I landed at the ashram in India with a backpack, my yoga mat, and a red roller suitcase that traveled the world with me.
I packed and prepared physically, but nothing could have prepared me emotionally.
There were 30 other people from all over the world who came with just as much baggage—I bet you can guess which kind. I checked in, picked up my room key, and met my roommate and a few of the other trainees before I went to settle in my room.
My bed was the size of a large crib with a green mosquito net wrapped around it. I had a locker with three shelves and a bucket for washing—both my hair and my laundry.
I unpacked my backpack and roller bag into my shelves, rolling up each of my yoga pants and tank tops to fit into the space I was given. I crawled into the mosquito net covered bed and curled up for what would be my first sleep in 48 hours.
I could finally exhale. When I woke up three hours later, it was time for our first yoga practice.
Our days consisted of meditation, learning to teach and practice yoga, morning chanting, and afternoon in-depth philosophy classes. This was my first time stepping into philosophy, and I walked in barefoot with my eyes wide open.
During class, my teacher took things that seemed real—like relationships and love—and shared how they were theories and not permanent. The entire basis of his philosophical teaching was that nothing was real. The only real thing is that the soul exists and the physical body dies.
Take that as you will—this is one man’s interpretation, and he was the one teaching me.
Around the third week, I walked into the classroom, ready to have my mind blown away again by what to believe and what to question. He had the word “happiness” written on the whiteboard. Without emotion, thought, or hesitation—and with utter exhaustion—I belted out, “Yogi Ram, please don’t kill happiness, too.”
All eyes turned to me, a few people laughed, and lots of them wondered the same thing. He asked me what made me happy.
I said it then, I said it before, and I still stand with it today, “Laughter makes me happy.”
He followed up with, “Do you like snakes?”
Begrudgingly and with much skepticism, I responded with a grimace on my face and through my teeth, “Well, they are not my favorite.” He was baiting me, and I knew it.
He continued, “You are walking down the street, and you hear a group of children laughing, so you stop next to a tree to listen. Are you happy?”
With bold confirmation, I exclaimed, “Yes!”
He continued, “A snake drops right in front of your face, hanging from a branch on the tree. The children are still laughing, but a snake is hanging in front of your face. Are you still happy?”
With defiance, groaning exhaustion, and not as much confidence, I replied, “I’m happy-ish.” I knew I had just proven whatever point he was about to make.
He went on to explain that happiness is a goal of emotion, but it doesn’t last. Emotions are on a pendulum, swinging back and forth between happiness and sadness, and for every bit of happiness, we get the same and equal amount of sadness.
His argument was to live in a state of contentment, to be enlightened, to not be emotional—to not be attached to an emotion. I knew I would never reach that state of enlightenment because I’m too attached to the people I love and care about.
Even if my emotion is love, according to his thoughts, it isn’t real. This knowledge, however, prepared me for getting through or getting over attachments I had to relationships that were going to one day fail.
When the time came for me to leave India, I was a changed human. I finally understood why emotions were important to me—going through them means that…I’m just going through them.
I finally found contentment and was overjoyed at my newfound knowledge and curiosity in yoga, philosophy, and even vegan food. But I knew, deep down, what was waiting for me upon my return home.
I wanted to stay in India so that I could hold onto that feeling of joy for just a little bit longer. But I couldn’t—I couldn’t avoid the swing and the inevitable. I boarded the plane home to Santiago, Chile, by way of Dubai.
There is something agonizing about sitting on airplane after airplane, for long flights across the globe knowing what awaits me. I wanted to be home, as fast as I could to get it over with, but I also wanted to stay floating a little bit longer.
It was two days after I arrived that he came over and told me that during my time in India, he realized he didn’t want to be with me anymore. I went to India, and I found myself, but I lost my relationship.
My heart was broken.
It was my turn to put into practice what I learned that day at the ashram on my understanding of happiness.
I reminded myself over and over again that it doesn’t last forever—the pain or the joy, none of it. And I watched the pendulum shift back and forth between laughter with friends and that feeling of being kicked in the gut each time my memory went back to him.
I knew, and I still know, that I can hope, love, try, fall, fail, and be heartbroken—that’s life.
The overwhelming happiness we felt because something incredible happened won’t last forever.
The gut-wrenching sadness we went through because something incredible happened won’t last forever.
That’s the thing though—I know it won’t last forever. I’ll take feeling the good and the bad every time because yes, it means I’m not enlightened, but it also means I haven’t given up.
We can’t know what the future holds. I might as well ask the psychic I went to in November for my money back since she didn’t warn me about COVID-19, and the big money she said I was going to make for my entrepreneurial events services business certainly didn’t come in. But, that’s okay.
This is the bend in the road.
This is the switchback where we sit hands on our knees before progressing further up the hill.
This is our chance to understand that we can’t necessarily walk away from it, but the emotional roller-coaster we are on while sitting at home will eventually slow down.
Don’t be afraid to embrace joy, and don’t push away sadness. Instead, acknowledge it.
Just take a break, breathe, and remember that even COVID-19 can’t kill happiness for good.