Lovely Surprises

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Planning. We all must do it in order to set our goals and the best route for us to get there. We have to look at all the different paths, and figure which one will maximize our intentions and bring our destination to us quickly and productively. Whether we plan for a road trip or we plan our lives, we like to have pre-mapped routes that we have chosen for the attractions along the way, or the lack of attractions and simple efficiency. But, perhaps the best life and the best “path” is the one chosen keeping in mind that the journey IS the destination…

I once traveled with heaps of guide books. I sat in my room somewhere and read about the next place I was going, where will I stay, where will I eat. Then, on my trips outside I would hurriedly snap photos to catalog my “experience”, while rarely looking with my own eyes. At one point, I threw the books away. Going without them has been such an opportunity for me. I rarely even take photos anymore… A Swiss friend, Max, once told me that if it is so much worth preserving, you do not need a camera, you will always remember through your memories. So, here I am with no photos, no plan, and no wish to ever go back to the life that was consumed by things.

When we live by our own self-imposed rules, we exclude chance. We narrow our minds, and become like the donkey always laboring for the impossible carrot. If something does not fall into our defined time schedule and checklist, we assume it is not for us, and pay it no heed. In this way we are ignorant to sparkling examples of people, places, and feelings that are right in front of us. It is a shame to miss so much. Feel this, that you don’t have to forsake your goals for the scenic route.

I just watched a mess of freshly hatched sea turtles released onto the beach. There were the go-getters, the ones who ran in a straight path right away down the beach towards the ocean tides. Then, the lazy babies. They were lying on the beach, watching the go-getters while the slowly blinked their eyes, stretched a little, thought about this procession, and at their own time and pace finally got moving in a laid back shuffle down the sands. From these two groups you could follow individual tracks in a straight line towards the water, as if you could see their single minded intent to get to sea. But then, after all the other little babies were already long gone and far swimming away, there was one left.
His tracks through the sand were like a beautiful curling loop and zipper. Several times, he would turn back towards the shore, head up the beach a little in a wide arc, looking around the whole time before turning back towards the water. I watched as he had a stare down with a hungry crab, trembled at the waves, and maybe looked for his favorite shell among the wash the tide has brought in. My friend was worried for him, maybe there is something wrong with that little turtle who makes crazy tracks in the sand. I am happy for him, he is a kindred soul to me. I think he is the best of all the little sea turtles just released. He has looked around him, evaluated everything about his immediate surroundings, participated in this world before rushing in to it headfirst, and taken the scenic route. His tracks are beautiful to me, and I think he will be the most successful and happy. He has seen things the other turtles have not, seen things they didn’t even know existed. He has a head start, even though he is the last one, solitarily swimming into the ocean. He could have had the security of following the group in, following mass cues for an idea of what to do and how to deal with this. But does this not require more courage, to walk into the waves on a personal journey alone, eyes full and open?

As a yoga guide, it is my inherent duty to open my student’s eyes. For me to measure my success, I need to give my students this lesson. You can figure on your own whether or not and how to use this theory in your daily life, but I will present it in terms of yoga implication.

How often have we rushed through our practice because there is a schedule? The meeting starts at noon, so I’ve got to finish my session by 11/45. How often have we followed a video we’ve watched over and over, committing ourselves to a routine that is not truly in the moment? Yes, those twists were what your spine was crying for today, but they weren’t on the video, so never got done… We’ve all promised ourselves a level of progress within our practice, at whichever pace we decide is acceptable. But in doing this do we lose appreciating each moment even as a beginner? Do we understand that as we are is the best expression of our yoga? Early on, I’ve been guilty of not putting my mind into the individual lesson, relying on well used sequences I know like the back of my hand so that I didn’t really have to be present in the lesson. Mentally, I was miles away, just repeating the words like autopilot. Who knows what was missed because of this?
I dedicate myself to living openly, within the bounds set only by my code of ethics, not those placed by my willful mind. Let us all remember to be like the little turtle. My friend calls him Penyu Gila, which is Malay for Crazy Turtle. I call him Saudara, or Brother.

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