I hope you will enjoy another sample chapter from Practice.
When I am preparing to travel, friends often ask me, “Are you excited about your trip? What are you going to do when you get there?” Most of my trips are for at least a month, so these are logical questions that are always asked with good intentions. Unfortunately, such questions totally miss the mark of any journey.
Excitement requires attention to be subtracted from the current moment. It also sets the hook for an attachment to a future event that may or may not happen.
Prior to going to India for my third trip, I knew that I would live in the ashram for 10 days, then move to the yoga shala and take a teacher training that would last a month. I was also hopeful that I would reconnect with friends from my previous visits to the area. I did have one massage booked prior to arrival, but beyond that, I did not set any type of expectations about what would or would not happen.
I would have found it easy to fantasize or daydream about things that might happen. I could have imagined myself meeting my soulmate in the training and falling deeply in love. I could have envisioned a spiritual awakening wherein all my mortal problems would dissipate into space and be replaced with eternal bliss. Given the anticipated level of yoga practice and diet change, it would have been quite logical to imagine some type of transformation in my body. Perhaps six-pack abs?
In each one of these examples, certain expectations could be set. Would my new love be tall? Would I float back home on a magic carpet? Would AARP Magazine want to feature me for the “Abs over 50” issue? Allowing these ridiculous thoughts to gain traction might set a high-water mark that could either be met or not. If not met, would I equate that to failure? If met, would I wonder if I could have done even better?
Yoga teaches a person acceptance. I have learned to enter each practice with the intention of always doing my best to stay in the moment and to achieve stillness in my mind. This intention is extremely different from walking into class with the attitude that today is the day I will hold dancer pose for 90 seconds and my form will be perfect. Again, a ridiculous expectation is established, and judgment comes into play about results that are better or worse than the preconceived notion.
My trips typically begin with flights, which are usually a wonderful place to test acceptance. It is never a clever idea to walk down the jetway with thoughts of being upgraded to first class, of being seated next to fascinating people, of arriving early to a destination. Life is much more interesting when I accept a delayed flight as the universe telling me that I have another purpose in that moment. In my younger days, I would take a delay as a conscious effort on behalf of the CEO of Delta Airlines to purposely ruin my day.
What I do take on every trip now is an intention to be very open to accepting what happens, to letting each day unfold. The best memories of my life always come from the unexpected synchronicities that make each day richer. If coincident events are not happening to me with regularity, the universe is telling me that I am on the wrong path—a cosmic hint to shift gears and change lanes.