May 11, 2014

Changing Our Hearts in an Unchanging World. ~ Melvin Chye

happiness in the world

I picked up Yoga slightly over a year ago, back when I was still a student reading for a major in English.

The days were long, and the nights even longer. For hours at a stretch, I had to plow through novel after novel, scholarly essay after scholarly essay. I just felt as though it would never end.

That was when Yoga entered my life.

For the very first time, I felt an uncluttered mind. I felt that I could think more clearly and became more aware of each and every moment.

However, life took a drastic turn in the last few months of my studies. A close family member became stricken with illness. Watching a loved one slowly struggle and fight with an illness was something completely foreign to me. My newly acquired uncluttered mind became cluttered again. I just could not accept the reality of the situation, and I had to watch the rest of my family grapple with the circumstance. I had to watch a previously healthy individual lose the power of his personal dignity and pride.

That was when Yoga really took a stronghold in my life. The life lessons imparted by my Yoga teachers bore a larger significance to me. Especially when they said, Struggle a little harder, don’t give up. That quote helped me through many days, as it gave me a better perspective on my situation. I understood that the people around me were all struggling, just like me. I began to understand that I needed to be even stronger, not only for the people around me, but for myself.

I could not be of help to anyone if I was down and defeated.

I actively tried to change the way I perceived things. I wanted and needed to be happy, so I tried to find the positive in everything. School became more joyful, as I began to see my studies as important life lessons from great writers, rather than just more text that I needed to work through. I found myself happy even when I was standing in a packed train during peak hour, as I knew that we were all going to get to our next destination safely.

Currently holding down a full time job and experiencing the daily grind, I realize that life can’t really be the smooth sailing I’d like it to be.

We can gripe about studying long hours, working long hours, paying bills, and the rising cost of living in a world that is economically driven. What I have come to realize is, that is life. There are bound to be things that are difficult. In fact, the difficult parts take up the majority of our lives. There are bound to be things that will keep me up at night, if I let them.

Despite the very real problems presented to us in everyday life, we can choose to do things in a different way, in order to lead life with joy and optimism.

We can choose to channel the one thing we have to be happy and optimistic about: the mind.

Happiness is our birthright because we are the masters of our minds, and one can choose to be mindful in every aspect of life. Working long hours can become an inspiration, rather than a dreary obligation, as it can symbolize a very realistic step towards providing for loved ones and family.

By altering how I choose to perceive things, I am able to see obstacles in life as minor roadblocks on the way to my goal. These obstacles will not bear the usual negative connotations once I recognize that human life is about overcoming seemingly insurmountable adversity.

I am not denying or trivializing the pain of people in their daily toil. I am aware of the inequities and hardships of life. But I am suggesting that there is an alternative way to deal with problems of the everyday.

Life is always going to be hard, finding the right job, paying the bills on time, providing for the kids and so on. But it is important for us to understand that changing our conditioned perspectives in life is possible. We need to realize that we are doing it not only for ourselves, but also for the people whom who hold near and dear.

In short, if things do not change, we change.

There is a parallel here to our Yoga practice. Few can deny that sometimes the body and mind just refuse to stay still, even in savasana (dead body pose). I once had difficulty being still in savasana because I had had a long day at work, and was actually tapping my fingers to the tune of a nursery rhyme, much to the chagrin of my fellow classmates.

Nevertheless, we continue to practice because we know that a regular Yoga practice is good for us, both physically and mentally. In a nutshell, we know the greater purpose of our practice, and do it despite the difficulties. So why not bring this mindset into every waking moment?

By choosing to see hardship as a part of life, rather than feel victimized by it, we are able to develop a more clear picture, and realize that choosing to be happy and optimistic achieves a larger purpose in life.

The next time we start to find ourselves complaining or dissatisfied with life, we must remember that hard work is always part of our growth toward happiness. It is true that we work hard at our jobs. We cannot neglect to give the same amount of hard work to maintaining a healthy mental disposition. It doesn’t matter if we want to be yogis, parents, dog handlers, or accountants. Hard work is needed in every facet of life.

Nothing is ever easy in life, thus, it is a person’s ability to overcome adversity that underscores the power of human possibility.

We must understand the harshness of life, but learn to treasure every moment regardless.

All we need to do is remember that the situations may not change, but the individuals most certainly can.

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Apprentice Editor: Chrissy Tustison / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: via Flickr

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