When I’m swimming in the ocean, I never move in a perfectly straight line. It’s open water. There are no lane ropes constraining me. And I’m at the mercy of the swell and tides. I may have a destination in mind but the route I actually take to reach this destination is often determined by what happens along the way. Sometimes I meet a little manta ray and decide to follow him. Sometimes I bump into a bunch of jellyfish and decide to change direction. Sometimes I encounter a school of such beautiful little fish that I swim around in circles with them for a while.
Life is like my ocean swims. It doesn’t happen in a straight line. If we want to be happy (and I think we all do) it’s no linear journey to destination ‘Happiness’. Even if you wish for happiness with all your heart. Even if you repeat a pile of positive affirmations every day.
Life naturally peaks and dips, ebbs and flows, twists and turns.
Let’s first accept this. If you move through life always trying to maintain excited feelings and ditch any unpleasantness then you will be in for a rough ride. You might get a bit queasy as you bump up and down on the roller coaster.
Next, let’s collect a few skills that enable us to ride these natural waves and navigate these kinks without being thrown in a heap. Let’s create a smoother ride! Let’s be able to appreciate the views around us. Let’s be able to handle obstacles with a little more wisdom.
The skills that will help us are rooted in mind training. As a yoga teacher, whenever I am in an uncomfortable phase of life, it’s the qualities of mindfulness, acceptance, openness, compassion etc. that help me most. The fact that I can perform a handsome backbend is of little use.
It takes hard work and practice to develop these useful skills, through disciplines such as meditation. But it is worth making the effort. When you are equipped with tools that help you to ride even the most turbulent waves of life then, whatever your destination is, you will arrive intact. It might not be the straightforward, economical journey you had in mind. You may see things along the way that you didn’t expect. Some of these sights will be enjoyable. Some of them won’t be. But you will get there. And there will be mental energy in the tank to face your next challenge!