Sunday, August 22, 2010

A dad's yoga lessons

We have many teachers in our lives, and often the most influential (and most overlooked) are our parents.

Though my dad may not tell people he does “yoga,” he is a yogi by my standards. He starts every morning with mindful exercises and a jog. He is disciplined. He works hard. He is compassionate. He eats healthily. He cares about the environment. Plus, he can do a pretty awesome handstand for a 63 year old!!! Check this out: 
He also just published a book (Shooting in the Wild: An Insider's Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom) about the yogic principle of ahimsa (non-violence), though he doesn’t use that word. He writes about how through the process of educating people on important environmental issues, we can unintentionally tread a path of abuse, harm, and unethical behavior. And of course, this is not unique to his industry of environmental filmmaking – many industries cause harm in the hopes of creating benefit (i.e. food industry, pharmaceutical industry).

I never realized this before, but my dad has actually taught me a lot of yoga. I decided to ask him some questions I’ve never asked him before:

1. Who are your greatest mentors on non-violence and why?
Gandhi because he was extraordinarily fearless in confronting violence with non-violence. And Congressman John Lewis because again he was incredibly brave when it come to facing down the vicious and violent tactics of the racist police departments in the segregated south.
2. What are 3 things people can do right now to minimize the harm we cause the environment?
Stop eating meat. Buy organic fruits and vegetables. Live modestly and without ostentation.
3. What are some of your daily habits and routines that help keep you focused on your goals and purpose?
I assiduously follow my Personal Mission Statement. I exercise daily for at least an hour, including standing on my hands for one or two minutes. I plan my day meticulously and always work on paper (not in my head). I never drink alcohol and like to live ascetically, simply, and with intentionality. My diet is vegetarian with lots of fruit and vegetables. I virtually never watch television. I love smiling, laughing, being funny, and greeting everyone I meet with great warmth.
4. What is the key to achieving happiness, success and fulfillment?
Devote your life to helping solve one of society’s great problems (for example, environmental degradation, poverty, child abuse, and prejudice against women) so that your life has purpose, direction, and meaning.
5. What are some things you do to stay healthy while traveling?
I exercise daily when travelling (including swimming if the hotel has a pool), never waste time in the plane watching movies (instead I read), avoid any foods that might upset my stomach (including coffee), eat black or white bean soup whenever I can get it, stay closely connected with my wife and three daughters by phone and e-mail, and keep careful track of my commitments so I build a deep trust with my colleagues and friends.
6. What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is failing to achieve my goals as described in my Personal Mission Statement, and thereby dying with remorse, regrets, and disappointments.
7. If you could tell a room of 10,000 young adults one piece of advice, what would it be? 
Work hard, avoid indolence and idleness, be both serene and ambitious, avoid duplicity at all costs, and devote your professional lives to a cause that will improve society and help others.


  1. Wow! What a wonderful father you have. And what a profound mission statement. It is so inspiring! It makes me want to do one for myself. What a wonderful idea and way to remind ourselves what we aspire to in life. Do you have one as well?

  2. What a lovely thing you gave each other with this interview. You are both very lucky. Congratulations.

  3. JodiB and fivefootwo, thank you both so much for your nice comments!

    I know, his mission statement is pretty inspiring! It's such a good way to remind ourselves of who we want to be and where we want to go.

    I don't have one but it's something I plan to work on at some point. I guess in some ways I have a "mini" mission statement (1 page) that I keep in the back of my planner/organizer. When I feel off-track (which happens pretty often), I turn to it and try to refocus on my main goals and projects.