One thing that both attracts and repulses me about the yoga world is its eternal optimism.
It was at yoga class that I first began to hear the phrase “it’s all good” bandied about with force and frequency. I recall my first yoga teacher’s seemingly constant positive outlook. When I’d ask a simple ,“How are you?” the response would never be, “fine,” or “okay” or even “miserable.” It was always, “Great!” Coming from a background of gloom, doom and negativity, this was simultaneously refreshing and hard to take.
When nasty things happen in the world (as they seem to be, more and more often), my pre-yoga response was always, “Well, that figures. Human beings are evil, and the world is full of bad luck.”
Après-yoga, however, my response to these things (much like religious folk, I would imagine) runs more along the lines of: “We don’t understand, we don’t see the whole picture, but we have to trust.”
It’s hard to trust when children are bombed or shot, or a father dies in an accident, or countries go about their warring ways. What can possibly be “good” about any of this? I once heard a very witty and practical Iyengar teacher (quite the opposite of my go-with-the-flow Vinyasa teacher) comment, “Oh yes. It’s all good until they tell you that you have pancreatic cancer. Then let’s see how ‘all good’ it is.” My heart warmed to these words, because they were the kind of words upon which I was raised.
But within moments, I found myself arguing in my own head…something along the lines of, “Well, maybe there’s something to be learned even from that.” Clearly, I’d been converted from the dark side to the light.
The problem is, once you make your mind up to see everything in life from a perspective of trust it’s hard to go backwards. The shooting at the Sikh temple last year is a case in point. These loving, trusting people refused to lash out with anger and blame. They prayed not only for the souls of the victims but also for the soul of the perpetrator.
I remember when I first encountered this stalwart optimism—which came at a time shortly after my mother’s death and shortly before my own diagnosis of breast cancer—thinking that if indeed there was a God, how could He/She possibly let such evil stuff go down? (Of course, these are the common musings of every human being at some point in life.)
How can I believe anything? How can I believe that “it’s all good?” How can I believe that even the most horrific happenings in life are somehow meant to be?
My teacher answered the first question quite handily. “To believe,” she said, “all you have to do is look at the sky.”
From that day forth, I found myself looking at the sky more and more, and quite honestly, believing more and more in the process. Even when I got my frightening diagnosis, I kept looking. And what I found was that the disease wasn’t pretty, but it served to turn my life around.
Is it all good, really? I don’t think so. And yet I have come to believe that we have no other choice but to trust.
Trust…and look at the sky.
Kathryn E, Livingston has been writing about parenting issues for more than 25 years; recently, she’s turned her pen to yoga. Kathryn is especially drawn to Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Kundalini yoga, and is soon to engage in a Kundalini yoga teacher training. Visit her personal blog. Find her on The Huffington Post and on the Kundalini yoga music website, check out her book of essays, All About Motherhood, or follow her on Twitter. Kathryn’s yoga memoir will be published in January, 2014.
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