Ever stopped and looked around and wondered why? Why are you doing this job you hate? Why are you considering signing up to yet another course to somehow improve yourself? Why are you saying yes to a party invite you really want to say no to?
The moment we first start to ask why symbolises the moment when our life has the potential to transform. We begin to question the values, beliefs and intentions many of us have grown up with and taken to be real. It is the start of finding meaning to our existence.
Questioning the meaning of our lives used to be a stereotype associated with an inevitable midlife crisis, but in our anxiety-fuelled, goal-driven world, asking ourselves why is no longer reserved for a specific time of our lives. As we search more for meaning and explanation in our lives, the more we become a collective voice of people taking the first steps to challenge the conformity so many of us find ourselves trapped in.
Stop the Ride, I Want to Get Off
What are your goals? Having a steady job, getting your foot on the housing ladder, or having a family? Maybe you’re working to get that perfect yoga posture, or even the perfect yoga body? Does being a certain weight or having certain clothes matter to you? Do you sometimes think, “If only I had those things I’ll live a happier, more complete life”? I’m sorry to tell you that the life you may be striving for doesn’t exist.
Sure you may get that high paying position, buy a house or even find a job for life (rare these days but not impossible), but do you really think this will make you truly happy? Or is it more likely that you will immediately start striving for the next goal: an extension to the house, a promotion at work, even more responsibility? If we’re not careful we can end up on hamster wheel of endless working towards more goals, without enjoying the journey (and our successes) along the way.
Just so you know, I don’t have a big house or a fancy car, and I definitely don’t have the perfect yoga body I may be imagining. Life, at times, has been overwhelming (losing my mum at a young age) and both underwhelming (one particular role in customer service springs to mind). I’m saying this because I used to worry about it — the lurching from the dramatic to the ordinary and all the emotions which accompanied this roller coaster. I used to wonder when life would slow down, feel more settled, and I would feel more normal. At one point I even thought I’d found normal – I had a steady job at a good company, a boyfriend and a flat.
Can you guess what I learned?
What you think will make you happy doesn’t always work out, and life sometimes has other ideas. Normal doesn’t exist and it doesn’t matter how hard you strive. If you’re not careful, it will never be enough.
How did I learn this? Well, heartache had a lot to do with it as did realising my steady job was stressing me out and that the boyfriend I loved didn’t love me anymore, but it was the practice of meditation which really gave me insight and clarity, and ultimately, freedom.
Seeing Isn’t Always Believing
In meditation we step back from our beliefs, reevaluate our desires and we realise that we may have some control over our fears. With time, this line of questioning takes us beyond ourselves to the world around us, and we realise that maybe things aren’t always what they seem.
In yoga the Vedantic term māyā refers to the illusion which most of take to be reality. Yoga helps us to cut through this illusion and realise the truth. We do things with our body that we didn’t believe we could do, we find peace in our breath, and we start to feel more comfortable with our lives exactly as they are because we realise that not everything that happens in our heads is always quite as real as we thought.
It’s a bit like waking from a scary dream. At first your heart is still racing, you’re feeling breathless, and still a bit frightened — then you quickly realise it was a dream, and sink back to your pillows with a sigh or chuckle. Yoga is like realising that our life is a bit like a dream, and that our perception of reality is really a reflection of our own nervous system.
I have a challenge. When you next sit quietly, before switching on the TV, radio or your phone, just ask yourself quietly, Who am I? Don’t expect an answer. Just keep asking yourself, at least once a day, Who am I?
Beginning to question the social construct around us can seem frightening, but it can also give us the key to great freedom in our lives. Freedom to making changes in our lives, and freedom from the fear that holds us back. It also gives us the ability to live truly in the moment, and the joy which accompanies that. We can start living our lives without struggling. We can simply enjoy. And what greater goal can there be then that?