“Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” — Rolf Gates
Today is International Yoga Day. I thought I’d share a few words about how this movement, practice, and philosophy has helped me over the past few years. It’s probably not what you’d expect when you think of yoga which is all the more reason why I think you’ll enjoy it.
Back in 2015 I attended a 1 Million Cups meeting. They have a great organization. People are presenting and pitching businesses and ideas and whatnot. I met a friend there.
Well, she wasn’t exactly a friend yet but her name was Natalie. I didn’t know it at the time but that one chance encounter would completely change the trajectory of my life forever. When we met, she mentioned that she taught yoga classes. I don’t remember how we got on the topic but I was like, “I’ve always wanted to get into yoga. I just never really had the courage or I never really took action on it.”
What was cool was that a couple months later out of nowhere when I was kinda just sitting in front of my computer I got an email. I was thinking, “man something’s really gotta change in my life. I’m getting close to 30.” I didn’t feel like I was on the right path in terms of my health and some of the things that I was involved in. I was just existing. I wasn’t living, you know. I wasn’t in a state where I was living up to my fullest potential.
Then out of nowhere I got this email. It was Natalie. She was like, “Hey I’m doing a class next week. would love to have you come out.” I’m like cool. My immediate reaction was this must be divine intervention or something because I was just sitting at my computer wondering how I’m going to get out of this funk. Wondering what was going to be the catalyst to change where I was headed in life. I immediately said yes.
I didn’t have much money at the time but I was like I’ll figure it out whatever. So I show up to this class thinking that we’re going to be doing Asana — that’s what you usually see people doing. Those backbends and handstands and all that stuff. That’s typically what we think when someone says yoga. So I get to the studio and I’m like, “Let’s do some yoga man!” and she handed us journals. I was shocked!
She was like, “this is your journal I want this to be a part of your journey.” So I came in with this mindset that it’s going to be all this movement and motion like a workout and that I’m going to get jacked and be in shape. It was the exact opposite. It was the philosophy of yoga.
We talked about these things called The Yamas and suffering. Boundaries, self-care and austerity, zeal all these things I never heard before. Then I thought to myself, “man wouldn’t life make a lot more sense if somebody would have told me this earlier?” Suffering is part of the experience. It’s not so much about clinging to things. To emotions, to thoughts and it’s more about letting go and letting things be. Learning how to become “The Observer” of what’s taking place. Realizing that this is just the the way things work.
So when I got this toolkit (knowledge) and framework, it completely change the way that I showed up in the world. Now, I felt like I had this thing to help me along the journey. This way of making sense of the world that previously I didn’t have. I mean everything just started to make more sense. Things just clicked. It wasn’t so much that life got easier or that my struggles and pain and suffering and all that s*** went away, I magically became rich and handsome, and all the girls loved me. But it did give me a way to frame situations that came up in my life from a different angle.
Natalie said something in our yoga class that really stuck with me that day. She said we have this lens and way that we see the world we were born with or our parents or society places on us. So when we go through this experience, through this journey of yoga and the practice, it’s almost like we get a new lens. We get this new view of how we see the world in a more holistic, more peaceful, more understanding, compassionate loving way.
Another thing I have to steal from Natalie because I think it was so good. She always used to say there’s really only two ways of showing up in the world: You can come from a place of love or you can come from a place of fear. I like simplifying things. I’m on this kick right now to simplify everything. If you just take that one tidbit right there — love or fear — your entire world can shift. Yoga is love. Fear is all of the garbage, the junk, and the nonsense that we tell ourselves we have to carry around thinking it’s our cross to bare but the truth is that it’s not.
So today is International Yoga Day and I just wanted to share this story because it really has shifted the way I show up in the world. It’s not so much about the dogma or that I see myself as some saint or that I’m this person who doesn’t make mistakes or drink beer, I just see the world from a different lens and I have a framework that allows me to understand how it all comes together. That’s all.
Happy International Yoga Day to all my yogis and everybody out there in the world who is suffering and trying to make sense of their journey.
If you don’t remember anything, just remember this one thing… always do your best to show up with love.
P.S. Say hi to Natalie if you’re curious to know more about how she’s shifting the world with her gifts and teachings.