I like to think of myself as a "behind the scenes" kind of girl. I have no desire to deliver a speech, but I love writing a script and standing back to watch the magic unfold. When taking a yoga class, I always put my mat in the back corner of the room, and when teaching, I often position myself so I can observe without being noticed. I could chalk it up to shyness or insecurity, but I prefer to see it as a preference for the periphery.
Traveling provides an irresistible opportunity for anonymity. In a new city, I can be anyone or anything - or nothing at all. I especially enjoy taking yoga classes at local studios. In addition to experiencing new teachers and styles, it is refreshing to take off my "teacher" hat and be just another student in the room - with no expectations about how well (or not) I execute a pose, how long (or not) I choose to sit in meditation, and how often I drop into child's pose.
While in a class on a recent visit to New York, I was excited when the instructor cued us into handstand in the middle of the room. I was eager for the chance to experiment without the subconscious concern of what my students or fellow teachers might think. As I played, however, I recognized I was timing my efforts based on when the teacher was nearby or looking in my direction. When I realized what I was doing, I almost laughed out loud. Isn't this precisely what I tell my students not to do?
How often have I explained to a yogi that yoga is a practice, not perfection? How many times have I emphasized that we come to the mat not to demonstrate our fancy physical tricks but instead to explore what our efforts and reactions reveal about us off the mat? How frequently do I remind students that our true measure as yogis is not the length of our hamstrings but rather our flexibility in dealing with the challenges we face in the course of our daily lives? Yet there I was, wanting to be seen.
When I returned home the next week, I noticed the pattern repeating itself. When leaving a tip at a coffee shop, I caught myself waiting until the cashier was looking forward before dropping the money into the jar. And when presented with the opportunity to make an anonymous donation in response to a friend's charitable solicitation, I instead gave my name. I told myself I was doing so to ensure he knew I supported him and his cause, but was it really about him or me???
The reward of our good deeds should be in the doing - not the recognition. And our self worth shouldn't be dependent on the acknowledgements of others. So this month, I am working to embrace my "behind the scenes" persona. I am looking for opportunities to be generous without seeking gratitude and achieve personal goals without applause. I am aiming to be invisible, and I invite you to do the same. Will you join me?