It’s been one year since I embarked on a journey to the land famously known for its curry and spice.
In a six week escape from the corporate world, I boarded a flight to India in pursuit of becoming a certified yoga teacher.
For once in my life I actually did my due diligence—priding myself in embracing spontaneity and taking off on last minute adventures to unpredictable destinations, I actually couldn’t believe that I had meticulously researched and booked my 200-hour Yoga Alliance Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India.
Perhaps, like dust swept under a rug, a blanket of business-like procedural values were instilled in my once-impulsive, unplanned and spur-of-the-moment brain.
To be honest, I had created expectations traveling to India; expectations of the people, the culture and even the yoga training itself.
I expected to learn about the philosophy of yoga and basic anatomy. Most of all I expected to learn how to conduct or facilitate a yoga class. While we certainly explored the fundamentals of these topics, I quickly realized that expectations are merely pointless assumptions of what future experiences may hold and generally they’re far from reality.
One thing I didn’t foresee was the opportunity to learn outside the classroom.
Isolated in the rural northern town of Rishikesh, I had limited connection with the rest of the world. I relied on the flaky Wi-Fi from my cellphone to send updates to friends and family back home.
Needless to say, when my phone charger stopped working I wanted to get it fixed and fortunately, a nearby electronics shop had one last knock-off charger that actually fit in my phone. After only two weeks spent in town I had learned that these products weren’t necessarily built-to-last, though I was hoping the inexpensive fix would last the remaining month.
Unfortunately, less than two weeks later the replacement charger malfunctioned as well.
I headed back to the same shop in hopes that they had yet another cheap spare to get me through the duration of my stay. The elderly shop owner told me to return the next day as they would source one from a nearby town. The very next day I returned, but they had been unable to find the same charger.
I stopped in numerous times over the next few days and finally the shop owner’s youngest son happily sold me a similar looking charger to the one I bought the first time. When I got back to my accommodations I connected my phone and discovered that the ‘new’ charger wasn’t working either.
Maintaining my cool, I returned to the shop to explain that I had been sold a faulty piece of equipment. The kid was no longer around and the elderly man claimed that the charger didn’t come from his shop. He refused to reimburse me my money and I we began to argue back and forth.
The argument escalated into a 10 minute yelling match until finally he angrily returned the money. When the dust had settled I apologized, but the man was still unimpressed.
Frankly, I was embarrassed at how I behaved. Between the language barrier and unorthodox exchanges between the shop owner, his son and me it was possible that this was just a case of miscommunication. When I returned to our ashram I ran into our instructor, Master Roshan. I recounted the entire ordeal and told him how I felt.
His focused eyes seemed to stay still as the rest of his head bobbled gently side to side, as if he was scooping up the sound waves with his ears, listening intently.
When I finished he looked at me and said, “How do you feel?”
I wondered if he had been listening. “Upset, I guess,” I replied.
“How do you think the man feels?” he asked.
“I guess he’s probably upset too,” I answered again.
“What can you do about his happiness?”
“I can apologize for how I acted.” I said, my voice getting higher in an inquisitive crescendo.
“What can you do about your happiness?’”
“I don’t know.” I responded, starting to feel like his questions were meant to be rhetorical.
That’s when he hit me with some truth.
Roshan said, “You are ultimately responsible for your own emotions. He is not making you upset, you are making you upset.”
I repeated this in my brain allowing it to sink in. He is not making me upset, I am making me upset.
Master Roshan quietly bowed his head and disappeared around the corner.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Bronwyn Petry / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Vinoth Chandar, Flickr Creative Commons