Selfie Conscious

Search Other Blog Posts

https://9gag.com/gag/ag3Pe1K/mona-lisa-selfie

https://9gag.com/gag/ag3Pe1K/mona-lisa-selfie

The following is a rewrite of a piece I did a few years ago and which was recently published on Medium  under the title Selfie Awareness. It outlines and experience I had which taught me more about being conscious with trying to capture the moment with photos and selfies. 

A few years ago, I was in Paris for the first time, visiting the Louvre, perhaps the finest art museum in the world. While there were many paintings I’d been waiting my entire life to see, and I know I’m cliché here, the Mona Lisa was primo on my list.

I mean, almost 60 years ago, they tried to insure the Mona Lisa for 100 million dollars* but had problems because many felt that the sum was much too low, and that was 1960s dollars. Today, they value the painting at closer to 800 million!

Fun fact: Napoleon used to have the Mona Lisa hanging on his bedroom wall and would spend hours in rapture starting at it.

So finally here, and giddy with anticipation, I stepped into the spacious, well-lit gallery, dying to get a glimpse of the most (in)valuable painting in the world. There she was at last! At a distance, I could see the renaissance rockstar enshrined on her own dedicated wall, protected behind a guardrail and bulletproof glass, and flanked by two bouncers.

Suddenly, the hallowed hush of the Louvre was irreverently replaced by the din of excitable tourists. As I approached her, I felt pressed in a hot vice of adoring fans, all craning to ogle the most mysterious woman on canvas. The venue felt transformed into an arena at a rock concert where I was squeezing through hordes of fans, desperately hoping to making eye contact with that infamous seductrice and her inimitable half-smile.

As I jockeyed my way forward, I began to notice something very peculiar. Nobody was looking at the paining. Not really. Rather, everyone was looking at the viewfinder on their smartphones, tablets, and cameras. More than taking a moment to drink in this priceless work of art, most people were worried about getting the perfect photo of it.

http://catnapsintransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1382338_10151797344753183_1393716417_n.jpg

http://catnapsintransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1382338_10151797344753183_1393716417_n.jpg

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-35031568/does-mona-lisa-have-a-hidden-personality

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-35031568/does-mona-lisa-have-a-hidden-personality

And as I looked around at the crowd, I noticed a distinct pattern. People would fire off several photos, including a few selfies with the Mona Lisa, then without so much as a pause, would scurry off to some other masterpiece to do likewise. For what? To brag to their friends that they were in the same room as the Mona Lisa but never took a second to actually see it?

Something about this phenomenon is natural human behavior. Hasn’t everyone been guilty of experiencing something extraordinary, a resplendent sunset, an aromatic cup of coffee, or a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa, and we’re afraid the moment will end, so we try to capture it with a photo because doing so and posting it to social media will somehow make it permanent?

And have you ever tried to show some innocent, unsuspecting person the photos of that moment? It goes like this, “Here’s the great hotel I stayed at, only it’s so much nicer than the photo suggests, you should really see it. Oh, and here’s the most amazing latte I had at the perfect café, but you had to be there, this photo doesn’t do it justice. Here’s the Mona Lisa but she’s much smaller than you’d expect. . . ”

This is when you look up to see your friend’s eyes gloss over or start to check their watch. The photos don’t translate because the optics of the picture represents only the smallest part of what you hopefully experienced in the moment. Or which perhaps you didn’t experience . . .

Trying to capture any moment ironically prevents you from having it in the first place. It’s because you’re thinking about the future rather than experiencing the present. To really experience a moment requires a practiced presence with all of your senses. Your senses are an incredible tool for presence.

Photo permission by John Cottrell

Photo permission by John Cottrell

Without being present to the experience, when you’re back at home, looking at your dozen or so selfies with the Mona Lisa, you’ll have no connection to that moment. The photos will mean about as much to you as they would to your friend whom you abused with photos of your latte The photos won’t recall an experience you thought you had because you never really had the experience to begin with.

And this is getting a little Zen here, but since our identity is the product of our ability to pay attention, if you weren’t present with all of your senses, there was really no “you” to have the experience in the first place.

I’m just as guilty as the next guy of trying to capture the moment with a photo. But by bringing my unconscious actions to consciousness, I can deliberately make a choice to do something different.

So never take photos, right? Never post anything on social media? No, let’s not be luddites. But maybe try having the moment first, then if you want to, take a photo to remember a moment you truly experienced.

And sometimes, try allowing yourself to simply experience a moment without a camera. Soak it up and be 100% there by consciously involving all of your senses, raw and unfiltered.

Before there were cameras or smartphones, people had to use memories to recall experiences. Go old-school and create a real mental repository of experienced events. What did the light look like in the gallery? What does the smell of paint of canvas evoke to your imagination? What sounds did you hear in the gallery? What were the textures and temperatures you felt on your skin? How did it taste? And remember that if you try to taste the Mona Lisa you better be prepared to lose a tongue.

I realize that it’s a little glib to simply say simply, “be present.” But practices like yoga and meditation help us to establish presence as our default when we are having any experience, whether mundane or extraordinary. And with presence, even an otherwise mundane experience can prove to be extraordinary once your come senses alive.

Without presence, even the miraculous or priceless moments (read experiencing the Mona Lisa) will pass you by without leaving an impression. I’m thinking about those simple but perfect moments like hanging with our kids, focusing on good work, or experiencing live music, dance, or poetry. To receive the gift of these moments truly requires presence.

 

The immortal poet Rainer Maria Rilke speaks to being existentially destitute as the result of lack of presence in his rather stark poem, "Already The Ripening Barberries Are Red."

Rilke.jpg
Already the ripening barberries are red,
and the old asters hardly breathe in their beds.
Those who are not rich now as summer goes
will wait and wait and never be themselves.
Those who cannot quietly close their eyes,
certain that there is vision after vision
inside, simply waiting until nighttime
to rise all around them in the darkness
it’s all over for them, they feel old and tired.
Nothing else will come;
no more days will open,
and everything that does happen
will cheat them.
Even you, my God. And you are like a stone
that draws them daily deeper into the depths.

He’s saying that without presence, without any poetic imagination for things as they are or could be, you’ll never experience the heaven which is here. Indeed, he suggests that even the notion of God offering you a future heaven is itself like a stone drawing you deeper into the depths of hell, the product of unconsciousness.

I teach yoga for a living and sometimes in a yoga class, I see the fidgets, the distant stares, and the vacancy of someone whose mind is somewhere else. It happens to all of us sometime or other. Still, I want to say, “Come back. We’ve missed you. Be here now. Be there later.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Miyagi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Miyagi

When you sense you’re having an extraordinary moment, or hell in any moment, try closing your eyes and run through all of your senses for a minute or two. Then open your eyes and add the most dominant sense. Ask yourself, how does this make me feel? Truly involve all your senses to practice being completely present to the experience.

This might all sound like a Mr. Miyagi mantra and probably is. But hey, that dude could break boards with his forehead so that’s gotta count for something. Plus you can’t break boards with your forehead if your head is somewhere else.

This week, I invite you to practice being fully present in all your experiences whether mundane or extraordinary. Be completely present by using all your senses and truly experience the moment.

When that’s done, then you can take your selfie.

 

Have you had an experience like this? Have you ever tried to capture the moment and realized that by doing so, you actually lost the moment? Leave your comments below. 

Do you mind sharing this with a friend?


JOIN ME, ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT!

Learning My Calling

Search Previous Blog Posts

Yoga Teachers Workshop

In 2003, I had only been teaching yoga for a few years.

I was a new yoga teacher trying really, really hard to make my living by only teaching yoga. My skills were average, I didn't have many teaching gigs, and the ones I had didn't pay very well. I was in a bind because while I loved teaching yoga, I needed to provide for my family. I had to make a change.

So one evening after class, I announced to my students that sadly, I was going to have to quit this yoga thing and get a "real job."

After class, a student and friend named Cristy, approached me with tears in her eyes and pleaded with me, "you CAN'T quit! You do what you do so I can do what I do. I'm a mom of 4 kids under the age of 5 and I need you to teach yoga." This conversation would change my life. 

True, I needed to start earning a living, but my conversation with Cristy showed me just how important yoga is for people, that the world needs good yoga instruction. Suddenly, I felt as though the world was callingme to teach yoga. And while I didn't even know if one could support themselves on something like teaching yoga, I was going to give it a try. 

So, rather than quitting the yoga thing and finding a different job that would simply pay the bills, I decided to take a risk and go all in with yoga. And bit by bit, I started to get more teaching opportunities. The more I taught, the more skillful I became. It took a while, but eventually I was thrilled to be making a living by teaching yoga.

Norm Nemrow

Norm Nemrow

After a few years of teaching yoga full-time, I had learned those essential tools I needed to help me be a more effective teacher. The better I got at teaching, the more opportunities came my way. Eventually, I had more great-paying teaching opportunities than I could handle and had to give most of them away to other teachers!

It reminds me of something that Norm Nemrow, my favorite business prof in college told me. He gave me his simple formula for success:

Yoga Teachers Workshop

Interest breeds excellence. Excellence breeds opportunities. 

Certainly, I was experiencing the fulfillment of this promise. And all these years later, I'm still at it.

I'll never forget Cristy who reminded me how important yoga can be. I take that very seriously and endeavor to give my all in every class I teach. 

I believe that the world needs good yoga. I feel like teaching yoga is how I do my part to make the world a better place. I believe that when people are skillfully guided to to connect body, mind, and spirit through yoga, they can meet their personal conditions to do what they do to make the world a better place, be that being a mom, lawyer, doctor, Crusty the Clown, or whatever. 

Thank you to all of you who believe in me and have encouraged on this path. I truly love it!

I'm truly passionate about teaching yoga. If you are too, I'd love to continue to make the world a better place by helping other teachers learn what took me so long to learn about how to teach effectively and make a living doing so. 

I'm offering an online Yoga Teachers Workshop this Saturday. I'm doing it online and recording it so you can join from wherever you live and if you can't make the time work for you, you can watch it when is most convenient for you. 

Do you have a calling? Is it also to teach? If so, how did you know you were supposed to teach yoga. If not teaching yoga, how did you know the calling when you did? Leave messages in the comments section below. 

 

Join me for the yoga retreat of a lifetime along Southern Italy's Amalfi Coast May 26-June 2 2018.

3 Tools That Will Immediately Improve Your Yoga Teaching

Photo by David Newkirk

Photo by David Newkirk

The world needs good yoga teachers. I’ve been teaching yoga as a career for over 16 years and have logged more than 20,000 teaching hours. I will forever be a student both of yoga and the practice of teaching yoga and I suppose that I’ll always be learning how to be more effective.

Yet, through the trial and error of my own teaching, teaching dozens of teacher training programs, and by mentoring many other yoga teachers, I’ve learned volumes about what makes the difference between a so-so or less effective teacher and what makes a great teacher.

Here are three easy tools that I’ve seen help several teachers raise their effectiveness from so-so, to excellent. Try them on and see if they won’t immediately improve your teaching by helping your students respond to you better.

#1 Be Authentic


Great teachers don’t try to teach like their teachers or yoga idols, they integrate what they’ve learned and then teach from their own hearts. Being authentic in your teaching speaks to the yoga principle of Satya or Truth. If you are truthful in your teaching, your best friends and family will still recognize you while you’re teaching yoga. Know who you are and teach as that person.

Attend my Virtual Yoga Teachers Workshop: The Biz of Teaching Yoga, April 6, 2019 12–5 pm

And for Ganesh’s sake, ditch the overly-calm “Yoga Teacher” persona . . .  (I pause to retch). And if that’s the real way you talk, then you probably have a lucrative career recording the “Thank you for holding” message for banks. But if you’re not being you, your students will see through it before your first OM.

Authenticity wins over experience every time. Try starting class with what’s real for you in the moment. “Ok! I’m kinda new at this so I’m nervous as hell but I’m excited to be here so I’ll try to stay grounded in my body during class as I’m inviting you to do likewise.” Boom! If I was a student in a class and my teacher started out with that kind of honesty, they would instantly have my buy-in, despite their lack of experience.

#2 Look people in the face

Teaching yoga is a special opportunity to connect to people and connect them to themselves. Perhaps the most simple and direct way to connect to people is to look them in the face. As a yoga teacher, think of yourself as a conductor leading an orchestra which is celebrating breath and movement. Imagine an orchestra conductor, trying to unite the 100+ individual members of the orchestra into one collective voice but who couldn’t look the orchestra members in the face, or who swung their baton only toward the floor or the wall, or stood behind the musicians and directed only to people’s back. It just wouldn’t work.

It’s important for the teacher to get off the mat and own the space of the room—it’s part of the complex process of creating and managing the energy of the container. And as you move around the room, your students will both hear and feel your words more powerfully if you speak to their faces, even if they aren’t looking at you. Connection is an important reason for teaching yoga and looking people in the face makes that connection happen instantly.

#3 Speak to What People are Doing Well

Too often, teachers walk around like “Pose Police,” eager to write up asana infractions. Sure, teachers must make suggestions and corrections, but it’s more powerful and easier to connect to your students if you notice what’s happening well. One of your roles as a teacher is to witness. If you’re only witnessing the things that could be improved, it’s like a relationship partner who only mentions the things that bother them. No thanks!

Try using phrases like, “I notice how well everybody is breathing in class, that’s so important.” or “I can tell how present everybody is. Wow!” or “Great job with relaxing your neck in down dog.” For the few people who maybe could use a correction, they will likely take the cue from what you appreciate about the pose rather than only spouting off things to fix. People will leave class feeling like they are making progress in their practice and like you’re a teacher who sees them. You’ll earn their trust and their hearts.

Teaching yoga is a practice just like doing yoga. Try employing these few simple tools and notice how much more engaged you are as a teacher and how much more your students respond to you.

Of course this is just the beginning. If you are interested in improving your teaching with a one-on-one mentor program where we learn a full tool box of tools that will help leverage your personal gifts to become an outstanding and effective teacher, please check out my Yoga Mentor Program.