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Meeting Readers Where They’re At OR Why Corporate Yogis Don’t ‘OM.’

July 1, 2013

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Sitting on the dock of the bay with my lovely, old friend, Melanie Richards (founder of Montreal’s HappyTree Yoga), we got into an interesting discussion of the correlation between readers and yogis:

“You have to meet people where they’re at,” Mel says with her ethereal-yet-no-nonsense approach to life.
“What do you mean?”
“If somebody wants to do yoga because they heard they can get a better butt, or because they went to LuluLemon and don’t want to feel like a ‘poseur’ anymore, these are all good reasons to come to the studio. That’s what I mean by meeting people where they’re at. You can’t teach people what they’re not ready for.”

So I got to thinking about meeting some of my 50 Shades readers where they were at: I have some friends who really enjoyed the books, and so I decided to up their reading antes (most of whom used to love reading and just feel too intimidated to start it up again) by offering them a book with more substance and just as much juice.

The Chocolate Money has been a hit so far (I thoroughly enjoyed it as well); through telling the tantalizing story of a mentally ill, obscenely wealthy mother, readers are invited into a twisted, fantasy world that offers some good writing.

Done: they’re now ready for their next book.

So, when people disagree that ‘any type of reading’ doesn’t really count I would ask them to pause for a moment to use ‘any time of reading’ as a platform from which to build a different reading experience.

Mel continued to talk about how “some yoga has been stripped of the spirituality: you get the workout portion but not much else, which is ok, too. That was my entryway into my absolute thirst for yoga. When I started to outgrow that particular kind of yoga, my desire grew into wanting to try Ashtanga or Hatha.”

It didn’t matter why Mel started yoga, it only mattered how that came to deepen her practice.

When Connor Grennan, author of the hugely popular Little Princes – a book about his experience helping the lost children of Nepal – came to my school to give a talk, he caused quite the controversy when he claimed that he originally went to Nepal to try and impress girls when he got back home.

Some teachers felt it was sending the wrong message to the students.

My experience with my English classes indicated that by offering an honest portrayal of how his shallow, selfish reason to go abroad turned into an incredible life-altering journey for these children in Nepal and for Grennan himself – he provided an excellent role model on taking risks and doing some bonafide good.

He gave an example of one of his friends who happened to show up in a small village in Central America where he was travelling: someone’s child was quite sick and – in that moment – those parents didn’t care that this man was on this trip to ‘find himself’ but – rather – that in his pocket he kept the very valuable penicillin that ended up saving their child’s life.

I’ve gone on a little bit of a tangent here but stay with me. Back to Mel:

“The girls coming out of teacher training want to be perfect right away: I try to teach them that there are things as a teacher, and as a person, that I had to earn, that I continue to need to earn. In order to earn respect from others in my field, I had to earn it. And work hard. And I continue to work hard. You’re never done learning. The best teachers are the best students.”

It’s the same with reading. If you have the desire to improve your literary diet, it’s simple but requires consistency. And don’t tell yourself you’re not up to it.

Just like how I don’t let my personal view of a book get in the way of someone else’s great read, Mel sequences her classes:

“For corporate yoga, don’t ‘om.’ If you’re in your office space and you’re self-conscious and there’s a lot of taboo, with all different religions sitting together who signed up for yoga to work out and not as a path towards self-discovery, then if they get a little taste that piques their curiosity, I may see a few of them at the studio the following month. In Hatha, I introduce a prayer into the class since students are not surprised by it.”

Some readers just want to read 50 Shades and be left alone just like some people practicing yoga only want the workout benefit.

And that’s wonderful.

If, however, you are interested in challenging yourself by taking your literary, philanthropic or yogic practice to the next level, by putting in a little effort you reap a huge reward.

Mel went from starting yoga as a workout to participating in a 10-day silent mediation retreat. I’m not saying that you need to aim for Ulysses or that Mel doesn’t use yoga as a workout at times, but think of where a desire to learn can take you.

You’ve got to start somewhere. Don’t be hard on yourself because of your starting point.

I’m always here to help you with your next book.

So, take advantage of people like Mel –yogically speaking of course – and Grennan and countless others who came to a passion through ways that don’t really matter.

And take note of the journey.

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