Really needing them is the key
Before I became a yogi, I was a lonely seeker with a perceptible hole in my heart. I had a lot of searching to do. I was confused, frustrated, and unfulfilled, because I was doing my best to create a happy life and I was failing miserably. I was desperately seeking how to find answers to life’s questions.
I had followed most of Western society’s rules. Go to school, get good grades, continue to college, get a good job, work hard to climb the corporate ladder, and—fall in love and start a family.
Well, those last things were eluding me. For two decades, work never seemed to cooperate, and me and my boyfriend-at-the-time were always like two ships passing in the night. When one went yin, the other always went yang. There was no meeting of the minds—no commitment to be had.
What about the soul?
One day, distraught over the breakup of yet another important relationship, I set out on a solitary walk through my desolate Florida neighborhood.
No more than fifty yards from my front door, two unique, related thoughts flashed into my consciousness out of nowhere. “They tell me I have a soul. If that’s true, why can’t I know that soul?”
My interest was piqued and the thoughts continued: “Why can’t I meet my soul right now? Why do I have to wait until I die to know who I really am?” I became indignant at the last thought. “It just doesn’t seem fair.”
Convinced it was futile to take this any further, I dismissed the thoughts and kept walking.
Little did I know this line of questioning would lead me on the journey of a lifetime—or a million lifetimes if you believe in reincarnation.
We know very little in the scheme of things
We think we know so much. We’re so advanced. We have so much technology—so much ability to build and create and discover and grow. We’re proud of our knowledge.
Yet we overlook that fact that there is a whole range of sounds we can’t hear—and a whole range of light waves beyond our vision.
What else do our five senses miss? What about our sixth sense? Just how limited are we?
I always believed there had to be more to life than what we know. This existence seems so confused, arbitrary, changeable, and often either chaotic, or boring.
Yoga led me to question everything
Soon after those questions appeared, I met my first guru who, while smiling, pointed out to a group of followers one evening, “We think we know who we are, but we don’t even know the basics about our own lives—Where did we come from? Where are we going when we die? How will we get there?—You don’t even question these things. …”
He asked me a pointed question at the close of my first weekend at his ashram, nestled in a plush, green, rural area west of Nashville—“Are you happy?” His head bobbed up and down and he smiled at me from ear to ear, awaiting my answer. I said, unconvincingly, “Yes, I’m relatively happy.”
He replied, “You might as well be—life goes on its own merry way. You can jump in the river and do one of three things: you can hang onto a rock to avoid the current, and the current will beat your body against the rock; you can try to swim upstream and become exhausted; or you can let go and flow with the current—making the best of what comes.”
I followed this guru for two years, living in his ashram for nine months, during which time he explained many aspects of life based on the 5,000-year-old ancient science of yoga, and pushed my buttons relentlessly to point out where my actions fell short of this knowledge. After a few visits to his ashram, things began to fall into place for me.
Yoga’s answers create peace, balance, and harmony
I was always fighting the current, trying to swim upstream, thinking I could make it happen. I had already discovered that I wasn’t winning, and I was in great pain. That’s what put me on my determined search for answers.
I learned firsthand that it’s true, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. The moment we begin asking fervently, “Who am I?”, life rushes in to help us—in a way that suits our needs perfectly.
This is one tenet of yoga that completely warmed my heart and expanded my gratitude.
Having a guru is an experience like no other. A guru’s purpose is to lead a student from darkness (gu) to light (ru).
They are God-assigned liberators who know their chelas (loyal students) so intimately that they can guide them through the specific life lessons they need (and are most likely to respond to) to reach their next level of understanding.
How to find answers to life’s questions
I quickly realized numerous ways in which I had been going wrong, and I was motivated to change.
Instead of developing a spiritual belief system, I had been the center of my life. I fruitlessly sought material things outside of myself (mainly relationships, and a job which would provide money I could use to buy happiness) as my source of happiness. I wasn’t concerned enough about other people in my life and the effects my actions had on them. I, I, I…
The teachings and my experience with the guru changed everything. These days, I’m a much more compassionate, positive-minded human being who has learned how to chill out and go with the flow. I’m still working on it, but I am much more contented, regardless of whether life is bringing me challenges or gifts. I view challenges as opportunities to overcome my karma and grow. I have a new guru whom I’ve been following for 11 years, and I’m now venturing out to help others discover the wonders of yoga.
This article first appeared in elephant journal
Photographer: Travis May