Monday, May 21, 2012

The Honeymoon vs. The Learning Curve

Yoga starts with a honeymoon phase. It seems that people who really start yoga (as opposed to those who go for one class and decide it is not for them) simply fall in love with the practice. It begins to define their being. There was a great article about that honeymoon phase, and the end of the honeymoon phase, over on Yoga Dork last week.

The author notes, quite correctly in my experience, that there will be days we just do not feel like doing the practice. There will be times we need to take a break, sometimes because the practice has lost something and sometimes because we ignore the practice so much we hurt ourselves. But her point is that like any relationship, there comes a point when the magic feels like it is gone. But it is the initial bliss that sets the stage for the continuing relationship in the future.

The legal profession, from the day we set foot in law school, is sort of the opposite of the honeymoon phase of a yoga practice. From that very first day, we talk about the steep learning curve, about learning to “think like a lawyer” (which, as someone pointed out to me recently, is grammatically incorrect). But those first few weeks and months in law school are nothing compared to the first few weeks and months in practice.

I have now been practicing for almost five months. I have been studying how to be a lawyer for children for the past 5-7 years. I taught kids English in France, and I was a camp counselor for years. My dad is a child custody evaluator, and discussions about family law and juvenile law issues were the topic of many a dinner-table conversations. In other words, I had quite a solid foundation for this work. And yet . . . The learning curve is steeper than anything I have ever before experienced.

And at times, it feels overwhelming . . . overwhelming on the grandest scale.

Interestingly, the cure for both the end of the honeymoon phase and the overwhelming nature of a steep learning curve can be the same – returning to the passion of what brought you there in the first place. This can be extremely difficult when we are stuck in a rut. It can seem pointless when the honeymoon phase has ended. The greatness that was the beginning of the practice might be nothing but a distant memory, a memory you can barely rely on as truth anymore. The exhilaration that brought you to a legal practice (or any profession) that now seems so maddeningly overwhelming can feel like nothing more than pipe dreams of a distant age.

But the good news is that neither of those is the truth. Those belief structures are the rut and the overwhelm speaking for our true understanding. The joy and exhilaration of a practice are always there. They are sometimes more difficult to find than at other times, but they always exist.

Sometimes we just have to look from a new perspective. And what I have learned this weekend is that the new perspective can be that place of rut / overwhelm. The difficulty of the path, wherever that path began, is what deepens the passion that brought us there in the first place. The honeymoon phase, while perhaps exciting, is not the fullest and most complete part of a relationship. The overwhelm of the steep learning curve eventually goes away and first year law students and associates eventually become mentors.

In the moment of the rut and overwhelm, hearing that is difficult. Deep down, we all know it, but stepping on the mat, or into a courtroom, can be difficult in those moments. But the new perspective on the passion and inspiration that began the path and the practice can be our strength to step back in the game.

What I find most interesting about this dynamic is that regardless of how the practice begins – either a honeymoon or a steep and difficult learning curve, the bump in the road is the same. But the bump is just a bump. It is not a brick wall. And that is a lesson both yoga and the law have taught me, and continue to teach me when I’m willing to listen.

How have you seen this play out in your life?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

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