We all play the Wizard of Oz.

Insulate yourself from the world. Hide behind your curtain. Write, speak, draw, teach, play your way to something bigger than yourself and others will marvel. They will think you have it all together, which makes you feel like you do.

Then, you look sideways at someone else’s Wizard. Their plumes of smoke and fire are more elaborate than yours. Their following is larger; their craft, honed. You begin to doubt that you have it all together.

We Wizards — we have more in common than we know.

Tiny, inadequate, full of self-doubt, struggling to express the desire you feel deep inside. Nothing separates you from the people you admire — the people you think have it all together — because behind the curtain they’re just as vulnerable.

Last week, I was in Portland, Ore., for the World Domination Summit 2013, surrounded by 2,800 folks living remarkable lives in a conventional world. For the most part, I took a vacation from social media and email, favoring actual sightings of banana slugs and actual conversations with new friends.

It wasn’t until I was back at my job that I felt a deep sense of missing out. I was present every single moment of the conference, so how, in retrospect, did I “miss out” on so much?

Choosing to miss out

I used to feel like this every day of my life. That the choices I made for my career, where I lived and even the choice to get my littledog, left behind closed doors to so many other paths, all equally appealing yet not travelled.

One choice I have never regretted was getting my yoga teacher certification. I was fairly certain that I wanted to teach after the training. But my real motivation? I wanted to discipline myself to let go.

At the time, I was trying to escape depression and the scarred remnants of a failed relationship. Now, I know that I was trying to let go of the constant entrapment of choice.

To graduate, we had to teach our first yoga class to the community. In Winter 2009, I wrote out and painstakingly practiced my sequence more than any other class since.

A new me surfaced when I taught that first class. It didn’t matter that I flubbed left and right more than once. (Heck, I still do!)

“How do you feel?” my teacher asked me after I was done.

“Open. Somehow, more myself,” I replied.

“You have a presence, Caren,” she smiled, “and that’s not something that can be taught.”

Our most memorable moments of being are when we connect with each other. (tweety)

To do that, we must first connect with ourselves.

Pull back your curtain

When people have “presence” — evoking an unmistakable feeling of belongingness — it’s because they’ve connected. They’ve set an intention or said a prayer or figured out how to embody what it is to feel comfortably vulnerable.

They’ve stopped trying to be the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz. They’ve stepped out from behind the curtain, realizing that there’s no need for smoke and flames. In fact, that all those things do is get in the way of who they really are.

Yesterday, four years in the making, I returned to the same studio where I graduated from yoga teacher training. I taught a community class for free — seven yogis and yoginis all in their heads just like myself.

And so I asked them, “What if you believed that where you are right now is exactly where you need to be?”

I set an intention beforehand that I wanted to help just one person with this message. Guess what? I did.

So don’t look sideways*, unless you’re Toto and you see someone else’s feet behind the curtain (or practicing Revolved Triangle Pose.) Gently, with compassion, ask them to join you out in the open where it’s more vulnerable but a heck of a lot more fun.

We all fake it sometimes. Make your yoga mat one place where that never happens and soon you’ll find it never-happening in the world.

What would happen if today you let go of being something or someone you’re not?

 

Try it: Revolved Triangle Pose, Parivrtta Trikonasana

There’s no faking Revolved Triangle. When I first practiced this pose, I laughed at how difficult it was and how my body wouldn’t comply with the alignment. But such is the nature of moving your body (and mind) in ways it has never moved before.

First, the effort, then the ease — when you step out of your comfort zone.

  1. Standing at the top of your mat, bring your hands to your hips and step your right leg back three and a half feet. Align your heels, with the right toes pointed out 45 degrees to the side of the mat.
  2. Square your hips by drawing the right hip forward and left hip back. Lift the knee caps, firmly grounding into both feet. Exhale and hinge from the hips, reaching your right arm down on top of the left front foot. If it doesn’t make it (yet), rest the hand on the shin.
  3. Inhale and lift from the low belly, reaching the crown of the head forward. Exhale and twist the upper body toward the left thigh, keeping the sacrum and low back level. Again, anchor your legs into the ground, especially the back heel.
  4. On your next inhale, reach the left arm high, rolling the shoulder blades down the back. Keep the gaze straight forward or down to reduce strain in the neck. Use the right planted hand to steady yourself. Stay for three to six deep breaths.
  5. Unwind by bringing the hands to the hips, inhaling the torso to standing and stepping legs together at the top of the mat. Repeat with the left leg stepping back.

 

*”Don’t look sideways” found in Brian Seymour’s essay in Wisdom for a Young Musician