A yoga class is a perfect example. On more than one occassion, I have been in a class where everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to be doing their asanas perfectly. By perfect, I do not mean that they look like the cover models on a Yoga Journal magazine, but the perfection emmanates from the heart. The word yoga teachers often use to describe this is "integrity." Everyone in the class is practicing with perfect integrity. In one class, I remember the teacher saying that because everyone was practicing with such integrity, even the person in class who had never practiced yoga before looked like she had been practicing forever. The class energy was strong. I have also been in classes where, try as they might, the teachers are unable to drag people out of their tired, sleepy state. It does not mean that there is less integrity, perhaps the integrity is stronger - everyone is listening to their bodies and not pushing beyond their means. In those situations, however, the teacher often slows the pace of the class to be in line with everyone's energy.
I am a sucker for this energy. In a class this week, I felt stronger than I have in months, and my practice felt beautiful. Just last week, I was in a class where my practice, and that of those around me, felt off. There is no other way to describe it. Something was just not right. Each day is different, but we often forget that one of the reasons for that difference is our internal energy and the energy influencing us externally. That is a powerful on-the-mat yoga lesson to take into the world, especially in this age.
Among the various professionals, lawyers need to be extra mindful of this energetic influence. Lawyers, like doctors, need to be both empathetic as well as disconnected enough to see the entire picture. Lawyers on opposite "sides" need to zealously represent their own clients while maintaining a professional and respectful attitude toward each other. This means that lawyers are being influenced and pulled in at least two, but usually more directions, and without having the internal reserves necessary to stay centered, they can and often do become enveloped by external influences. It is so easy to get caught up in the client's story, for it to become the lawyer's story as well. In an adversarial system, the energy breeds conflict.
Lawyers are by no means the only people affected by this energy balance. Since 9/11, the energy of fear has taken over, especially certain cable "news" programs. Each moment is full of energy shifting faster and faster and faster, and we are losing our ability to keep up, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But if we are influenced by energy even in a yoga class, what can we do about this? Are we destined to be without our own energy? Are we destined to be pulled and warped? I don't think so.
The reason the community of energy is so strong in a yoga class is because that is why we take yoga classes instead of practicing in our rooms, alone. The shared space reminds us that we influence others and can be influenced by them. Then, within that space, each person has his or her own practice. The influence is there, but each breath, each posture, comes from the individual student. When we are in tune, in balance with one another, the class works. When one or more people is doing something out of balance, everyone feels awkward.
Off the mat is no different, as long as we are conscious of the energies around us, as long as we recognize when we are being pulled down by others and when we are pulling down those around us, we can stay true to ourselves and hold our energy in a space that feels right both internally and externally. This can sometimes be the hardest thing to face. At some point, we have to stop blaming others and take responsibility for our own actions. Some days are easier than others, and on those days, we can help guide others to their integrity. Some days, we need people to drag us along, or better yet, to lift us up.
One week from today I teach my first yoga class, and for all the preparation I do, I know that everything will be dictated by the energy of the room. This week, however, I am going to be extra conscious of the energies surrounding me, from people to news to yoga classes to my own internal energy. As we all move faster and faster, I invite you all to stop, even if just for a moment, to evaluate how you are influencing, and being influenced by, the energy of that which is around you.
Namaste and Blessings.