I missed my own pure practice. But for months I'd felt stuck doing something I didn't really want to be doing, as if I HAD to do it. Silliness!

  6. Thanks, Michelle. Your story is quite the inspiration, and you are absolutely right - we can change anything anytime. That is our true freedom. Thanks!