2002. Mexican riviera. I’m sweating, almost violently…
Barefoot in the middle of a tiled, thatched-roof palapa feet from the rolling surf. I’m there with yoga wunderkind, Baron Baptiste, famed kirtan singer, Krisha Das, aka KD, and 100 sweaty humans training to become yoga teachers.
We practice. We teach. We move. We twist. We grind. We stretch. We shake.
Until we can no longer move.
My head is pounding. Fruit is abundant. But all I want is caffeine. And a fan.
On the last day, something’s different. Baptiste begins to call postures. Minutes in, his number two takes over the call. Updog. Down dog. Fingers wide. Palms kiss the mat. He tags number three, who takes us through the next Sun Salutation.
I see the pattern and know what’s coming. Three others on his team take the teaching baton as we flow, a hundred nubile bodies, pose-by-pose through the soupy morning.
Baron steps in to lead us again. But I’ve done the math.
Ninety minutes remain. Who will lead?
I stand in Namaskar. Mountain Pose, erect at the mat’s edge.
Hands in prayer as the Universe sweats through me.
I look at Baron. I want to go first.
His eyes catch mine. He smiles. Nods.
I step off my mat and begin to stalk the room.
Inhale, I incant. The next few minutes are surreal.
I’ve never led a group this size though anything quite like this. I’m overwhelmed. I’m new at this. But I own my own studio back home. Damned if I’m not already good. Better than most. Or so I think.
I finish the sequence and step back to my mat.
“Less show,” he says, “more soul.”
Then calls the next sacrifice.
I’m pissed. It would take years for me to own the truth of his words.
Show is soul’s cover-up.
It’s been a lesson hard learned.
So much bravado. So much posturing. Positioning. All to distract from the simple fact that you really don’t quite know who you are. Or what you’re doing. And the last thing you want is for others to know, too.
So, you put on a show. And it brings in an audience.
But an audience is not a community. Nor a business. Nor a tribe.
An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.
I see a lot of show in the online and entrepreneurial worlds these days. Especially in video and copy. So much bravado. So much blatantly fierce language and sound and movement and imagery. Sometimes I buy it. Most times I don’t. What the “creator” offers as a mechanism to attract attention and build connection becomes something that shines bright, then gets old fast. Eventually, people feel the disconnect.
To this day, I continue to struggle with the dance between show and craft.
I know how to engage and entertain. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, adding the element of theater can be incredibly powerful. Provided, it’s built on top of craft and impact, rather than as a distraction from an inability to deliver the same.
So when I default to the mode that tends to come easiest to me, I increasingly find myself asking “to what end?”
Sometimes I’m good with the answer. Sometimes not.
But at least I’ve gotten more into the habit of asking the question.
What need is the show serving? What work, if any, is it keeping me from?
Is it stopping me from, or enabling me to serve better?
What about you?
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