When I moved to Israel about a year ago, I expected the change to be pretty easy, like when I moved to Korea. I expected that I would find a job relatively easily, establish a close-knit group of friends, and get to relax on the beach in Tel Aviv. I also expected that I’d finally find a nice Jewish man to date, progress in my Ashtanga practice, and be using my yoga-teaching expertise as a big part of my job.
Well, those things didn’t happen.
Tomorrow marks the last month of my first year in Israel, and as I look back at this list of expectations I had for myself, it’s a little depressing that not a single one of them has come to fruition.
I mentioned something about this to Jenny (of course I did) when I was visiting in Nebraska and her response, although not a cure-all by any means, gave me a lot to think about. She said that yoga is a practice for dealing with real life. It’s like the dress rehearsal. Every morning, we get to step onto our mats and cultivate the strength, focus, and equanimity we’ll need to face the off-the-mat real world later in the day.
“And,” she said, “You get to practice not being attached to the outcome.”
That’s the heavy hitter, right there.
I tend to get really attached to outcomes, whether it’s nailing a handstand on any given day or turning a serial dater into relationship material. I’ve got high hopes for my circumstances, and my personality is such that I like to take charge and maneuver my way into achieving whatever is I’m after. Surprise, surprise!
The practice of yoga, however, asks me to relinquish my death grip on the outcome. When I step onto my mat in the morning and start to flow through my sun salutations, my standing postures, and my seated poses, it’s important that I approach the practice like a blank slate. This doesn’t mean that I can’t have any idea of what I want to achieve, that I can’t have any certain pose I’m working towards or any physical areas I’m focusing on. Rather, the most important part is to simply show up, put in the work, and observe what unfolds. Even if Kapotasana isn’t happening for me currently, it doesn’t mean that I can’t learn from and enjoy the work leading up to it! Similarly, just because a certain job falls through or a relationship goes awry, I can still value the process I went through to get there.
So, have goals, yes! Certainly. Just don’t get too attached to the outcome.
If you’re familiar with Buddhism, you’ll know that the second Noble Truth laid down by the Buddha is that the origin of all suffering is attachment. Now that is a strong statement. I have to say, though, that the longer I live and the more I practice, the more I find this to be true. When you’re not attached to your expectations, you’re not thrown off course if the plans get shot down. It is, however, important to remember that the Buddha didn’t say to get rid of all your desires! Having desires is perfectly fine, but knowing where to draw the line on those desires is the key to not being enslaved by them.
I don’t curse my hips if they’re too tight to get my legs behind my head on any given day, so I also ought to accept my reality for what it is right now, even if it’s not where I’d originally hoped it would be. I’m exploring what it’s like to be curious about my future, rather than attempting to manipulate it. It takes an awful lot of trust, definitely, but being able to take a step back, relinquish some of the control, and watch how things unfold with a sense of curiosity has so far proven to be very freeing.
As always, I would love for you to share your thoughts with me. These are the parts of yoga that resonate with each of us differently, yet in ways that we can all relate to. So, if you’ve got any comments or experiences you’d like to share, please feel free to comment or drop me a message.