How to be cool

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:


A cartoon by Rob Pollak for Elephant Journal

 

A cartoon by Rob Pollak for Elephant Journal

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:

Rob and Anne Pollak

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How Yoga Cured My Anxiety, Laziness, and Intense Cynicism

Rob Pollak blog yoga picture Jamaice

(Here’s my latest for Elephant Journal: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/01/how-yoga-cured-my-anxiety-laziness-intense-cynicism-rob-pollak/)

Three small ways Yoga helped me set attainable new year’s resolutions.

Before we get started, there are three things you should probably know:

  1. My name is Rob (it’s nice to meet you);
  2. Elephant Journal recently asked me to be a recurring contributor (I said yes); and
  3. Today is January 11th (which, if you’re scoring at home, is a little late for a blog post about New Year’s resolutions).

Why do I care that you know three tidbits of information that on their face are completely uninteresting and mind-numbingly boring?

Because these three little statements represent a whole lot more. They represent a way for me to bring you inside this insane little head of mine. Only then can you start to understand how a few simple new year’s resolutions will help make 2013 epic, and how my new sense of yogic calm will provide me with tools to stick with them.

Resolutions used to be those stupid deals I made with myself at the beginning of the year but forgot by – oh, I don’t know – January 10th. But this year, when I say I’m bringing a yogic calm to my resolutions, what I mean is that I plan to do things that are meaningful to me, but also attainable. It means stepping out of my comfort zone but not so far that my goals become derailed by those inevitable little slip ups.

To start the year on the right foot, I’m throwing my old resolutions out the window.

Good bye, “lose 100 pounds.”

See ya later, “eat healthy.”

Suck it, “read the newspaper every day.”

Rot in hell “quit watching reruns of The Biggest Loser while binging on a scoop bowl pint gallon of Haagen Dazs” (Note – I didn’t even have to look up the spelling of that. Terrifying!).

This year, My resolutions all help make me a little more pleasant to be around. You’re welcome world!

Here are three of the goals that I’ve set and how I hope to meet them.

Resolution 1: Introduce myself more.

I sometimes describe myself as an outgoing introvert. When I feel comfortable in an environment, I don’t shut up. I’ll annoy you until you hate me. Kind of like I’m doing right now. Then, I’ll try so hard to win you over that eventually you’ll come around and start rooting for me. I’m like the kid from the movie Rudy — except without determination, athletic ability, or an overly jowl-y smile. My mixed level of confidence was apparent from a very young age:

Rob Pollak as a fat kid in a blazer on his birthdayBut the truth is that despite that outgoing bravado, on the inside I am anxious and meek when confronted with a new group of people. I hope and pray that someone else will step up and take that first step of introduction.

Practicing yoga helped me realize this trait. When I first went to classes, I’d huddle in the back of the room, timidly balled up in the corner. There, I’d hope that the teachers would introduce themselves to me and relieve my nervousness. With my big ol’ belly, a cotton shirt, and a puddle of sweat at my feet, I felt like an outsider to the Lululemon catalogue occupying the other mats in the room.

But that’s a pretty bad way of living Who wants to talk to a timid sweatball? Exactly!

So I resolved to get better at introductions. You can’t introduce yourself to someone if you’re shy or timid. It might mean faking it, or playing out the conversation 1400 times in my head before it happens, but chances are, other people hate introductions too. By stepping up and taking initiative, I can not only make my life better, but I can also relive the anxiety and lameness of others.

Resolution 2: Say yes to more things.

A few ways I have been described:

  • Cynical
  • a hater
  • Mr. negative
  • Mr. negativity
  • Senor Negativo
  • super lame
  • annoying
  • annoyed
  • an a$$hole
  • Pessimistic
  • a glass half empty kind of guy
  • a glass totally empty kind of guy
  • a glassless guy
  • pudgy
  • A fun-hater
  • a mega-fun-hater
  • handsome.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, sometimes I have a bad attitude:

Picture of Rob Pollak looking annoyed - yoga post

Well that’s all about to change! It’s time to get over those fun-hating, lazy, anxious ways. The anticipation of doing things is often worse than the actual doing of those things.

One way to get over my anxiety is to just start saying yes to more challenges and opportunities. By being more agreeable, I hope that taking possibilities into my own hands and trying to not let great opportunities slip through the cracks.

This actually reminds me of a yoga teacher who once shared an amazing inspirational quote. It was perfectly on point about this topic and completely changed my life and outlook on the world. If I remembered it, I would totally share it with you right now.

Oh! Got it:

“Every time an opportunity presents itself, take it; Otherwise, greatness will pass you by.”

– Some Famous Yoga Philospher

Okay, fine. I just made that up. But aren’t those great words to live by? I say yes.

Resolution 3: Commit to things and then finish them.

[note to self – insert paragraph explaining how I want to get better at finishing things that I commit to].