Today is my 31st birthday.
I say that only because one year ago, I wrote a post on my 30th birthday, and in it, I promised to live my life for others, to consciously use yoga to refill my reserves to be of service to the world. But as I pointed out in the last post, I had back surgery 2.5 weeks ago, and I have not been this reliant on other people since I was a child. This has gotten me thinking about my post a year ago.
Yoga and the law have something in common I have not really considered until now. In many ways, they are both solitary activities. And yet, I have learned more about community from both of them than anything else in my life. And that is just the point. Both of them could be very isolating unless we consciously open up to the support and encouragement of those around us.
For example, at my job I have my own case load. I meet with my clients, prepare for hearings, and participate in hearings. When emails and phone calls come on a case, I respond. But I work in an office with several other lawyers, and we all help each other. When I have a question, I find someone who might know the answer. If it is one of those situations where there may not be an answer (all too common in the legal profession and the world), we discuss the issue until we figure out how best to move forward. I could choose not to interact on that level, but it is through the interaction with others that I learn so much.
Yoga works similarly. A yoga practice could certainly be on a mat or a meditation cushion in your own home. And as I have learned these past few weeks, it can also be flat on your back on the couch just remembering to breathe and let go. Even in a community class, the practice is internal. No teacher, no matter how great, can know what you are feeling in your own body. And yet the teacher, as well as the other students, can help us learn to understand ourselves on a deeper level. It is the presence of the community that helps us understand and connect.
I wrote last year’s post about dedicating myself to others for a few reasons. First, I realized that my 20’s were a bit self-serving. And second, I firmly believe the legal profession is an opportunity to serve the community, and we should treat it as such.
But the individualism/community aspects of both the legal profession and yoga and great examples of how we need to balance the service to ourselves and the service to others. And sometimes we have to accept the help from others as well.
The world is more interconnected than it has ever been before. We are developing new ways to communicate faster and faster. And yet, somehow, we are more distant from one another. So many of us have our heads in ten, or more, different places at once, that they are rarely with the people around us. We have brief interactions, brief facebook notes, or brief text messages that would make Shakespeare roll over in his grave. But that is not enough to sustain us.
We can turn inward at times and be solitary creatures. We need that time alone to rest and rejuvenate. We can be part of the community just for fun at times and enjoy other human company. And we can serve the community, be there for our friends and family, and support the world. All of these happen together. They are a symbiotic relationship.
Last year’s post was called “A Future for Others.” That is why this year’s post is called “A Future Together.” I have learned this past year how necessary it is, at times, to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes that means help with writing an appeal, and sometimes that means help doing the laundry. And there are plenty of moments to offer a hand when someone is in need. And through it all, there are times we need to retreat from the world for a brief sojourn and refill our yoga buckets to continue being able to be a part of this world together.
How do you connect best with others? Have you had to ask for help recently? Have you had to offer help? How do you restore your sanity?
© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.