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Zen Peacekeeper.







I’ll have a collaboration sandwich, please

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 by Marianne Elliott

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Kelly and I are cooking up a great collaboration – co-facilitating the next Off the Mat: Yoga in Action group in Wellington

I read a post by Amanda Farough last week where she declares that 'collaboration trumps competition'. She was writing about web designers. When I told her that we face the same challenges in the yoga community she was a little surprised.

'I never realized that even in the most peaceful, heartwarming vocation, the creeping nature of competitiveness still lurks.'

But there it is, even in the most peaceful, heartwarming vocation – the creeping nature of competition is lurking. Let me paraphrase Amanda –

Yoga studios. Visiting yoga teachers. Yoga retreats. Yoga intensives. Yoga iPhone apps. Yoga DVDs and CDs. Yoga online. Yoga spas. Yoga classes at gyms.


No wonder we can so easily get up in competing for a piece of the yoga pie!

Here in Wellington there are lots of yoga teachers in a smallish town. Increasingly that's the story all over the world. So many of us have been transformed by yoga and want to share it with others that it can seem the population of yoga teachers is growing faster than the population of yoga students.

In times like that it is so easy to feel threatened. Most people I know who teach yoga in Wellington are barely getting by. We charge very little for our classes because a) we want as many people as possible to experience yoga and b) people don't seem to be willing to pay more. 

When you are barely making ends meet or, which is not uncommon in the yoga world, not making ends meet at all – it's not hard to understand why you might feel some fear when yet another new teacher or studio shows up in town.

I know for myself that I'm always aware of not wanting to step on any other yoga teacher's toes. I'm working hard to build my own yoga community of students but I want to do it without 'taking' students from anyone else. Between worrying about paying my own bills and worrying about straying into anyone else's territory, it's easy to lose the love.

But, as Amanda pointed out in the context of her web-design work, it was the love that got us all into this in the first place. We teach yoga because of what yoga has given us, a deeper connection to our deepest selves and, quite simply, lots and lots of love.

I can't say it better than Amanda,

I love code. I live, breathe, eat, and sleep design. I love people. The combination of the three is why violetminded got started in the first place. Love, baby.
Sure, somewhere along the line, I’ve gotta market and self-promote. I
may even try to make a bit o’ scratch. But money isn’t not what drives
me. It's not my currency."

Replace 'code' with 'yoga', 'design' with 'conscious activism/service' and 'violetminded' with 'Zen Peacekeeper' and you've got my story in a nutshell. Sure, somewhere along the line, I've gotta market and self-promote but money isn't what is driving me. Love is driving me. Love and a whole heap of enthusiasm. 

Which is why, given the choice, I'll take a collaboration over a competition any day. That and the fact that I have never, ever come up with an idea that wasn't improved by the input of another brain and heart.

Of course there are some projects that are solo by their very nature. Writing the first draft of my memoir was a solo undertaking. But even then, I couldn't have done it without friends who were willing to read early drafts and now – joy of joys – I have my agent as a collaborator on the next draft. 

When it comes to yoga, I'm grateful for my Wellington sangha (community) of teachers. I'm grateful for people who are brave enough to move past the fear we must all feel sometimes and find the magical spaces in which we can work together to make something bigger and better than what any of us could have done by ourselves.

Today I especially want to give a shout out to:

These five have all collaborated with me in some way or another over the past year as I've found my feet in the yoga world and I'm grateful to them all.

These days I'm buzzing with ideas about more collaborations, here in Wellington and across the globe and I gotta tell you, there's something mighty appealing about the variety and spice of a collaboration sandwich. Beats competition any day on my menu.

What about you? How does competition, fear and a sense of scarcity creep up on you? Is there a collaborative culture in your field of work? Can you imagine what flavours would be in your dream collaboration sandwich?

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11 Responses to "I’ll have a collaboration sandwich, please"

  1. Anne-Marie says:

    Great post, Marianne. Very interesting to read. I had never thought of yoga teachers feeling competitive, but I guess it makes sense. It’s hardly the most lucrative of occupations!
    I work in an extremely competitive profession. I’m extremely UNcompetitive, which means I’ll never get far and I don’t mind. Recently, a new guy has started working in my town for a competing organisation and we are always bumping in to each other on jobs. His predecssors were very competitive and protective of their patch; this guy is friendly and helpful whenever we meet, and still does great work. While our circumstances mean we could never collaborate, we do talk about mutual work and it is very refreshing.

  2. Susannah says:

    I’ll be the bread if you’ll be the pastrami, my angel πŸ™‚

  3. Swirly says:

    My tendency is to approach almost any situation from a place of “How can I share this?”, but I’ve learned that I have to be careful about getting into a situation where I’m having to push really hard to get others excited. I’ve longed for and tried to create a number of collaborations with mixed results, and while I can’t say I’ve given up on the idea, I have developed a keen sense of when I’ve crossed the line from extending an invitation or setting and intention and having to push really hard to create what I’m envisioning.

  4. Amanda says:

    I am well and truly humbled and happy to have inspired such an insightful post. Collaboration sandwich it is!

  5. Bea says:

    This has got to be the tastiest girl sandwich ever. Both you and the gorgeous Amanda are the kind of people who genuinely change the world for the better. I love you both to bits.
    It seems as though collaboration really does get more Truly Good Stuff done. Whether it’s web designers working together on a kick-ass new venture, yoga gurus combining their talents to reach even more people in need, students like me putting their heads together on something very brainy, or politicians finally talking to one another to achieve something REAL, collaboration always trumps competition in my books.

  6. Marianne says:

    This is such an important point I may write a follow up post quoting you. Collaboration has to emerge naturally from shared passions and coinciding circumstances. If we start to feel we have to haul it or push it along its time to let it lie. Right? Xxx
    Sent from my iPhone. Please accept my apologies for brevity or typos.

  7. I love this! I live my working life in collaborations (and much of my personal life too come to think of it!). I am a member of a thousand teams so collaborating is like breathing to me. But this post was a lovely reminder that professions chosen for love, not money, are often individual pursuits. Not that I don’t love my job but it is different to being an artist or yoga teacher. My dad used to do joint paintings with his mates – they’d lay down a canvas and stick bitumen and paint on it. I think our labrador even had some paw prints on one work!

  8. Laura says:

    Thanks for sharing this marianne…I’m not surprised to hear that even in the yoga community things can get competitive..we are human after all! The best way to overcome ones ego and feelings of threat is to go against your gut reaction sometimes and reach out…I’m facing the same type of issue at work here many international and donor agencies, competing for ‘turf’…my approach is to be open, transparent and to proactively share information…I hate feeling brings the worst out in people….

  9. Laura says:

    PS. I aspire to become a yoga teacher one day, but I’ve decided to make it a hobby and to give classes for free…just once in a while..mostly I plan to do a yoga teacher training to deepen my own practice… πŸ™‚

  10. Anandashanti says:

    Thank you so much for sharing… the most beautiful experience i have read in a long time… you have got me buzzing. πŸ™‚
    Sharing and Inspiring makes this world such a beautiful place. Competition is good. Provided it is taken in the right spirit. Having faith in yourself and belief in Guru, face the challenge!
    Om Prem!

  11. I couldn’t agree more.
    Every day I am learning more and more how wonderful collaboration is.
    I think naturally I would swing to working solo. But through the work I am doing I am meeting wonderful and inspiring people. And so many times every week these people (often unwittingly) help me with ideas, motivation, and support. And increasingly I am finding myself saying, “hey, let’s work together on this…” Because for me, two hearts and minds are better than one right, and very importantly: It’s more fun!
    Thanks for expressing your thoughts and feelings so clearly, it has helped me to clarify my feeligns around this.

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