One Definition of “living on the edge”

I like yoga. I’ve been practicing steadily since 1995. I’ve had some good teachers in my life, and one great one. Sofia Diaz. She makes yoga about your life and in her classes I have learned many things about myself and the way the world works. I was practicing in my living room the other morning and something that she often says entered my head. It has entered many times before, but this time I made a connection between it and how effective I am at getting things done, being creative, and building the best relationships I can.

“Yoga begins at the point of failure.” On the yoga mat it means staying in asana (loose translation: a given yoga pose) until you can stay no longer. Your body starts to give up, but more relevant and salient is your mind starts to give up. When I start to feel the point of failure, I often think of it as being on the edge.

Back to the other morning. In approaching the edge of my asana, I realized that’s where change happens. That’s where you grow. It’s where you create. It’s where you connect. In my yoga that morning, I started connecting that to other aspects of my life.

For example, I collaborate a lot in my life and my work. I also lead and facilitate a lot of collaboration efforts. When I’m talking to others about a plan of action or brainstorming ideas, if I stay where it’s comfortable, I can get to something that will work. But if I can stretch my understanding of the problem at hand and reach toward others and their ideas, the collaboration can go much further and the output will be levels above.

The added bonus about getting to the edge is that whatever you do there, not only is it better, it gets done faster. The double bonus is that you feel great when you are there. There is nothing but you, the others in your awareness, and what you are creating.

Now, back to that morning yoga in my living room. Moving through asanas, I let my mind sit with the concept of always being at my edge. “Wow, I would get a lot done, I’d be doing it all really well, and I would feel great all the time”, I thought. All of the sudden the phrase “living at your edge” made a lot more sense.

My mind then wondered how could I get to the edge more often? How could I stay at the edge? How could I get myself back to the edge when I got too far away? By that point, I was in savasana, the final yoga asana called “corpse pose”, where you lie on the floor on your back and spend no effort on anything. The edge of letting go. I let the questions go. More about this in future posts.

Benefit of Public Transportation: Connection to Place

I take public transportation when visiting cities whenever possible. Some people wonder why I do that. One reason I do is because it connects me to the place I’m visiting. A good example of this is when I arrived at O’Hare a few weeks ago and took the train into the city.

At the second train stop, a young man wearing a backpack go on the train. He sat across from me, and I couldn’t help but notice his leg shaking up and down forcefully. He began speaking out loud, so everyone could here, and asked people to please listen, that he needed help. His dad was being an asshole and kicked him out and he had nowhere to go. He’d been sleeping on the L for the past couple nights, scrounging where he could. He said he was having a really hard time, but he’s not a bad person, and hadn’t done anything wrong. He was trying to get enough money for bus fare to get to his cousin’s place in New York state. He needed $18.50, and had collected $6 already. Still talking loud so everyone could here him, he started to explain each person that gave him some money to get him to the $6 he had already. He was having such a hard time. And he seemed like such a good guy. He then said he just really needed some help, and then mentioned something about no one listening to him in frustration. When he was done talking, he hung his head down and continued shaking his leg, with extreme up-down oscillations. I know that people’s legs sometimes shake (including mine). I have just never seen it this obvious and strong.

I couldn’t ignore such an honest plea from a guy sitting so close. I found some change in my backpack and some singles in my pocket and gave it to him. He looked at me and said thank you very sincerely. He then hung his head back down and leg still shaking. I started to breathe with him, to support him further. I empathized strongly with him, just by listening and breathing.

I asked him how much more he needed to get the bus ticket, he counted the money I gave him and said $10. I knew I had a $10 bill in my pocket, so I gave it to him. He was the really grateful. Then, we started talking. We talked a little bit about him getting to his cousin’s, but mostly he asked questions about my life, which I readily answered. I found an apple in my bag, and gave that to him too – which he quickly devoured, commenting that he hasn’t had much food lately. By the time the stop came around that would get him to the bus station, he was so much more relaxed, he was breathing easier and his leg had completely stopped shaking.

Something about connecting with this guy and helping him out made a difference to me and connected me to where I’m visiting in a way that couldn’t happen in a taxi. And the train fare plus the money I gave this guy still cost less than half of a cab fare into the city.