The human beings that have had the most impact on me as an adult have consisted almost entirely of yogis. The teachers that struck a chord flowed through life with ease, with an indestructible grace. What the hell were they drinking? How can I get my hands on that “zen” stuff, harness my qi? After years of a semi-dedicated practice and meeting a few special souls on my mat, I realized I not only deserved to give myself the full gift of yoga, but I needed it too. Big time.
Throughout the ten years since stepping on and off my mat I’ve met hundreds of interesting, intelligent, wise, friendly, quirky, and uniquely awesome people. Those who left a lasting impact resonated so deeply with me, not because of their very impressive mastering of asana, sanskrit, anatomy, philosophy, history or any intellectual grasp of yoga. It was their heart, their soul, their essence, their spirit, their beingness, whatever you’d like to call it. They emanated joy, acceptance and love. Again, where the hell could I get me some of that?
The way many teachers and students engaged with their fellow yogis, old and new, was so warm, giving, trusting and enlightening. They clearly loved the space they occupied in the world and because of that, they invited others into it as well; lovingly. There was no hesitation, no judgment, no threshold to meet, no psychological tests to pass, nothing. Human being to human being, soul to soul, life to life, let’s have a genuine, kind and insightful conversation right here in this moment. It was in these moments, when I used to feel tentative in approaching a teacher or yogi I admired, that I saw what authentic confidence was.
It was my time with these amazing people, my pleasure and pain on the mat that showed me just how I was treating myself and therefore how that was trickling into my relationships with others. I had wonderful family and friends but there was a guard clouding my sight and blocking my heart, allowing only small amounts of people in. Yogis led so beautifully by example in how to give yourself permission to just be and to give that gift to the outside world as well. When you see openness in another, it is so clear how much they trust themselves implicitly. Instead of scoping out the situation, being overly cautious and protective, yogis say “bring it on, world, I can handle it.”
Contradicting every cynical belief the ego carries, when I saw the strength, beauty, trust, love and bliss in others, I began to recognize it more in myself. Another’s brightness didn’t darken me, didn’t make me feel smaller, or less than. It gave me the boost I needed to acknowledge that light in myself. And now when I am aware of the ego in another, I see it through a very different lens. A lens of compassion, of empathy. I’ve been there. If I can slowly emerge to the other side, anyone can. I certainly hope they find yoga or a yogi friend who will reflect their inherent goodness back so they can rediscover what they’ve forgotten.
It turns out yogis haven’t taken a magic elixir, smoked fairy dust or injected some enchanting potion making them happier than many others. Like all of us, they’ve been through their own struggles, their own pain, their own complicated journey to get where they are. Often the darkest past gives way for the brightest future, deep suffering can be a bridge for enlightenment. Regardless, these good souls live and love in the present, appreciating small joys, and giving little credence to small problems. They’ve struck a great balance and became aware that all they admire and respect in others exists right within them too. They love themselves. They love others.
I’m motivated to be a better person and teacher everyday because of the incredible people I’m fortunate to call colleagues and loved ones. I laugh and bend with these people, my students, my teachers, my friends, and I go home feeling so damn grateful and so supremely alive. In the decade since my relationship with yoga began I learned to trust all that I am and to put a lot of that faith in others as well. I can only imagine how they’ll inform and inspire me next.
The quality of your relationships greatly affects the quality of your mood, your energy, your sense of self, your sense of trust, your experience of love. Your time and energy are extremely valuable. Don’t waste one second on someone who makes you feel like anything less than the best You. Become aware of the love you are, trust the strength and intelligence you have, and then exude the joy you were meant to express. Befriend a yogi and then become one. You’re worth it.
image via Derek James Robinson