I’m interested in people. It’s that interest that led me to study social anthropology – the study of human communities.
When I was in school, I remember leafing through the course calendar and asking myself, “Ok…which of these courses is going to be interesting enough to get me out of bed?” All of the courses I circled were offered by the same department: Sociology and Social Anthropology.
Sociology is more about numbers – quantitative research. I didn’t love those classes. In social anthropology, it’s about qualitative research. When I enrolled in those courses, I learned that my mind thrives off story-telling.
What I love about qualitative research is how it requires thorough observation as opposed to objective measurement. In order to study people effectively, I had to learn how to ask really good questions and listen carefully to answers. I couldn’t understand society from a spreadsheet – I needed to be in the world, talking to people and learning from their experiences.
My research looked at the role of mindfulness in sexual health education within the Shambhala Buddhist community of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was fascinating and took me through not only an undergrad degree, but also a Master’s thesis. I’ll tell you more about that another time…
My research taught me to be curious about the world around me. It showed me how everyone has a story, and that every story can tell us something about the communities in which we live and work.
How do you express curiosity? When you ask someone “What are you up to today?”, are you actually interested in their answer?
Do you ever assume that you already know everything you need to know about someone else? Or encounter someone so different than you that you can’t imagine even trying to get to know them?
I get it. I’ve been there.
Around the same time I was falling in love with social anthropology I was also being seduced by Ashtanga yoga.
The first yoga practice I ever walked into was an Ashtanga half primary class. From the get-go, I was enamoured. Something about it—the intensity, the challenge, the shapes, the way it made me feel—hooked me immediately. I was a goner.
In the early days of my relationship with Ashtanga, I was completely infatuated. The sweat…the deep breathing…the glistening muscles…the practice swept me up and before long it occupied the centre of my universe.
In the years that followed, I would watch more experienced students wind themselves into knots with such prowess I couldn’t help but want to be them. I revered my teachers, believing they had the answers to all my problems. I obsessed over getting each new pose, thinking that when I mastered them all I’d experience what’s it like to be…what? Happy? Invincible? Immortal? Was that what I was after in this photo? I don’t even know…
But one thing was for sure. When I was drinking the Ashtanga Kool-Aid morning, noon and night, I believed that everything about that practice wasright. I had no interest in venturing beyond my familiar Ashtanga community. The people who practiced alongside me became my friends and those who didn’t fell away into the backdrop of my life. All other forms of yoga fell short. Anyone who didn’t practice with the same intensity that we did just didn’t get it. I looked down on it all – Iyengar, yin, Anusara – they were all inferior. My path was the path to be on, and if you chose something else you obviously weren’t worth knowing.
I was listening to this podcast the other day about a reformed white nationalist and immediately saw the similarities…
I used to think Ashtanga was the superior race.
I didn’t recognize the need for diversity or variety.
I’d forgotten how others’ experiences are the gateway to understanding the big picture of this world we live in.
I had whittled that big picture down into one tiny bubble that revolved around a set sequence of postures. I became an Ashtanga Evangelist. Thank god my body finally broke down in rebellion. It had had enough. The Kool-Aid was toxic.
Getting injured prompted me to start asking questions.
I became a researcher again. I remembered how exploration can be way more fun than repetition.
I relinquished the rigidity in favour of resiliency.
The questioning hasn’t stopped and now I encourage others to do the same. I seek out the curious and nurture the shit out of them because those who are curious are going to generate change—they’re the ones who aren’t satisfied with simple, one-dimensional answers. They want more.
If reading that makes you jump up and down and yell “That’s me!!! I want more!!!!” then we should probably be working together.
If you’re in Toronto and you’ve already done another teacher training program (that in all likelihood fell short), you need to enroll in our Teachers Immersion Program. This is the perfect opportunity to experience the incubator of Detour training, but in a room full of experienced, DIVERSE learners. No tire-kickers. We start in September, so to make sure you’re in that room on day 1 click here.
If you’re not in Toronto, here are some other options:
– Find me in the UK. Next weekend’s workshop in Ireland is sold-out but you can still get in on the action in Cheltenham and Edinburgh.
– Apply for Mentorship. I’m taking on one more summer student and if that should be you, tell me why here
– Consider joining us in Costa Rica for a weeklong Detour journey in the jungle. We escape next February and spots are filling fast.
But more important than all of that is this:
I challenge you to be more curious. The next time you’re out for dinner with friends, dive beyond the surface conversation. Try something like:
What was the best part of your day today?
What’s the best thing you’ve read or listened to in the past week?
What’s part of your job do you enjoy most?
What are you most looking forward to right now?
If you were to move tomorrow, what would you miss most about home?
And because I’m curious about you, I welcome you to send me your answers to any of the above.
Or if you have questions about me, send away!
Here’s to embracing the anthropologist in all of us.
Yours in discovery,