There are many examples that one sees of true love but the one that’s most beautiful to me is the one that exists between and an infant and a mother. The innocence that you see in the eyes of the child and the mother reveals the depth and purity in their relationship. To see such examples of purity in real life are rare – and to experience such is even more rare – where one is able to express genuine emotions without any judgement.
As we age, we start molding and modifying ourselves based on what we are told or what is deemed as correct behavior to fit into the norms of the society. The innocence in the eyes gets transformed into some other emotions. As a child one feels free and that freedom gets lost somewhere in the midst of living our lives, that creates sheaths of layers above that innocence. With the disappearance of our innocence, we lose our true self. In an effort to find what we have lose we spend the rest of our lives by trying to remove the sheaths that covered us. To uncover the sheaths we may start by listening to ourselves and doing things that give us lasting joy and happiness rather than momentary happiness.
It is not easy to remove these layers and it may take a lot of work and may take years or a lifetime. But with true dedication and persistence its possible to find our true self. It starts with simple things and may happen accidentally – finding things that you really enjoy doing and that gives you lasting happiness. One such thing that gives me lot of pleasure is getting up early in the morning. I was never an early riser. From my childhood, I had been a person who slept late at night and woke up late in the mornings. I think I got this habit from my father who used to work late and sleep late. When Yoga became part of my life – especially Ashtanga – I had to get up early in the morning for practice. Though I really enjoyed practicing early in the morning, getting to shala at 5:30 AM was a chore. I missed practices often due to one reason or the other.
It wasn’t until I visited Mysore to study with my teacher Sh. Sharth Jois, that I realised what people did to ensure that they got to practice on time, early in the morning. A whole lot of things had to change, and then adjust accordingly, which in hindsight were common sense. Sh. Sharath Jois himself wakes up at 1:30 AM every day to practice and he is at the shala at 4 AM, without fail, to teach till 10 AM or 11 AM. To ensure that he sleeps by 6:30 PM every day, he doesn’t eat anything after 4 PM (though he hesitantly acknowledges he has coffee at 5 PM). Others, I met during my visit would follow similar routines in a way that fit their life. Two things got clear to me that I needed to sleep early and have early (or no) dinner. This meant a lot of changes in life. Food is a social activity. Especially after the industrial revolution, we have been programmed to have dinner together as a family. That probably is the only time when the entire family is at home. We meet friends and family socially over food. Most conversations happen over drinks or food. Over the years, I had cultivated a social circle that fit what I had deemed appropriate to my existing lifestyle i.e. eating same food as everyone else at home (while having dinner) or going out for food to socialise. That meant late night gatherings, meeting and eating out. There is nothing wrong with gathering socially or otherwise but now it didn’t seem to be right for me. I saw more benefits in letting this part of my life go. It was a conscious decision and change was hard for me and only happened gradually.
It took many years but slowly such habits weren’t a part of my life anymore. Given my life was becoming much different than most I just didn’t have time to be get together. It started with moving our meetings over the weekend from weeknights. Over time, I saw no merit in being a part of a social circle where I couldn’t contribute and wasn’t able to related to the conversations. All this wasn’t easy as I was losing touch with people who had been friends for a very long period of time. I wasn’t there when friends needed me and vice-versa. At times, I strongly felt the need to fit in and be like what I used to be; but I was also enjoying my new lifestyle which would start with waking up early, getting to practice on time, practicing yoga and incorporating the learnings from my mat to the other aspects of my life. The fear of losing the old and embracing the new troubled me a lot. However, shedding the old and finding the new takes courage. Courage comes from constantly practicing what you believe is right and moving along that path. There is no count of how long or how many times you should practice something so that the activity becomes an active part of your life. I believe that if the intentions are right you find the answer to help you get to where you would like to go.
Everything starts with an intention. When I started my journey of Yoga I had an intention of waking up early, so that I could get to my practice on time, which later got transformed into the intention of being healthy and happy. Managing food, sleeping early along with certain other lifestyle changes have helped me get a lighter body and brighter mind. There are still things that need work and it’s a constant and conscious effort to get better each day. These changes have helped me enhance my practice – internally and externally, helping me be a better human being. Being on the mat daily is only a microcosm of my life. Real practice happens when I get off the mat and step into the real world. The discipline that is required to do one thing helps in setting the tone for all others. Everything that comes along is then just a gift. Yoga Sutra 2-28 – योगाङ्गाऽनुष्ठानादशुद्धिक्षये ज्ञानदीप्तिराविवेकख्यातेः yoga-aṅga-anuṣthānāt-aśuddhi-kṣaye jñana-dīptiḥ-āviveka-khyāteḥ says that by repeatedly practicing various limbs of Yoga, impurities are dissolved and we experience profound clarity. I wish that we all find merit in the constant and consistent practice to make changes in our lives that gives us constant happiness and joy.