“Why am I stuck here?!” I shouted out to the Universe.
“Because this is where you are needed,” She whispered back.
It wasn’t the answer I expected. Nor the answer I wanted.
Surely there must be a need somewhere else? Maybe somewhere with a beach?
I had just returned from an enchanting week in Los Angeles where I had the opportunity to study with my yoga teacher, get my feet wet in the sand and drink Kombucha while watching the sunset. That lifestyle, even if it was just a mini-working vacation, can be intoxicating.
I spent the first few days back home here in rural Tennessee stomping my feet and complaining about the lack of vegetarian options, oppressive humidity and just plain old un-hip lifestyle.
My weekly yoga class for teen ballerinas forced me to take a temporary break from my incessant complaining. Halfway through class, one of the young girls was struggling and tears began to fill her eyes. Instinctively, I knelt next to her and together we got through the vinyasa.
“This is where you are needed.”
I swear I heard it as if someone in the room had said it.
Can’t we negotiate this where I’m needed thing?
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
–Max Ehrmann Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life
Damn. I guess when you ask the universe a question you have to be willing to accept the answer.
In his book The Wisdom of Yoga, Stephen Cope says as humans we wage a silent War With Reality inside ourselves. The ancient yogis called it duhkha, which translates to suffering or distress. Thoreau called it a “life of quiet desperation.” In modern times, even us practicing yogis find ourselves in deep aversion to how things are right now.
Attachment is that which follows identification with pleasurable experiences.” YS II.7
I want to be there.
Aversion is that which follows identification with painful experiences.” YS II. 8
I don’t want to be here.
Like Cope points out, there is a direct connection between my duhkha and my inability to perceive reality accurately. Each time I complained about having to suffer and live here I reinforced the samskaras, those deep-rooted patterns in my brain that said, “Yeah, you’re right. It really must suck living somewhere you have a roof over your head, a family that loves you and a job that fulfills you.”
Damn you, Universe! Can’t I just wallow a little longer while I adjust to this time zone?
So what’s a good yogi to do to stop the negative patterns? Meditate of course.
Cope says one of the first lessons a new meditator must learn is “we are not our thoughts. We are not our internal chatter.”
From Copes translations of the Yoga Sutras:
Now, the teachings of yoga.
Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.
Then pure awareness can abide in its very nature. I:1-3
So if I think I’m stuck here, then I’m stuck here. But Patanjali says “things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude toward them does that.”
With meditation, awareness, compassion and a great big attitude adjustment, Cope says everyone can break those old samskaras that say I don’t want this but I do want that.
I accept the Universe has placed me here now for a reason. And I accept it may be a reason I’m not supposed to know. But I am totally open to the Universe at some point, hopefully soon, needing me someplace else.
Someplace with a beach.
* The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda