I’ve watched the television show The Apprentice for several years now. I remember the first few seasons when it was aired with a selection of business savvy individuals from around the country. As the show’s host, Donald Trump – aka “the Donald” – would have them perform different tasks each week in order to challenge and enhance their professional skills. He would create two teams, with the losing team receiving “the Donald’s” famed boardroom treatment, with one team member paying the price for the loss (“You’re fired”), and having to exit the show. The last contestant standing wins a job with the Donald working on one of his many real estate projects.
As you all know, I love business and often find great wisdom in Trump’s insights. A spinoff of the original show, “Celebrity Apprentice”, took shape a few years later, inviting established celebrities a bit past their prime, to do the show with the same type of tasks each week. However, the goal here was to create money for their individual charities. The winner of Celebrity Apprentice earns another big chunk of money from the Donald’s enterprise for their chosen charity. I’ve never watched Celebrity Apprentice until this season.
Oh dear. What a cast of characters: David Cassidy, Meatloaf, LaToya Jackson, Star Jones, Nicky Taylor, Little John and more. It’s TV of course, and all of it gets exaggerated, but we do get to see the “humanness” in these celebrity icons. John Rich and Marlee Matlin were the final celebrities left to perform one more multi-layered task before the Donald chose “THE” Celebrity Apprentice. Both Matlin and Rich are terrific as individuals and as leaders but, it’s Marlee that we saw and felt something extra for.
Marlee Matlin is an Oscar winning actress (“Children of a Lesser God”), Golden Globe winner, recipient of the People’s Choice Award, Emmy nominated actress, author of three children’s books, top contestant on Dancing with the Stars, and National spokesperson for the American Red Cross. She is also deaf. As I watched her on The Celebrity Apprentice each week, it became clear that her disability paled when compared with her many abilities that enable her to succeed – at anything. In fact, there were times that I forgot that she was deaf. She was articulate (they had a translator on the show), she was compassionate, she was driven, she had poise, she was courageous and took calculated risks. And she was incredibly likeable. She alone, more than any other celebrity on this show, brought in the most money in a single night for her charity: one million dollars!
My favorite part in the show comes at the end. It’s the final episode and Marlee is pitted against country singer, John Rich, to do a series of tasks in three days. Regardless of who wins this final challenge, the Donald himself and a live audience participate in the final boardroom scene as he chooses his “Celebrity Apprentice.” It’s a two hour show – long and drawn out, but you can see the beauty and smarts empowering these two individuals. And, not once did they attack each other. There was mutual respect at all times, yet both John and Marlee were extremely hungry to win. They each had the ability to harness their own talents and strengths as well as the talents and strengths of others, which enabled each of them to excel in their respective tasks. So it boiled down to one final conversation and the last defining moment with the Donald as to why each believed they should be the Celebrity Apprentice. Marlee pushed the envelope and aggressively stressed what she had overcome in her life. You could see it in her eyes, as well as the quick movement of her sign language, which she learned at an early age in order to push through any boundary set before her. In my mind, it was the moment you saw the very raw source of her strength. In complete openness and conviction, she said, “When I was a child they told me that the only sound I’ll hear is silence. Donald, I promise you, silence will be last sound you ever hear from me”.
Jim Kallet, Senior Bikram Yoga Instructor, Owner of Bikram Yoga San Diego, was up here in the Bay area teaching classes, giving a posture clinic and a teacher clinic. It was terrific. Jim, as many of us teachers know, is probably the closest to Bikram (for more than 20 years, and he teaches very much in the same manner as Bikram. He is tough, considerate, and down-right real. What’s especially beautiful is that he knows many of Bikram’s stories and can recite verbatim some of the remarks Bikram shares in his classes and lectures. These are great analogies and reminders. I appreciate that Jim can be another source of refueling our inspiration for our Bikram practice as well as for us teachers in our choice to be ambassadors of this yoga method.
“You can inspire students, give them technique, show them a reason, an opportunity, a benefit, but ultimately the student has to want to do it. It must come from them. It’s empowering. It feels good. The student owns the pose. They did it themselves,” states Jim in our teacher clinic. “Teach dialog crystal clear clean and 99% of the time it will work – plus or minus a few here and there – for everyone. We are all different: physically, personal history, mentally, our frame of mind, how long students have been practicing, etc. So it’s not what you want from your students as their teacher, but what the system can give them.”
Jim goes on to say that nature is balance. And everything we do is pulling us out of it. Yoga is the only thing that can pull us back into balance. We do so by crossing the boundary. None of us are born with equal parts strength and flexibility. By the teachers using the dialog-like words of a song and a melody with a voice that articulates and energizes, the student can meditate or concentrate on a singular point of focus and direct the mind to use more strength where flexibility is missing – hold still; breathe normal. Balance.
How does this work? The dialog is a mantra (chant) for the students. When they hear a part of the body to focus on, the mind is in the brain and attention is in the right place. This creates a neural pathway in the brain, a connection…which in turn creates balance. If you’re thinking of something else, there is no connection. Once you have it, you become more aware and can control the mind. You can redirect attention as necessary. Realize that your mind is not you. This releases self-judgment. Know the mind is always there. Learn to know how it works. Become aware of its conditions and patterns. Then the ego will become a tool, and you can rid yourself of the bondage and countless attachments the mind might have over you.
There were many questions from teachers about what to do in certain situations as it related to a posture. Jim had great suggestions. However, Jim’s words kept going in the direction of more than the physical. Yoga is the union between the mind and the body. He recalled one of Bikram’s famous quotes, “What is the most important thing in your life?” The answer is in the question, “your life.” Through Hatha yoga (physical exercise) and Raja yoga (faith, willpower, self-control, tolerance and patience) you can live out your Karma yoga – what you are here for, the purpose of your birth. By taking care of your life, you can live longer, love more, attain happiness and have peace of mind. Take care of your life through yoga.
“Practice with each pose, crossing the boundary. Take yourself to the edge of the cliff with your toes slightly over the cliff; 98% is rooted and the other 2% has crossed over”. “Death is always in our back pocket. The faster we run, the quicker the shadow shows up. Walk in the yoga room, turnaround and face death and look in the mirror. Growl like a Bengal tiger, grind away like an English Bulldog and death will turn into a chicken and runaway.”
Marlee Matlin was given a boundary early on in life. Not from being deaf, but from being told she would only hear silence. It’s evident that this never became her point of focus. Whatever she lacked from being deaf, was overcome by her Bengal tiger strength and bulldog determination that moved her to new thresholds of being. I suspect that each accomplishment gave her the confidence to test new edges in areas of her life where she wanted to go. Marlee’s disability was labeled for her, and for all of us, as a “handicap.” She could have easily lived her life having a mind that controlled her by bonding to this limitation. While our “handicap” may not be so easy to see, her life story gives proof that we too can overcome any attachment the mind creates. All we need to do is cross the boundary.