Below the Surface

In the spring of 1996, I decided to move from being an employee of a company to working for myself as a computer consultant. My first interview was for an interesting graphics project. I was nervous because I had not interviewed for a job in over four years and becoming a consultant was a huge change. I have seasonal allergies and unfortunately on the day of the interview the pollen count shot up to over one thousand. Since the only times I planned to be outside were going to and from my car, I decided not to take any medication. The antihistamines I took at that time made my thinking fuzzy and I wanted to make a good impression.

The interview began well. The manager showed me some of the graphics the company was developing and gave me a general idea of the project. It was fascinating work and I wanted the job. Then, as we sat down to talk about my resume, the fire alarm went off. We had to go outside. I hoped it was a false alarm and we would go back inside quickly, but no such luck. Several fire engines arrived and the firemen spent over half an hour going through the building before letting us back in. By the time we got back to the manager’s office, I was a mess. I had the beginning of a pounding headache, my eyes were swollen and tearing, and I could not stop coughing. So much for a good first impression! My answers to the manager’s questions were passable, but not as good as they could have been.

I went home very disappointed; a wonderful opportunity had just slipped away. The next evening I came home to find a message on my answering machine offering me the job. I took it, of course. A few months later I asked the manager why he had hired me. He grinned and said he always tried to look below the surface during interviews.

The 40 people the manager had assembled were a very diverse group. There was a wide range of nationalities, religions and world views, but it was a very strong and cohesive team and the best group I ever worked with as a programmer.

It is so easy to just look at the surface and form an instant impression that influences our later interactions with another person. How often do we base our opinions on something like clothing, body type, or occupation? Everyone has more to them than what we first see. The woman with the horribly mismatched clothing may have spilled coffee on her blouse that morning and borrowed another one. The yoga teacher you meet at a cocktail party may have been a programmer years before. You never know until you get to know them better.

Another tendency is to focus on the surface of our own lives. When we are busy with all of our daily activities, it is easy to allow our emotions and our feelings about ourselves to be determined by what is happening at that moment. When everything is going well, we feel great and when things are not going as well, we feel upset and unhappy with ourselves. It can be hard to remember in those difficult times the parts of us that are positive and valuable.

One of the gifts of yoga and meditation is that they bring us below the surface and take our minds to a different place. In that place, we can drop the outside distractions and focus on something deeper within ourselves. This brings us back to center, letting us see ourselves as something more than just a reflection of that moment.