role playing

Posted by on Jan 28, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on role playing

role playing

Last week I came across an article on a great yoga blog (Shivers Up The Spine), in which the author interviews Eoin Finn about his journey into the yoga world.  At one point, Priya asks Eoin to reflect on the “dangers of playing ‘yogi'”.  She goes on to say, ‘”You told a story about how you had played the part of yogi as if it were a script, doing yoga three hours a day, eating organic, doing all the right things etc, And then you wound up at a house party one night wondering where your mojo had gone. I believe your words were, “In my quest to become healthy I had become boring.” ‘  What a brilliant way of encapsulating what it is to feel the pressures to embody but one mask.  I can definitely relate.

I can’t blame others for making quick judgments as to who embodies “real yoga teacher” any more than I can blame myself for striving to embody it.  That’s not to say that I’m being inauthentic in what I present to my classes.  But I fit the stereotype pretty closely.  I do eat well, I do take my practice seriously, wear mala beads, hang out in California whenever I get the chance, wear patchouli and Indian-inspired clothing.  I have an alter and a meditation stool.  I am eco-conscious and have a juicer.  I use the phases of the moon and Hindu mythology to inspire themes for my yoga classes.  I think to some degree my presentation makes students feel at ease– they know all about “my sort”.  It’s probably exactly what they expect so it’s easy to digest.  They wouldn’t expect me to be teaching yoga at their local Goodlife, but they aren’t surprised to see me at a yoga studio.  This is a comfortable role for me.  I’ve always been health conscious and political, aligned with environmental awareness and animal rights.  I’ve always felt a draw to spirituality and alternative culture.  I’ve never put on airs to become who I am as a yoga teacher or yoga student, it has been an incredibly natural evolution.  Where things tend to get stickier is when I find myself buying into this belief that a person is only one thing– that I am this completely and nothing else.  That in order to be this, I have to put aside all of that.

No one is putting this pressure upon me- no one is holding a yogi gun to my head and ordering me to slip on those moccasins.  It’s a choice I make for myself, unconsciously and comfortably.  But as much as I am this, I am so many other things as well.  Despite a laid-back demeanour in class, I can be incredibly driven and controlling.  I can be a frazzled mom, an impatient partner.  I go through lazy spurts.  I can be positive, but I also have a thick morose underbelly, a love for the melancholy.  I find myself drawn to making things complicated when they get too simple.  I feel a pull to the arts, the moody writer in the big city, the screenwriter or filmmaker.  The musician.  Parties and cocktails and fashion.  When I’ve been in my soft, happy, positive place too long– as Eoin Finn says, doing all the right things until the mojo is gone– I begin to yearn for the edges, for something different.  And aren’t we all like this?  The deeper we slip into a narrowly defined aspect of our personhood, the more we need to break out.  Sometimes we are required to embody a role fully and completely– a new mom, for example, doesn’t have a lot of time to explore her artistic side.  But sometimes we just spend too much time wearing one coat because we forget that there are others.  My signal that I need to take a breather and dig deeper into my writing, reading, playing music or SUPing is when I start to feel “sick” of yoga.  It happens slowly– I stop wanting to read the articles, feel a desire to disconnect from all of the yoga-related social media.  I just don’t want to hear people talking about it.  I never feel the need to stop practicing, but the other stuff can get heavy.  And after some time spent exploring my other corners, allowing brain space to be occupied by different topics and flexing it by doing different activities, I feel much more balanced and calm.  Recalibrated.

It reminds me of the time in my life when I was working on my PhD.  It was a remarkable thing to see people so incredibly focussed and committed to their thesis topics.  I was surrounded in experts of cultural minutia, people adept at fleshing out the most finite details of a socio-political nature.  But I would find that at parties, unless you could speak the language, unless you had the jargon and could somehow find a way to tie your particular tiny box of theory to the tiny box of someone else, the conversation was bone dry.  My partner, schooled in topics from 80s television to obscure electronic music to medicine, found it hard to connect.  The PhD candidate, the student who is driven to complete the dissertation, must eat, sleep and dream his/her topic.  Out of some competitive survival mode, there really isn’t much room left to diversify.  I found that after trying on the academic hat for some time, I just wasn’t spending enough time at the library with blinders on.  I was skulking out of class and going to movies, playing music.  Maybe my role fatigue sets in quicker than a lot of people and maybe that’s why I’m a jack of all trades, master of none.  Do you need to commit to a singular identity to hit the big time in particular industry?  Is there a place for the shape shifters, the seaweed kids, pulled by the tides to be different people with different interests at different times?  Does this drifting around devalue our sense of authenticity?  Or is this possibly honouring something more authentic?

I’m enjoying the place I’m at, the people I meet.  I feel no pressure or obligation to be more than what I am or who I am, I just have to take note of when it’s time to dig a little deeper into fresh territory.  But I do wonder if the ones who Make it Big have shelved other important aspects of themselves, personas that may be divergent from the Path.  Do they have mojo at parties?  Are their parties filled only with brethren?  Have they traded all of that for this?

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.