In many ways, this post has been years in the making. It sort of sums up why I created Is Yoga Legal. How do I define myself? Am I a lawyer representing children? Am I a researcher trying to find better ways to represent children? Am I a yogi? Am I a yoga teacher? This blog has always been a way to try to be all of these things as well as an attempt to recognize how they can influence each other.
But are any of these characteristics really who we are? Would I still be me if I stopped doing yoga? Would I still be me if I stopped being a lawyer? Someone asked me the other day, “how else do you want to be defined?” I really had no answer.
What I realized is that so many of us define ourselves by what we do. That is the cocktail party question, right? “So, what do you do?” In some ways, this is just an easy way to connect. It is a good way to break the ice in an otherwise super awkward moment. One of the things I have always liked about conferences is that there is an underlying assumption that everyone does the same work, even if it is from a different perspective. But that is not asking the person, "who are you?" It is simply a way to start making small talk. It might lead to interesting conversation, but it does not necessarily set the stage for truly understanding the person.
I have spent a lot of time traveling and getting away from past situations, not necessarily purposefully running, just moving and starting over again. I moved from Michigan to California when I was five (obviously not my choice), from California to Michigan when I was 18, from Michigan to France when I was 21 and again when I was 22, from France to Arizona when I was 23, from Tucson to Phoenix when I was 28, from Arizona to New Zealand when I was 29, and then back to Tucson just before I turned 30.
I have had new experiences, “done” different things, and met hundreds of people. But I was always there. That person who cannot be defined. The same hopes, fears, relationships, etc. followed me from place to place and from experience to experience. Yoga was always the one aspect that helped me reconnect to my deeper self. It helps that I started doing yoga in college, so it has remained the one constant in my adult life, even if at times it has been more or less a part of my life.
So, how does yoga connect us to our deeper selves, the one who is beyond being defined by what we do? To be clear, this is not a way to define ourselves as yogis. Yoga helps us see beyond the definitions of “doing” rather than “being.” Yoga, through concentration on the breath, helps us step out of this cocktail party world into one where we can see what comes up for us.
We learn to see how we respond and react to difficult situations. We learn to hear our self talk. We learn to see how we connect to other people. On a yoga mat, or a meditation cushion, or even breathing deeply while lying flat on your back on the couch recovering from surgery, it does not matter what you “do” in life. The president of the United States meditating is no different than the janitor in the White House meditating.
And the more we tap into that inner being, that inner power, the more of what we do in life becomes a manifestation of our inner self. We may not physically change our work, but we are no longer defined by it. We define how we do it. Our identity need not be tied up in what we do, but rather in who we are, and how we share that with the world.
So, the answer is that the yogi and the lawyer can absolutely coexist when they are both manifestations of the deepest self. The conflict arises when we allow lawyer and yogi to define who we think we are. I think there is more to say on this, but right now, I am not sure what that is. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Do you define yourself by your work? Are you able to take the step to manifest your inner being and let the work flow from there?
© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.