A lesson from Gwyneth and Goop: Get quiet and go in.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner's New York Times profile of Gwyneth Paltrow and her $250-million company Goop created a reaction in me, and it seemed to do the same for other people. I got a bunch of texts about it, sent some of my own, and am now reading secondary pieces like this one in Medium.
To be clear, it's a discussion by white women about white women. The articles are not even inclusive; they are discussions coming from a place of privilege by almost all of us.
The subject matter -- what successful white women do with their ambition, education, desire, and power -- makes me think of the practice of yoga. It was white privilege that brought yoga to the United States and that popularized it into the multi-billion-dollar industry it is today.
Predictably, the practice of enlightenment has turned into a pursuit-and-purchase pastime, a consumption activity, a thing to check off your list. There's virtually no other way to do it than through the free market. You pay for a class, you pay for your yoga gear, you go to a yoga class this week or this month. Of course you feel better for a little while. This is good, this is OK. It's better than not doing it.
The issue is that all the chatter over whether Paltrow is right or wrong to peddle the healing power of frog venom -- or whether, for that matter, Ivanka Trump's newly shuttered retail business was ever profitable in the first place -- is just chatter. It's the same with yoga.
Yoga Journal defines a yoga practitioner someone who has attended a yoga class in the past six months. This is wrong. A person who has attended a yoga class in the past six months is a person interested in yoga, not a practitioner. A practitioner is someone who practices. You wouldn't call yourself a tennis player if you had taken one group lesson in the past six months. You wouldn't call yourself a skateboarder, a knitter, a hiker, or a breakdancer, if you took a group class of any of these skills twice in a year.
The yoga industry is promoting its own value, which is the only thing you do in a free market, and its power brokers have done us all a huge disservice. The only way you are a yoga practitioner is if you practice yoga. And the only way you practice yoga is if you go inside to plumb the depths of your own body and consciousness, under the regular guidance of a teacher, or regularly on your own. There are no shortcuts
And yet, progress can be swift and fruitful if you focus and are honest with yourself. The point is regular. It's practice. Practicing anything improves your skill at that thing. Importantly, practicing meditation, or yoga, or any mindfulness practice makes you more still and more aware of your reactions to anything, to everything. There is no substitute for awareness. No amount of chatter or reactions or reading articles will replace the sensation of contentment and freedom.
It strikes me that these stories over the past week of highly successful and born-privileged women, while interesting and thought-provoking, are just another installment in Reasons to Compare and Feel Inferior or Upset. They are, in fact, reasons from the outside to practice going inside.
Practicing going inside quiets all these words, all this noise. There's zero reason not to do so right now.