This Above All: Don’t Be a Fraud

Photo by Thea Bee Photography
Sometimes I lie in bed and think about my many shortcomings — as a writer and a yoga teacher especially. Lately, I’ve come to understand why so many successful people say they’re afraid of being revealed as a fraud. Even Maya Angelou has said she’s sometimes afraid people will discover she can’t really write. And occasionally, we are confronted with the fact that our beloved yoga teachers and spiritual leaders are deeply flawed people.

I realize that because I’m a yoga teacher and I like to talk about spiritual things, people might think I see myself as some kind of authority on these things. Not by a long shot! I’ve had some training and practice, but I can’t do every yoga pose, and I get jealous of people who can. Nor am I always peaceful or nice — just as I was writing this, a lady walked into the coffee shop where I’m working, and her son was being such a demanding little brat that I accidentally laughed out loud at him. Sorry, lady.

Luckily, you don’t have to be perfect in order to be a teacher. You just have to be actively engaged in the process of learning and willing to share what you learn along the way. I think I have some things I can share with people, and I aspire to be a really good teacher, but I don’t believe in faking it till you make it. You have to be honest about who you are and not lead people to believe you’re a saint when you struggle just as much as they do.

Then again, there are people out there like Amma. I’m sure she’s had heartbreak and anger in her life, but when she’s doing her service to the world, she seems to just let love fill her so she can give and give and give. We don’t see if she wrestles with guilt from the past or fear about the future. Maybe she’s grown beyond that, or maybe she just doesn’t share it.

As for me, that’s just not my path. No one would believe I was real if I didn’t curse, make dirty jokes, and laugh at the obnoxious kid in the coffee shop. If I play it too prim, people who know me can tell something ain’t right. So, while you might not like my sense of humor, will you ever find out that I’m a fraud? Nah. Not as long as I stay true to myself.

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Congratulations to Tom French and Zoo Story

Thomas French, who is a super nice guy, a fantastic writer, and a mentor at Goucher College where I got my MFA degree, now has a book on the New York Times bestseller list. The book is Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, and yesterday, he went on “The Colbert Report” to talk about it.

Watch the interview here.

It was really awesome to see him on the show, and I thought he did a great job. Lots of guests seem to have trouble keeping up with Colbert, but Tom just rolled with it and looked like he had a good time. It’s always good to see writers like him succeed, for so many reasons. Of course, he’s a good writer and he’s very smart, but he also cares immensely about everything he writes, and he shares that passion and intelligence with his students.

This summer, I had the opportunity to study with Tom at the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival in Chautauqua, NY, and I truly enjoyed it.

So, congratulations, Tom. May many more great things come your way!

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