When I studied yoga in India just over seven years ago, I learned yoga poses, breathing techniques, meditations, mantras, yoga nidra, sanskrit and much more. While these various aspects of yoga can definitely bring us closer to ourselves and to the divine, the life lessons that I learned while in the ashram far exceeded the sun salutations and omkar chants. In fact, one lesson in particular has resonated with me ever since then. I’d like to share this simple wisdom with you today because I believe it has the power to transform how we conduct our lives, and ultimately, how we find satisfaction [and wellness]. Ps – I hope you enjoy the handful of colorful and beautiful pictures I took of India during my stay.
Almost every day when I was in India, when the sun was supposed to be at its highest, monsoon rains would pour from the open skies. At this hour, my fellow yogis and I would gather in the shadowy yoga hall to sit at grade-school style desks. We would sit there for about an hour or two, absorbing our guru’s teachings while the rain drowned out the outside world. Guru was a short Indian man, often barefoot, and adorned in long robes. He talked with conviction as he paced back and forth in front of his students and wore a subtle grin that always made me feel like he saw both foolishness and wisdom in our youth and lack of experience.
“Not all things can be explained,” he said one day. “This is not science.” Raising one pointed finger in the air, he continued to enlighten us.
“Take this example. I know of a woman in the village. She comes to me one day with tears in her eyes and I ask her – ‘What is wrong, my friend?’ She tells me that she is dying. She has a bad cancer. The doctors tell her she will die. There is no chance she will live. And so she tells me that she is trying to accept that one day she will be dead. She is trying to accept that she is dying.
And this is what I tell her, I say ‘Go and meditate every morning at sunrise. Do your sun salutations. Thank God that you are alive. You are not dead. Only today exists and today you are not dead. You will only be dead if you let yourself die. Go and practice being alive. And be happy.’”
He paused again. His sleeve fell down his arm when he raised his pointer finger higher in the air.
“And you know what?!?” he had asked those of us sitting before him feeling foreign, naïve and perplexed.
“That woman no longer has cancer. A cancer doctor said such a thing would kill her quickly. That was 10 years ago! I tell you, I know this woman! She is alive to this day! All the tests, all the science show now that she is healthy. No signs of cancer.”
The lesson from that day was “drop expectations.” This woman changed her focus from dying to living and altered her destiny. No matter what, whether your expectations are positive or negative, they have the power to own your mentality, and, if life comes up short, they can leave you feeling empty and dissatisfied.
I can’t say that dropping expectations has been easy for me, but every time I get my hopes up about something and my expectations aren’t met, it’s a little easier for me to stay open-minded and move forward. Life can continue and can be full of joy. This message isn’t to say that life should be banal, devoid of happiness or lacking ambition. It’s simply to say that life gets a whole lot easier when we learn to go with the flow rather than anchoring all of our hopes and happiness on a singular vision of how things should play out. Namaste.
Yours in health and wellness,