Selfishness for Selflessness (and an interview with Brian Filon)

What is our yoga practice for? Do we engage in this practice to make our body feel good? Is it for mental clarity? Is it a selfish practice, one that takes time away from the outside world, so that we may focus on our internal landscape? Is it for the good of others? My answer to these questions is yes, it is for these things, and for so much more.

The practice cultivates mental and physical flexibility and a heightened awareness of the ways that we are deeply inflexible; it breaks through physical and mental limitations and also reveals the places that our limitations are ingrained and perhaps necessary; the practice provides relief from stress, from aches and pains, from the strain of a life on the go. Making a decision to stick with this practice, even when times are difficult, when life is stressful and busy, when finances are tight and when friends and loved ones question the validity of our commitment, is paramount on the path of self discovery. This kind of selfishness (or perhaps self preservation might better describe) leads to selflessness. It leads to the sort of selflessness that grows out of a place of awareness about the needs of others and from a heightened desire to create something unified in the world around us. Often as we sustain the practice, we discover that it is the practice that is really sustaining us, and that with it, we have the ability to sustain much around us.

I asked Brian Filon, a student who has been practicing at Jala since last spring, if I could feature him in the latest verbal flow and he kindly agreed. Brian’s practice began out of a desire to focus on his physical health after discovering he had high blood pressure. However, his practice has sustained him in ways that he’d not expected. During the trials of graduating college, searching for a job and preparing for a move, it’s been his yoga practice that has remained steady and constant for Brian. Both the physical practice at Jala and his personal practice with pranayama have supported him at this time in his life.

After starting his practice at the Shepherd Wellness Center, Brian discovered Jala and says, “immediately began taking as many classes as [he] could fit in his schedule.” Brian moved to Shepherdstown to pursue a change of career and the College Student Development at Shepherd University. He decided first to visit the town to see if it was right for him, and says, “Within hours of visiting Shepherdstown I was in love. Shepherdstown’s charm and beauty immediately rubbed off on me. Everyone here was so welcoming, there were great restaurants with healthy options on every menu; the community seemed very progressive, it’s dog friendly, there’s a great local music and art scene. I mean really, what’s not to love about Shepherdstown?”

However, the perfect job didn’t just line itself up after graduation. Brian says, “I graduated in May ’13 with an MA in College Student Development and shortly after accepted a temporary position at a local online university. After starting I was told that a position might be opening up and it was mine if I wanted it. I jumped at the chance and said yes. Unfortunately, the position never materialized and it was back to the drawing board. There were two things about my job search that drove me crazy. First, the sheer number of resumes/applications I had to fill out. Before landing in my current position I estimate that I applied easily for 100 or more positions. The amount of redundancy when applying started to take its toll. Most employers ask for your resume then ask you to input that information onto a separate application form. It started to become increasingly tedious. My second least favorite part about job searching is the waiting game. I was fortunate enough to start landing interviews shortly after I really focused on applying for jobs. However, after those interviews I would typically wait weeks, or even a month or more, to hear back from the employers. The constant feeling of not knowing really took a toll on my nerves. Tom Petty said it best, the waiting really is the hardest part.”

What kept him going, in part, was his yoga practice. Brian continued to practice throughout this time of uncertainty and says, “Yoga helped me through my job search in a number of ways. I relied on yoga on the days where my fears about the future were really starting to get to me. Just going to class would take my mind off of the job search and allow me to focus on something else, I always left yoga feeling more calm and grounded then when I went in. I also notice a difference in my mood when I practice regularly. I feel more balanced emotionally if I practice at least a couple times a week. My practice helped me stay focused and balanced and allowed me to stay centered on some of my most difficult days. One of the most helpful things I picked up from my practice is all the breath work associated with yoga. A few of the techniques I learned in class I would practice before going in for interviews to help keep me calm and settle my nerves.”

And it’s paid off: two weeks ago Brian accepted a position working at Tufts University with their PhD students on their Boston campus. He’s packing up to move onto this new adventure, but says of Jala, his first studio, “All of the teachers and fellow students here were very welcoming and the classes were challenging and had the variety I was looking for. I have made some really great friends at Jala and will definitely miss them on my journey to Boston.”

Brian has been a healthy and beloved part of our community. Now, having reached one of his goals, we celebrate his success and his attention to his practice during the bumps on the path. I am certain that Brian would agree, it is not selfish to allow the practice to sustain us so that we can sustain so much more.