The 'unsmart direction'
As in countless times this past year, we recently got ‘the look.’ You know –the sceptic, disbelieving look of someone to whom our most recent career change seems a bit wacky, lacking in ‘realism,’ nothing short of a hippie sort of move that, sooner or later, will prove difficult to sustain or too idealistic. As ‘converted Yoga teachers’ we get that look a lot and not only from strangers.
In a way, it is almost funny to see the kinds of preconceptions and ideas one has to face and learn to deal with when she decides to label herself a Yoga teacher in the West. People immediately jump to conclusions about you, your personality, your educational level, intelligence, lifestyle, and overall sense of ‘realism’ upon hearing this much –particularly if you don’t own a Yoga studio. We’ve had countless instances in the past few years to know how it goes by now. Calling yourself a Yoga teacher in the West is tantamount to saying that you are a personal trainer of sorts; somebody helping people move here and there for an hour or so at a time so they can stay 'fit' a little bit longer... That's what most people think Yoga is about, anyways.
For many people out there, people like us, who in their previous fields had everything lined up to ‘succeed the Western way' and have a proper go at their respective careers, are foolish in leaving that kind of currency behind. For one, nobody leaves the university after spending years to complete a PhD. with a top-notch fellowship to back you and a trajectory of fellowships and prizes behind you; nor do you turn to teaching Yoga after a solid career in Sports Management and Marketing Consulting. You just don’t do that, let alone to turn into ‘another Yoga teacher’… And yet, we both have.
Often, when major shifts in direction like ours take place, they don’t come about overnight. The energy behind them has most likely been at play for a number of years with an intelligence of its own –one you could feel and almost touch much earlier, even if you didn’t have the words to name it. It is a bit as if life just happened to slowly move you in the right direction at the right time, however difficult the transition, however uncertain the result. Because deep in your bones you just feel it’s the right thing to do at a given point and that’s all there is to it. But of course, this requires a certain level of sensitivity to feel the moment approaching, as well as the courage to take a leap of faith in the face of very uncertain odds.
Still, seen from the outside, the transition can look quite different. For those out there who’ve known you a certain way and are thus ‘entitled’ to having certain expectations about you and your life, it is sometimes hard to understand the kind of motivations pushing you to ‘astray from the path of good reason’ to try something so apparently flimsy or ‘un-career-like’ as Yoga. Which goes to show how the right direction for one person may simultaneously be the ‘unsmart direction’ –especially when you judge the transition from the point of view of a different frame of mind, a differing belief system. And it is really a question of differing belief systems that’s at the bottom not only of our career transition, but also of the infamous ‘look’ prompting this entry with all its unspoken implications.
To us, our change in direction is nothing but the external result of a much deeper, much slower transition, one happening at the core of our belief system over a number of years and transforming how we see the world and what we value as ultimately important in life little by little. The fact that a great part of this transition first took place in silence, on the inside, justifies the degree of surprise we’ve had to encounter when we finally decided to actually do something to change our lives, perhaps even help others, and leave a lot of the ‘currency’ we had accumulated on our previous paths.
Still, for us it never really looked as a black and white kind of transition, as it seems to be interpreted by many now. It hasn’t really been an “I’m walking away from all this for good” kind of thing for us. We just didn’t think in those terms at the time we made up our minds and we still don’t. We came to our decision by asking questions like: “What do I really want from life? Is this thing I’ve been doing for so long still making me happy? Or, is it perhaps time to move on, have a go at something different, something I’ve been dreaming of doing but never dared try? Am I ok with trying it even if I fail, even if I don’t make it to where I believe I want to get at? And also, who am I?” Those were the terms of the transition in our case and they remain the questions we ask of ourselves also today.
There is a certain way in which, in the Western world, we are expected to choose a path for ourselves early in life –basically as soon as we turn 18 and can choose whether or not we want to have a university education– and then stick with it for good. Most people go on to do this (us, at one point too) without even second-guessing a decision made when they were barely of age. If you are lucky, you go on through a path of learning and growth with some ups and downs that further ratify the decision you made when you were basically entering public life. But if you are not one of the lucky ones, the road can get quite uncomfortable and bumpy. And, because of the pressure on us to always know what we want, to always be convinced of ‘who we are in life,’ many of us choose to remain where we are at despite a lot of indicators for us to go on and try something a bit more uncertain. This is what we call 'the road less taken,' even if there are countless of us on it at any one time!
At the bottom of it all there is a question –well, in fact, quite a few. What is a life made for? What is this thing we are experiencing today, at least, meant to be for? Is it perhaps meant for us to do the same thing over and over even when we don’t quite enjoy it, even when doing so it’s making us sick or unhappy? What is a life for? What is your life for? Is your life really yours? Furthermore, is there an actual, honest, personal motivation for you do be doing life this minute the way you’re doing it? Think about it and be honest. You should know the answers. Does your life right now have an honest personal motivation, a true purpose or reason for you to endure the good and the bad and be satisfied no matter what? If not, why not and what are you going to do about that?
As Dr. David Frawley writes, "[t]he ultimate source of all our problems from which we seek the resolution of is our own self-ignorance, not understanding who we really are at the core of our own being." And as far as we’ve been able to discover, mostly through personal experience and a bit of reading, there are no rules as to how a person’s life is meant to unfold. We have some implicit or inherent rules, of course, society is full of them, but they’re not really set in stone. Which means, you’re really always free to change direction should you feel like it, should you really dare to try. Though we like to think we have a lot of time in life, the truth is all the time we have is now. But then again, this is just our opinion, one formed by taking a minute or two to think hard about it all and feel our answers. Yours may look entirely different; so we invite you to dwell on it for a little and dare to find, even feel your answers, those that are truer to your heart –however surprising or unsettling they may be. The quality of your life depends upon it.