One of the most important fundamentals of yoga is that every single process must be systematic. It must be carried out slowly and steadily.
It makes sense. Nothing in life that is worth anything is acquired quickly.
I’ve learned to slow down my breathing. I have learned to breathe deeper, to full capacity. I’ve learned to really feel and visualize my lungs expand with each precious inhale. And I have learned to feel all the tension escape from the muscles in my shoulders and the wrinkles in my forehead as breath and stress and waste exit my body with each exhale.
I have learned to calm my mind. To untangle the doubts. To slow down the rapid, rampant pace of thoughts. To reduce the million floating subjects to as few as possible at any one time. To make up my mind and decide what I want with confidence and intention, then channel all my energy into focusing on it.
At first it’s hard, but progress happens.
Eventually, we learn how to convert the involuntary to voluntary. We become more and more aware. Life is a journey. And since yoga is life, that means yoga is also a journey – it’s not just a way to burn calories.
Yoga is a mindset, a way to live life. It’s not about poses or, as remarkable as it is, your body and what it can do physically. It’s so much more. There so much more there that we aren’t activating. Finding a piece of it, for me personally, has made way for this crazy, accelerated, life-changing perception shift in my life. Realizing how to adjust my own mindset has brought me so much happiness. Because at the end of the day, everything starts there. Everything.
Well, as much as I have experienced a tremendous amount of growth, I have definitely had moments of reversion. I know that flaws make us human and they are part of the story. And I understand that they become lessons if we are receptive enough to learn from them. So that was what I had to tell myself yesterday.
I am currently living in Bangalore, India within a two-minute walk from my yoga teacher’s home, where I walk to and from every day for my teacher’s training course. I am in a flat with five other girls. After I lived alone for the first time in my lovely little flat in Malta three years ago, I swore I’d never get roommates again. The Universe obviously had other plans for me.
I share a room with Deepa. My first impression was that she is really, strikingly beautiful: dark features, long, shiny black hair. Nice skin, and the brightest smile revealing perfectly white teeth. And I was so pleased to find right away that her inner beauty reflects it. She was so bubbly and friendly right when we were introduced and took my hand in hers warmly. I was relieved that the person I was to be sharing a room with was so pleasant upon first meeting.
She and her family are South Indian, and she is here in Bangalore for work at a nearby company. She is an engineer, has her MBA and has a great job.
She is quirky and full of energy. She talks a lot and talks quickly, sometimes so fast I can’t understand; her words are lost to me as her inflections are sent on a roller coaster ride, the Indian accent thickening in proportion to the increase in excitement depending on the point in the story (so adorable). At night, when she is in her bed watching videos on her phone, she dissolves into uncontrollable laughter and it is the cutest thing ever.
She tries her best to be healthy with what she eats, and likes to go on runs. She is currently preparing for an upcoming half marathon.
She, like most girls I know from home, probably weighs herself too often and stresses herself out too much in attempts to stay fit and eat well and lose weight (though I admit, I’m not much different).
She likes to shop. The first thing she asked me when I moved in is if I wanted to see the mall. A few days later she came home with a few bags full of new finds. She received the jewelry she ordered off of Amazon the other day to complement her traditional half-sari ensemble that she is wearing to her friend’s wedding coming up in a few weeks. She tried it all on together and it was absolutely beautiful. The most amazing fabrics with elaborate detail and vibrant in color. Weddings in India are a big deal, and they go all out. There is nothing else like them, I’m told. Makes me really want to stick around for the wedding I was invited to attend in April.
She’s a bit sassy. I mean after all, she is the baby in her family. She is pushy, but in the most endearing, generous way – the same way your Asian friends’ mom forces you to eat when you come over. You just can’t say no.
The other night was like most. She asked me if I had had dinner. Usually I already have by the time she is home from work, but she has been trying to drag me to the local spots regardless so I can eat all the greasy, oily, fried (delicious) Indian dishes. She says she’s convinced I don’t eat enough, between my yogurt and muesli and oatmeal. I keep telling her that before I moved in I had my fair share of Indian food. And plus, they didn’t know me back when I was stuffing three huge Nepali meals down my throat a day—packed with rice and naan and curry and dahl, and always with second servings. Of course what they happen to be around for is the come down, the attempt to normalize. But on this particular night, I hadn’t eaten, so I allowed the kidnapping and fried food-corruption to take place.
As I followed her down the main, dirt road as she weaved ahead through the congested traffic, a blur and clusterfuck of incessant impatient honking and bright headlights, the bonding began. And over my South Indian Thali (huge plate of food—she made sure I went big) and masala chai, and her open butter masala dosa and coffee, we chatted some more.
We talked about work. She is living the life that I lived back in Los Angeles. She leaves early for work, is gone all day. She comes home at around 7:30 p.m., exhausted. She either cooks or runs down the street for dinner, then hangs out at home for a few hours, goes to bed to return to the same thing the next day. This is the life all the girls live. It feels so familiar, and makes me never want to return to it again.
We talked about boys. Though arranged marriages are few and far between, since her family is from conservative South India, they are still very much traditional. Though she is allowed to choose her own husband, a relationship status isn’t official until a formal meet and greet is arranged with the parents (and they approve, of course). She told me about the boys who have been in her life, and of course, the same type of drama and uncertainties are universally relatable.
After we ate, we headed back. As we talked about our plans for the week, I realized that I may not have enough cash for an auto rickshaw to get to Jayangara the following day. The plan was to meet the boys for a meeting and bring the debit card with to draw more. Without hesitation, she said she would lend me money, and even book me a cab or walk me out to the auto to make sure that I didn’t get ripped off. I thought to myself how glad I am to have ended up rooming with such a sweet, fun girl. And I was so glad I finally ended up joining her for dinner (even if I did feel disgustingly full at the end).
The next morning, I woke up really early and decided to get my morning routine going prematurely due to a rather sleepless night attributed to a combination of being dive bombed by mosquitos all night + my aching old bones + bad back. Deepa was still asleep. I really hoped that my constant stirring in the night didn’t keep her from sleeping, also. I crept out of our room as quietly as possible.
I jump roped outside, did yoga on the balcony, showered, and was about to head downstairs to make breakfast and coffee when she finally woke.
She was strangely quiet. While continuing on with my routine, I was so preoccupied that I didn’t even pay attention to how fast she got ready, and only realized when I heard the front door slam. She had left 30 minutes earlier than she said she would the night prior, and without a word. Now I was left stranded with inevitability of getting ripped off as a foreigner for my ride and not enough cash to pay for it.
Why did she just bail?
She was mad at me, she had to be. What did I do? I didn’t do anything. Why did she do that? Did my tossing and turning keep her up last night? Was she so bitter that I kept her up with the light from my phone or my constant movement on my rickety bed that she decided to bail and leave me high and dry to find a ride myself?
I rushed out to the road and flagged down an auto rickshaw. And sure enough, no one would take me.
I was already super late for our meeting, sweating balls, dusty, and unable to get anyone to take me across town with the only 150 remaining in my wallet.
This is why I didn’t want roommates.
Finally I convinced a guy to take me and told him that my friends would give me more money when I arrived. We got lost, he got mad at me, and I ended up needing to borrow a lot more upon arrival to pay over twice the amount the ride was worth.
I finally arrived to my destination, pissed, and annoyed.
Why are girls such bitches?
I couldn’t let it go. I wondered what she was going to have to say to me when I got home later that evening. I had already decided she was going to make up some reason for it, or act like she forgot.
When I got home that night, it was nearly 8 p.m. All of the other girls were already home, except for Deepa.
As 8 turned to 9 and 9 turned to 10:30, we all were asking where she was. As the other girls tried incessantly calling her and texting her with no response, I realized that something was up. We all started to worry. And I started to feel bad.
Then finally we heard from her at around 11 p.m. Her mom had suffered a stroke.
And then I felt absolutely terrible.
Here, while I was seriously doubting Deepa’s intentions and assuming the absolute worst, she was on the 7-hour bus ride home to her sick mother at the hospital in her hometown.
Don’t. Take. Anything. Personally. Even when we have the right to, we shouldn’t. I planted a seed of doubt in my own mind, so tiny and unjustified, and it grew into a beast because I fed it. I had completely made it all up in my mind, filled the blanks and unanswered questions with my own assumptions. I immediately got insecure, and projected the negativity on to someone else.
This is yet another incident that challenges me to nip negative thoughts in the bud. If anything negative is gathering in my mind, I want to first ask myself, “Why do I feel this way? Where is this coming from?” Because like I said, everything starts within, everything starts from the mind. Everything.
Whether it’s a reflection of truth that makes its way to the interworking of our minds, or a complete figment of our imagination created there, at the end of the day, it is all a matter of perception. And it’s always a choice. We always have a choice of how we want to think, how we want to act.
Now, as I sit here and reflect on what this is teaching me, and as I pray for the health of Deepa’s mother and peace for her family, I realize why so much conflict and misunderstanding happens in this world we live in.
If we could all take two seconds to just stop.
To just think about where the feelings that are surfacing really come from. How we are responsible. How valid they are. If we are giving others a fair chance. If we are giving ourselves a fair chance.
What if we all really strived to be aware?
We’re human, we make mistakes. I myself am a work in progress. And although moving forward is inevitable, I hope I can continue to do so with a gradually, systematically expanding mind and heart