Letting Go (of Wall Street)

While bombshells fall in the yogaworld I am stuck in my head. I wonder: should I open up a yoga studio? I love the idea of starting a business; I love yoga. I need a job.

Could this be me someday?

I don’t have a yoga following, let alone much teaching experience, but the school won’t be about me. It would be about the teachers (from all styles! Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Iyengar, Kundalini, you name it, even pilates!) and the community. It would be a business. My neighborhood has been gentrifying, needs “services”, and could possibly support a studio. I am excited about marketing, sales, HR policy, e.g. running this as a for-profit venture with philosophical, spiritual, physical benefits. I continue to think.

But my insecurities and fears stand in the way. Am I good enough? Do this in New York City, where yoga studios are like Starbucks, one on every corner? Gamble with our savings?

Anything gives me self doubt. I compare myself to others.

For example–the Wall Street Journal profiled this 32 year old guy, a former investment banker now Hindu monk, who recently led a meditation session at the Occupy Wall Street protests. He’s got an MBA, like me, but was more “successful” in the business world than me (he was investment banker at Bank of America), and, having quit the corporate world (as I did) seems to be more committed to his dharmic path (he’s a celibate monk at a Hindu monestary in the East Village, giving talks about mindfulness at Citi and B of A, while I sit around doing very little). I think, I am so cautious; others are not. Why do I think I can do this? What to do?

My mantra these days has been to soften and be receptive, and when I do this, I find his teachings instructive. He says: don’t allow fear, ego and selfishness to stand in the way of making the right business decisions.

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Making meditation less scary

I am a stuggling yogi. I like the physical practice but understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg. In particular: meditation. It is scary, boring, of dubious value, and I fear failure.

Stop my mind from its constant buzzing and worry and fear? Not in this lifetime.

But this blog post on elephant journal–called 5 obstacles to meditation— makes me feel more hopeful. The author is a retired Yale prof of medicine and psychologist who I think studied with Jack Kornfield, a leading US authority on meditation. (Kornfield’s book, A Path with Heart, was required reading for my yoga teacher training and references a Yale psychologist who becomes a skillful meditator). Seth Segall writes:

Can we let go of expectations that our minds will always be clear, calm, and steady? No matter how much practice you have had, it’s unreasonable to expect anything else. After all, our minds, like everything else, are affected by causes and conditions. Can we extend compassion and lovingkindness to ourselves in such moments?

It’s said that when we practice meditation we are actually practicing three separate skills: 1) staying with the object of meditation, 2) recognizing when we’ve drifted off, and 3) returning to the object without fuss or judgment. When we have a “good meditation,” i.e, when our concentration is good and we’re able to stay with our object of meditation, we are developing the first skill. When we keep drifting and returning, even if we do it 100 times in a sitting, we’re developing the second and third skills. These, in fact, may be the most important skills in terms of improving our daily lives: recognizing when we’re no longer present and returning to mindfulness.

The poet William Blake wrote in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell that “if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” Keep watching your mind just as it is. Turning poison into wisdom is the path of the Buddhas.

Deepak Chopra at Zuccotti Park

I’m into the Occupy Wall Street protests. (My own economic complaints have to do with rising income inequality and piss poor corporate governance – though on the latter a University of Chicago prof disagrees.)

But, back to yoga, Deepak Chopra stopped by the square yesterday to lead a guided meditation. Even if you hate the protests, you may be able to get behind Chopra’s message (“Ask yourself, how can I be the change that I want to see in the world? How can I make that happen from a place of love, compassion, and equanimity? Simple anger will only perpetuate what already is out there.”):