Before coming to India stress had become the norm. I was living a fast-paced life, constantly putting more and more pressure on myself, trying to plan for my future while simultaneously dealing with the complexities of daily life. In such an environment, I even began finding it hard to know what to do next; to make the right decision and stick to it.
As I described in my previous post, I have gained precious knowledge by practising yoga in India. I got a better idea on what yoga really is and its tremendous potential. The yoga that we do on the mat is only there to serve our life when we step off. By synchronizing movements with breath and developing our awareness, we start to create a more robust balance between the body and the mind, which serves as a shield to withstand life’s obstacles.
But India taught me another very important lesson. Life is chaotic and there’s no need to try and control things since the future is unpredictable anyway. Instead, I began surrendering myself to the unexpected and developed faith that in the end everything will be okay.
I have learned this lesson by evolving in the beautiful chaos of India. While at first, the experience was overwhelming, I soon discovered myself adapting and relaxing more and more. But if India is so chaotic, one can wonder why such a place continues to attract more and more Westerners looking to develop themselves and find inner peace. Here is why…
Sometimes Less Is More
When I came to India I decided to stay at an ashram to deepen my practice of yoga. I arrived there on the first day and discovered what would become my bedroom for the next three months. The room was austere, stripped out of all the usual comfort and the luxuries that we are used to in the West. There was simply a bed and a bathroom. This was such a surprise that for a while I began to question myself whether I could adapt and be comfortable to stay there for the whole period.
In the West, we have surrounded ourselves with more and more things over the last few decades. In many cases the development in technology has made our lives easier, but it’s also true that in many cases the opposite effect has happened; our lives have become more complicated. By staying in this environment I began to realise that the more we accumulate in life, the more complex our lives become.
Whether going to India to stay in an ashram or just visiting, we Westerners have to face some degree of austerity in the way we live our daily lives. Long commute times, eating on the floor or squeezing through crowds are some examples of things you can’t escape in India. Learning to readjust with less comfort and luxuries can help in establishing a more simple and natural life.
After only a few days, at the ashram I began to enjoy the simplicity of the environment and felt a deep sense of peace. My life was much simpler. I also realised that making a conscious choice to live in hardship without complaining has the other benefit of building up endurance and resistance, which directly affect our daily state of mind.
A Daily Practice In India
Once you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, how do you know if you have made any real progress? Sure, we can hold our āsanas for longer and perhaps even smile while doing it, but how can we tell if we have been transformed at the level of the mind?
Funnily enough, day-to-day life in India is a lot like our yoga practice. Travelling extensively, being pushed around by the crowd, the noise, the dirt, the smell, India is sometimes so chaotic and overwhelming that by simply being there we are challenged to develop greater resilience and resistance to live in a more difficult environment. Our ability to take our lessons off the mat and into that situation is the real test to see whether or not progress has been made.
I decided to practice yoga every day, no matter what, and began to see things differently. I even began to enjoy an environment that was almost unbearable at first. This is true anywhere. As long as life is gentle with us, and everything is going our way we might be thinking that we have made great progress, but what happens when the wind starts to blow and things get rough? Are we still able to hold our balance?
Learning To Be Grateful
I remember before I even set foot in India, people warned me about how tough the place can get at times. There is a very high contrast between the rich and the poor. Poverty is seen everywhere, from children working on the streets to old people begging for food. What I found most disturbing, though, is not the poverty. It was the undisturbed acceptance, hope and happiness from the same people who don’t even know where their next meal will come from.
This was a great lesson on learning to be thankful in life. No matter what obstacles I face sometimes, it does not compare to what some other people are facing in their daily lives. Being grateful for the chance that we have, even when everything seems to fall apart, puts things into perspective and can help in developing an undisturbed sense of peace and happiness.
Embracing The Chaos Of Life
Life in India is imperfect. But India doesn’t judge or point fingers. India accepts. No matter what religions, culture or background, India accepts people the way they are. Everyone lives together in this beautiful chaos and this teaches us that being different is the greatest gift of all.
By surrendering and embracing the chaos we learn to keep moving forward in life and not give up, no matter what the circumstances are. India teaches us to stop trying to control everything, overanalyse events that happened in the past or worry about the future because life is unpredictable anyway!
Life is a roller coaster and the best way to thrive is to accept whatever happens. This may seem difficult to apply at first, but by simply practicing yoga regularly we naturally develop this attitude of being in the moment. We begin to develop the strength to keep the head high and move forward even in the strongest turmoil. So far, I think that’s what yoga is about.