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How to be cool (Reposted from Elephant Journal)
I just want to be cool.
That emotional craving guided my life for many years. Only recently did I learn the truth. For all those years, I was doing it wrong. The desire to be cool was actually the thing making me uncool.
Yoga changed that. Through the practice of yoga, I learned that most people—including this guy—do the opposite of what we really want to do. Okay, you caught me. Maybe I’m giving too much credit to yoga. I first learned it from an episode of Seinfeld (My name is George, I’m unemployed, and I live with my parents), but it sunk in when I started to practice yoga.
Let me break it down with an example.
While on this quest for coolness, I imagined what a cool person would do if confronted with my specific situation. Like if I was at a wedding and the photographer said, “do something crazy!” I’d think really hard about how to look cool while “going crazy,” hemming and hawing between options: Should I give the West Coast Rap Sign or the Backwards Peace Sign? Do those U.S. Weekly people really say “prune” right before a picture? Is my left or right side the less pudgy one? If I jump in the air, will everyone jump higher than I do? Won’t that look lame?
It’s impossible to look cool after that much thought. The end result was photos like this:
Who looks like the asshole in the second picture? The people jumping up and down, making stupid faces? Or the one schmuck with his shoulders scrunched up to his ears and his hands in his pockets?
In other words, I tried to look cool by not looking uncool, a strategy which actually made me look the least cool of all. Those who did whatever they wanted looked the best. But why? Rumi said it best:
“When you do things from your soul, other people totally dig that shit.”
When we do things to protect ourselves, we wind up with the exact consequences we tried to avoid in the first place.
Don’t believe me?
Did you ever procrastinate because you didn’t want to screw a project up? Then at the last minute, you were forced to half-ass it just to get it done on time? And the work wasn’t your best? So something got screwed up? And you were all, “Whatever dude, I didn’t put in a full effort anyway.” That’s what I’m talking about.
What is it about yoga that made me realize I was doing it wrong? For one thing, when I first tried yoga, I immediately felt like an outlier. And not in the Malcolm Gladwell, you’re going to do 10,000 hours of hard work and end up as the best yogi of all time, outlier kind of way. More in the Ugly Duckling way. I was the sweatiest, chubbiest, manliest, hairiest, stiffest, anxious-est person in the room, and I was convinced that everyone was looking at me and judging me.
That self-image was a lot of baggage to take into the yoga room, and I struggled to feel comfortable in my skin—my sweaty pale skin. But after awhile, I just stopped caring. I can’t pinpoint exactly when or how it happened, but it absolutely happened.
One day, I no longer cared that a small puddle of sweat would start to accumulate in front of my mat and forge a stream towards my neighbors mat. Instead, I started to see that disgusting sweat river as a sign of triumph, and root for it to infiltrate her $110 Lululemon pants. Actually, that’s a terrible example. Sweat rivers are disgusting.
Regardless, yoga taught me how to be aware of my emotions, creating a mindset that carried off the yoga mat and bled into the rest of my life. I started to care less about what you assholes think of me. And once I stopped caring what other people think, I became the coolest guy in the whole world, unafraid to take pictures like this:
It might be time to leave BigLaw if….
…although it’s 8 degrees outside, you stopped wearing a coat so you can pretend you’re heading down to the cafeteria when you’re actually going home for the night.
…you wear the same pants every day for a month, but it goes unnoticed because all your friends are sitting in their own offices with the doors closed.
…you’re the person on the elevator who says, “What is this, the local?”
…you’re jealous of people with two computer monitors because they can review documents and watch Hulu at the same time.
…rather than explain a mistake to a junior attorney, you redo the work yourself and never work with or speak to that attorney again.
…you have a speakerphone conversation with the person in the office next to you and can hear the echo of your own voice.
1. There’s no cure for a hangover, but good Lo Mein comes damn close.
2. There are three things that are always worth the money: International travel, excellent food, and Blu Rays.
3. When you make a list of thirty-five things, don’t number the items until you’ve finished the whole list. That way, when you’re editing your list and realize number three is stupid, you don’t have to make up some ridiculous lesson to avoid renumbering the whole thing.
4. No matter how much your parents annoy you, piss you off, yell at you, or tell you that you need to wait before hitting your driver (even though the group in front of you is 400 yards away), they do it because they love you and want the best for you. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but it’s true. Take a step back to see things from their perspective. It may help you appreciate why they do all that annoying shit.
5. When you get good service, tip more than expected. The few extra dollars won’t kill you and will mean a lot to the person who provided the excellent service.
6. Stop being scared. If there’s something you want to do but aren’t doing because you’re scared, suck it up and do it. The only things in life to truly fear are (a) stepping in dog shit, and (b) asking the one question that makes a public speaker take back the claim that “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”
7. When you find a blog you like (like this one) go out of your way to tell the person (genius) that writes it (me) how great (best thing in the entire world) it is. Share the content with your closest friends (the whole world). You may think you’re being stalkerish (you probably are) by reading something that you think isn’t aimed at you (it probably wasn’t). But if someone took the time to create something and put it on the web, it’s because that person is an attention whore (and he will be happy to hear from you regardless of his initial intent). And attention whores crave lots of attention (from anyone). To be helpful, I drafted a template for you in case you decide to follow my advice:
I know we last spoke at Hebrew camp in 1991, but I have been enjoying your blog since we reconnected when you spammed my facebook page. I especially liked your post about when lawyers can go home. You have an excellent command of logic and the handwriting of an armless nine-year-old blind child. I wish there were more people like you in the world. You also look trimmer than you did when you were 13. Well done! How did you manage to trick a beautiful intelligent woman into marrying you? I never would have expected that from you. I remember a time when you refused to play on the skins team in a shirts vs skins basketball game. Boy were you fat. I wish you well in the future. Here’s a few dollars. Buy yourself something nice. I learned about the importance of tipping from your blog.
8. Don’t believe anything the Mayans say. They keep predicting the end of the world, but they never get it right. I wish they would just go away already.
9. Anything that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do together is funny. Women are funny. Deal with it old men. Here’s my favorite:
10. Three things that are never worth it: (a) Holding grudges, (b) extended warranties, and (c) super-sizing your meal.
11. Nothing good ever comes from drinking a beverage with an ä in its name.
12. Don’t be scared to request the vacation time you’re entitled to at work. Other people will tell you the “right way to go about vacation time.” Those people are assholes. If you’re in a job that doesn’t let you go on vacation, that job is stupid and you’ll burn yourself out. Vacation refreshes you to go back and do a good job. At least for the first 3-4 hours after it ends. Then you need another vacation on the books so you have something to look forward to.
13. Coleslaw is disgusting. Mistrust anyone who likes it. Unless it’s vinegar-based and atop a pulled pork sandwich. Then it’s majestic.
14. Be wary of anyone who likes some combination of the following teams: Lakers, Cowboys, Yankees, and Notre Dame.
15. Stop hating the foods you’ve hated since you were a kid. You might surprise yourself and find out that brussel sprouts are really good now. Most restaurants put bacon in them.
16. After two weeks of pure torture, exercise becomes amazing. If you don’t exercise now, commit for two weeks. Suck it up. Force yourself to do it. Whatever it takes. If at the end of two weeks, you don’t feel the pull to keep it up, then you can stop. But after one day of stopping, at least try to force yourself to do another two weeks. Keep repeating this until you realize how amazing you feel. If you don’t feel amazing after three tries, then stop eating all that fast food, idiot.
17. If you want to be a news anchor, realize that you have to spend years and years reporting from the coastline during natural disasters. Ask yourself: is it worth it?
18. Never set out to make a list of 35 things without thinking it through first. Thirty five is a lot. Even more than you think. By the time you get half way, you’ll probably regret your decision.
19. Have you ever seen a piece of fruit the color of a Maraschino cherry? That’s why you shouldn’t eat them.
20. Have you ever eaten a Maraschino cherry? They’re amazing. Sometimes just trust your instincts even though you know the consequences.
21. The Cosby Show holds up better than Seinfeld.
22. Proofread everything on more time than you think you have too.
23. If you do anything because you want other people to think you’re cool, stop doing that thing. That makes you a poser. Do things because you like to do them. That makes you interesting and awesome.
24. Trust your own taste in music, movies, and beer. Even though people will make fun of you for liking 4 non blondes, you still know What’s Up.
25. Resist the urge to Google the answer to every question. Yes, there is an objective answer to the question on Google, but sometimes it’s more fun to just see how it plays out. I know this because I always Google, and everyone hates me.
26. Say “yes” to pretty much any request, especially when it’s something easy like seeing a movie, attending a wedding, or supporting a friend. Your friends will appreciate you, your life experience will increase, and your comfort zone will continue to expand.
27. Make a prank call at least once a year.
27a. If you are the recipient of a prank call, laugh it off. No one likes the guy who thinks he’s above a little humor:
28. If a particular food gives you diarrhea, don’t ever eat that food again. No matter how good it tastes (the food, not the diarrhea).
29. Always give directions to those who ask or who look like they might need directions. If you have a few extra minutes, walk them to the destination and pretend you’re a college tour guide.
30. Try meditation. I thought it was stupid for the longest time. It can do amazing things if you give it a chance. If you think it’s stupid, you probably don’t know what it is. It can have nothing to do with religion or spirituality if that’s what you’re scared of.
31. People older than you don’t have it all figured out. They may speak with authority, but they mostly make it up just like you do. Most of them are full of shit. That said, listen to their advice. There’s a lot of wisdom in that shit.
32. The following things are fake: (a) emails from Nigerian princes, (b) the four hour work week, (c) Lance Armstrong, and (d) those funny autocorrects you read about on the internet.
33. Ignore the instructions on everything except crazy glue, hot sauce, and power tools.
34. If you can run three miles, you can run six miles. You may not think you can, and it may be painful and miserable, but you can 100 percent do it.
35. No matter how wise it seems, don’t trust any advice you get from the Internet.
Are you thinking about hitting up your first yoga class?
If so, then you’ve probably spent a good deal of time researching what to expect. In fact, I’d guess that before reading this, you just read fifteen identical articles by someone with a name like “Blissful Yogini.” Congratulations! Now you know to “Drink water!” and “Breathe!” Did those tips set your mind at ease about what to expect in your first class?
Well, if your brain is anything close to the train wreck happening between my ears, chances are those articles just made you feel more anxious.
So, I’m here to break it down for you. Based entirely on personal experience (which I have embellished for dramatic purposes), here’s a rundown of what you can realistically expect at your first yoga class.
When you walk into the room, you’ll be freaked out. A number of people will have already set up their mats. Most likely, these “regulars” claim the same spot at that class every time it is offered. Look for spots on the floor that have been “marked” by regular’s sweat. Steer clear of those locations. Whatever you do, don’t look a regular in the eyes – it may be wrongly perceived as a territory grab.
For your first class, It’s best to arrive between 4 and 7 minutes prior to the beginning of class. That way, the neurotic regulars will have already set out their mats, but the haggard late arrivers will not yet have started to trickle in.
Where to set up your mat
I recommend grabbing a spot as far in the back left or right corner as possible.
You will inevitably think that everyone in the class will stare at you and judge you while you’re doing yoga. That’s not true: Only some of the people will be doing that.
Setting up in the back allows you to see what other people are doing most of the time. You will think that it will also make you invisible to the rest of the class, but it won’t. Remember that half the time the class will have their heads buried between their legs or will be in some weird twist that allows them to make direct eye contact with you. Try your best to avoid feeling self-conscious when everyone in the room is looking in the general direction of the midsection bulge that makes you feel badly about yourself. Everyone is too self involved to notice.
Before Class Starts
In general, people sit quietly before class starts. Other articles will tell you that this is a good time to sit mindfully and think about the events that are about to transpire. In actuality, this time should be spent trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone else in class. This is particularly difficult when there is a mirror in the front of the room. Just stare blatantly at others only until they’re just about to catch your gaze, then quickly avert your eyes.
Meanwhile, you may notice that a few of the regulars (particularly the older ones) will be “warming up.” A proper warmup consists of 3-5 minutes dedicated to dry humping the yoga mat. Although it will be difficult, try not to react to the audible moans or mmmmmms that they emit while in a warm up. Those sounds are totally normal. Actually, they’re not normal. They’re totally tolerated.
Gender Specific Advice
A brief side note for the guys: Being surrounded by attractive women in yoga pants is an enormous benefit to this form of exercise. Don’t screw it up by gawking. There will be plenty of opportunities for a little peek during class. But be discreet so you don’t Eff it up for everyone else.
A brief note for the ladies: You know those purple yoga pants you wear? Well, they become see through when stretched in a certain way. Like totally completely transparent. Thought you might want to know. Nice thong by the way.
The Beginning of Class
Eventually, the teacher will enter the room. If you aren’t sure if the teacher has arrived, wait to see if a regular has jumped up to enthusiastically hug someone. That’s the teacher. Most likely, their friendship is entirely one-sided, but just forget I mentioned that when you become a regular yourself.
Many classes begin with the teacher asking you to come to a comfortable seat. Note that by “comfortable” the teacher really means that you should sit with a completely erect back, your legs crossed in an unnatural way, your shoulders pulled back, your chin slightly protruding up, and your hands resting awkwardly on your thighs. It is not only completely not comfortable, but also painful.
You may be asked to close your eyes and look within yourself. For the first six months of my yoga practice, I used this time to awkwardly gaze around the room and ask myself, “what the hell am I doing here?” You may catch eyes with the other person who is incapable of closing his eyes. If that occurs, immediately close your eyes and pretend like it never happened.
Once class gets underway, the teacher will guide you through various poses. Sometimes, these will be called out in Sanskrit. You will have no idea what is happening. Just look around and do what everyone else does. For reference, I’ve put together a chart of poses that you’re likely to encounter during your first class:
During these poses, the teacher will be instructing you on how to breathe. Things like “Breathe in” – pause – “Breathe out” – pause. These instructions in no way mirror the actuality of your breath. For each “breathe in” instruction, I typically have 7-10 in breaths and 3-5 out breath gasps.
The final pose
The final pose is called Shavasana. You lie on your back like a corpse and rest. Of all the things you’ve done during your first class, none will make you feel more like an idiot than lying on the floor and resting. The teacher will explain the purpose of this pose and instruct you to try to stop thinking about all the anxieties that you have in life. This instruction will call all those anxieties, which you had not been thinking about until that very moment, to the forefront of your attention. You may get angry and frustrated. You’ll wonder how long you could possibly have to lie there. You will hate yoga. You will try to look at the clock. And then, for one brief second, you’ll get it. Something incredible will happen and you will feel rested and amazing and about ready to succumb to the belief that there is something greater in the world.
At that very moment, the teacher will call you back to attention and tell you to sit up. A second later, you will forget the revelation that you just had. You will be frustrated.
But at the end of class, when you stand up, a bit of that feeling will return. You won’t know what exactly just happened to you or understand why, but you’ll feel taller, smarter, more self aware, stronger, thinner, fitter, healthier, heartier, more loving, funnier, and confident. Congratulations, you’re now a yogi.