(Note: the following is transcribed from an entry written yesterday afternoon at a coffee shop – with pen! On paper!)
I write this from the spacious murmur of Old Soul at 40 Acres. It is Thursday, April 21st, and the five semifinalists of Yoga Journal’s cover model talent search are to be announced today. Since I have so far managed to elude the purchase of a smart phone, I have no way to get online and check the results. This is exactly why I haven’t purchased a smart phone. Every once in a while, I like to be forced into resting in the not-knowing.
I’m thinking about my friends who entered the contest with me – Tami and Ryan and Leili and Ann, as well Vanessa who was our photographer (all photos here credited to Vanessa.) I’m guessing they have seen the photos by now, but I’m not going to contact them…yet. Instead, I’m imagining how I will feel when I see the results.
Like a speechwriter who must write an acceptance speech at the same time as a concession speech, I offer the following:
My first thought upon seeing the five finalists without my smiling mug among them was: “Well, duh. Did you really think? No you did not.” The embarrassment that in fact I had allowed myself to fantasize otherwise was quickly joined by a spreading relief that the contest was over. No more hitting up my family for votes. No more refraining from hitting my students up for votes because that felt smarmy. One of my students chided me the other day: “you should have announced it in your classes…” and she may be right, but it never felt appropriate. So somehow, I managed to feel both guilty for asking for votes, while also feeling guilty for not asking for votes. Apparently I have a real talent for cultivating guilt regardless of action.
My first thought upon seeing my picture among the finalists was: “Oh shit, what am I doing there?” and then “Ooooh, I get a new yoga outfit.” (The prize for all five finalists is new yoga gear. Top prize is the cover photo, along with interview, etc.)
Then I got real nervous. What possible good could come of winning? Suddenly it felt like weight, like responsibility. It was all well and good when it was friends and colleagues discussing the reality that many voices are not represented in the mainstream yoga conversation, but what if someone actually handed me a microphone and said: “Okay then, you’re on”? What would I say?
My friends and I joined this competition to represent alternatives to the performance and fitness based perception of yoga poses and practice. Suddenly, though, I didn’t want to represent anything or anyone. I just wanted to go back to being invisible and doing yoga.
Here’s the point: this process has connected me to amazing people. It nourished friendships I already had. And I found out there are people across the country who are approaching and teaching yoga in a very similar vein to the way we do here at It’s All Yoga – a studio built on the foundation of my friend Michelle’s warm heart.
Here are some people I found:
Anna Guest-Jelley, whose excellent blog at Curvy Yoga inspired the group of us to come together, created an alternative to the contest in her “Curvy Yogi Gallery” Then, after our photo shoot, she interviewed Ryan and Tami and Leili and I in this awesome interview about our experience.
Nancy, whose blog Flying Yogini declared her quiet protest to performance based poses – her submission to the contest was a quiet photo of herself sitting, swathed in grey…photographed from behind. It was lovely, and it made sense.
It was a comment on the Curvy Yoga interview that put the whole experience into perspective for me. It came from someone named Noor, who writes this blog.
She said: “this post is oozing with compassion…compassion for the self, compassion for others, compassion for the practise itself.”
She’s right. And it took someone writing from Australia to bring what’s very close to me into sharper focus. I am in a community of individuals who are dedicating their life’s work to fostering compassion in the world. And we are not an anomaly but a part of something much bigger. There is a collective wave of compassion building, and we are simply part of the flow. And once you realize this, how can you ever really be alone?
I’d like to shout this to the coffeeshop right now. “Hey y’all!” I would shout. “Yeah, you, especially YOU over on your laptop. I don’t need Internet access to know that I won.