One of the benefits (and challenges) of our project is the opportunity to step out of our daily roles, separating ourselves from the supports and constraints that may be essential to our every day success but also constrain how we see and interact with the world around us. Some of the steps have been very visible: the blood rush excitement of riding an auto rickshaw; crossing the street through the whirling swarm of cars, motorcycles, cyclists and autos; the food, hot, frequent and fulsome; the depth of understanding that comes with working together in a small space rather than the distracted , fragmented chatter of email, text and instant messaging.
Other steps have been more subtle. Adapting to the subtleties of communicating in another culture, the nuances of understanding and agreement. A growing appreciation of how different life is outside of the bubble of our hotel. A deepening appreciation of the incredible value of things we take for granted such as the ready supply of clean water.
This morning, two of our number took another , tentative, step out of our normal selves with the aid of a local Yoga instructor. Just after dawn , in a small park by the local mosque, we sat on the grass and began a journey of self awareness, oblivious to the awakening bustle of the city around us. Despite a slightly painful recognition of our own physical inflexibility, we relaxed our bodies and our minds,becoming more aware of how our mental and physical states interact.
Our instructor talked about how changing our breathing would help us focus on whatever task we needed to perform that day, how a particular “asana” would sharpen our attention and help us be more productive and confident. While open to the idea in principle, I did not appreciate how immediate the impact might be until our group assembled for the first working session of the day.
Perhaps our first step was not quite so small after all.