I am on the plane to Seattle and finishing Blake Mycoskie’s amazing book Start Something that Matters. I have been wearing TOMS shoes for two years now and go through pairs rapidly as tends to be pattern with shoes (I have New Yorker feet – I walk hard on pavement and usually wear the same pair until they deteriorate).
I found out about this book via yogapreneur (oh, hay, I can’t believe I just made up that title) Kimberly Wilson’s blog and it’s been on my Shelfari for a few months now. Finally, I ordered it on Kindle for iPhone and have been so hooked. Like, I haven’t been this hooked on a book since I finished the vampire-novel-for-academics-and-yogis A Discovery of Witches. And that was fiction!
But the TOMS story may as well be fiction for how gripping it is. It is all about giving. It is inspiring and awesome and preaching to my heart right now.
On Thursday, I went to hear and meet Donna Karan at the 92nd St Y (where I first started my yoga practice, by the way). I went backstage to meet this terrific woman, who started the Urban Zen Foundation (post to come!) and intended to just put my name out there for a summer internship. But, when I told her I was a yoga teacher, she basically screamed, “Then you should teach with us in Haiti!”
It sounded so right, to teach yoga in Haiti, and it was something I didn’t think of before. You see, I have to make money this summer because college + further yoga teacher trainings = muy expensivo, and this winter break, I have been getting a bit disheartened by feeling like I have to choose money over giving. There are so many organizations I would love to volunteer for, but they just don’t pay.
Mycoskie, with the beloved TOMS shoes, views this as a core issue with a pivotal solution that our society faces today. We should not have to wait until we make enough money to be able to give back. We should be able to give and get in tandem. This is certainly how I view my yoga practice and yoga teaching. I practice to teach and teach because I practice. I want to get to give and to give because I get.
TOMS does this – and, side note, I want to put out into the universe that I would love to teach yoga at the TOMS headquarters for that staff one day – by combining philanthropy and business and making those two components interdependent. It’s sheer brilliance. I am in love with these ideas.
The final chapter got me thinking about the times when I played a part in giving in a group, in giving purely, and in giving with so much freaking joy.
It was during my yoga teacher training. The women and man in that training still teach me what it means to show up for my peers with an open heart and through pooling everyone’s limited resources, in order to create an abundance of resources.
Pat teaches elementary school kids and provided yoga instruction during recess…outside, in the yard. Major issue: these kids were basically practicing on concrete because they didn’t have mats. So, an email went out asking if any of us had extra mats. We were training to be yoga teachers, for Goddess’s sake - of course we had extra mats! So, that weekend, we came early, brought the mats, blasted music, and, when Pat entered, presented them to her one by one. The process was so simple, so easy, didn’t cost us anything, but the rewarding look of surprise on Pat’s face was worth a million.
We did something like this again at the end of the training. The Yoga Collective was brand new. We had a huge book list of recommended reading and five required texts for the training. Books are expensive, especially yoga books, so we circulated the titles between us, but it wasn’t easy for us all to get our reading done on time because of the limited resources. Then, Laine had an idea: to create a surprise lending library for the director. So, people donated what they were comfortable donating and Laine ordered the books on Amazon. Now, when I teach at the Collective, I can just pull a book off the shelf for the dharma talk and future trainees don’t have to worry about scraping together the funds for their book list.
What strikes me about these personal examples and the examples Mycoskie provides is that they are simple, don’t involve a lot of effort, bring tremendous sustainable rewards, and can be done anywhere, anytime, by anyone with any amount of resources.
So maybe I will teach yoga in Haiti this summer. Maybe I’ll have an internship where I can find more creative and less obvious ways of giving. Who knows? But what Start Something that Matters gives me is confidence of happy progress into a future of giving.
To finish this post off, I will leave you with a quote from that last chapter:
“You owe it to the world to act.”