I started yoga about one year ago [MLS: written in early 2006] and I am assessing what has happened to me over these past 12 months.
I was career-oriented since I was a child. My father was a preacher and we were encouraged to have a vocation, a calling, rather than a job or a profession. For years, I envisioned my work as part of a broader endeavor to save the world, bring justice to mankind and other lofty affairs. As a journalist and writer, I thought I was fulfilled. I also did a lot of work flying by the seat of my pants since I was never trained as a journalist. I was motivated, goal-oriented and deadline-fixated. File a news story, research an issue, write a report. Long hours, creative energies invested in expanding my knowledge and skills, all the other spheres of human life subordinated to my calling.
I lived in Peru for 18 years (See a self-portrait). I saw myself a voice, an intermediary for a needy, but silenced culture and people (paternalistic of me, but who’s perfect?). I came back to the States in 1996 and ended up in the Organization of American States (OAS), working in web development and eventually in information technology. I was putting technology to work for regional cooperation, development and peace (messianic of me, but who’s perfect?). I went back to school and got a Master of Science while working full-time and studying in my free time and weekends. I finished in 18 months. I was adapting my modus operandi to a new career track.
Last year, I noticed a restlessness and nonconformity developing within me because my career and vocational orientation were running up against real-life institutions and human nature. Even though I might work in an organization with noble goals, the day-to-day affairs are just like any human endeavor. My calling seemed to be betrayed by the mental tricks I played on myself. When there’s a mishap in your calling, it can dent your psyche. I could see past patterns of my life repeating, and I did not want to fall back into them.
I came to yoga, Art of Living, breathwork and meditation because they offered to resolve the quandary that seemed to overshadow my approach to life (See A Confession). Over the past 12 months, I have shifted my focus from my career or calling, to transforming myself — and I’m not talking about brainwashing or saving my soul. Sally Kempton recently wrote eloquently about the potential for change in the March/April 2005 issue of Yoga Journal, “Bust a Groove!”:
“Transformation is a long-term process. The big changes rarely happen overnight. At the same time, every effort you make on the transformational journey is exponential in its effects. Each time you consciously counter a negative samskara (scar), or remember the beauty of your inner self, or limit your reactive behavior to five minutes instead of five hours, you shift not only that pattern, but thousands of related patterns as well. One day, you look at yourself and discover that you’re living from an entirely different platform. That’s when you realize how much power a human being has, and how miraculously fruitful a transformative journey can be.”
Let me just mention two areas of change in my life:
- I have gone through a process of physical healing, getting back in contact with my body and breath. I finally beat back a 30-year addiction to tobacco, fueled by deadlines, caffeine and stress. Only when I started a daily pranayama practice did I stop feeling an urge to take a puff (and one puff would always end up being a full pack of cigarettes). I have not smoked in a year.
- I now see this process expanding to a new phase of creative healing and a redefinition of how I am going to use my powers. It’s not career-oriented in the traditional sense, but much more open-ended as I discovery where this process is taking me. I am writing for liberation.
At times, I feel overwhelmed by the scale of what I am undertaking. This process does not have a schedule or bullet list. There is only so much that I can bite off during my waking hours, but that’s what makes my life so exciting now. I also know I may be self-indulgent, over-intellectualizing and self-aggrandizing in this posting. But writing is just as much a part of my practice as the asanas and breath work (See Inspire and Create). That’s also why yoga and meditation are such great tools because they make me come back to the mat, to the bare essentials, to empty myself and focus on the present.