Saturday, January 1, 2011
Pulling Community Together
A year ago, I posted about community and how we cannot do life alone. My year, therefore, was full of finding and building community, especially in the legal profession. From fellow family law professionals (lawyers, mediators, judges, mental health people, etc.) to other mindful lawyers, to professional women across the spectrum of professions, this year has been about growing and building a network of people with whom I connect on various levels. Professionally and personally, I feel more fulfilled as a result. As I said in the post a year ago, lawyers are really good at going it alone - I preferred law school to business school because there were no group projects (and less math, but whatever), but we learn that it takes a community to really do the work we need to do.
So after a year of community building and engaging with a wide variety of people, I am about to leave to go to the other side of the world where I have almost no community. Although it seems that everyone I know seems to know someone in New Zealand, and I know a few people down there, and Fulbright has an amazing alumni association, it is going to be different. Once again, I will be alone, at least at the beginning, starting from scratch, trying to create a new network of people in my life both personally and professionally.
This is actually the third time I have had the opportunity to live abroad. The other two times I lived in France, once as a student, and the second time as an English teaching assistant. Without going into the details and making this the longest post ever, both periods abroad helped me create new communities. It is even harder to “go it alone” when you barely speak the language where you are.
It used to be easier to never grow your community. Barely 100 years ago, even cars were barely used. Today, our community can grow instantaneously, through social networking, and we can see anyone in the world face-to-face through video chat or video conferencing. But we can still do it all from the comfort of our own offices. We can still go to networking events with at least one friend. It is human nature to want to feel safe and part of the community you already know. We would not have survived as a species had we been too open to meeting others; they could have killed our clan.
But today, the opposite is true. We are going to kill ourselves if we do not expand our communities, see “the other” as “the friend.” As I head into the great unknown, with the intention of being open to possibilities, I have asked myself what lessons I have learned from the law and yoga that will help.
As a yogi, I have learned to embrace community, to understand that my body is a teacher, and I can ask it what I need on the outside as well as on the inside. I have learned new ways of acting internally and externally from the yamas and niyamas, and I have learned to be comfortable (sometimes) with “just” sitting.
As a lawyer, I have learned that this phenomenal realm, “reality” or “the real world,” as some would call it, requires action of a different sense. While the legal system is flawed, and the catalyst for my going abroad to learn about a better system, it can only be changed by rolling up the shirt sleeves on the inside - as a lawyer. Lawyering is one type of community; the law is a community, a social contract, shall we say. And it follows its rules, but the people we are on the inside determine how we interact in the outside communities.
So this coming year is about combining all of that together, bringing together the understanding that there is no way we can do this alone, that we must interact with each other, learn from one another, and support one another, and then bringing back what is learned to create a better system here, through the grunt work of being a lawyer. But my first boss said it best, “of course yoga and the law are similar - they both strive for truth.” This year is all about finding that truth, from community to children’s representation in court. What I have learned over the year (slightly more, but not much) of writing this blog, is that we need the tools from both to make the biggest changes in our own lives and in the systems in which we interact. Our internal reflections give us the strength and insight to make the external changes, on any level.
Thank you for being part of this community with me. Here’s to a year full of possibilities!
Namaste and Blessings!
© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved