When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” -The Dalai Lama
Love this Dalai Lama quote that focuses on personal responsibility and awareness. We live in a world where we are constantly reminded that everything that happens is someone else’s fault. The stock market crashed because of bad people (Ok, so maybe some research would have been helpful). I’m late to work because of construction (yep, notified in advance). My kids are unruly because of violence on TV (yes, the television does have parental controls and there is this thing called boundaries). We glorify pointing the finger at some other person’s shortcomings or blaming our misfortunes on bad luck, bad timing, bad people, or even just bad weather. The result – lots of people walk around this planet suffering.
That philosophy surely makes one feel completely powerless. How can we possibly get ahead in life if we have no control? How could we ever possibly be happy? Our life is just left to the whims of others and perhaps, just maybe, we can grasp random moments of happiness that are unpredictable and fleeting.
I propose a radical shift in philosophy. What if everything was under your control? What if you got to decide right now how your life would go? What if you could choose to be happy and it wouldn’t matter what anyone else did or said or didn’t do or say? Radical, but definitely doable.
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “this always happens to me?” or “if I didn’t have bad luck, I would have no luck at all?” or “If X person would just do _______(fill in the blank), then I would be ____________(again fill in the blank). Who is the common denominator in every one of those statements and a thousand more like them you could make? YOU. You are the star in all these scenarios. And in every scenario you have the choice to play the victim or the hero of your own life.
And it can start out with a very easy to achieve approach – change your inner dialogue, change your questions, and change the way you REACT to these situations.
Does this really, really always happen to you? If the answer is yes, maybe the real question is why do I let this happen to me all the time? Or, why do I let this get to me all the time? If someone cutting you off in traffic or challenging your belief system sets you off into a complete rage, maybe it is time to start asking yourself why and stop making the people who push your buttons not just the bad guys but also the ruler of your emotional well-being.
So, what the hell does this have to do with yoga? Will perfecting my down dog make me less of a jerk? Will I develop the patience of Job 24/7? How about hanging out in my beautiful forearm stand? Sorry to report, you can practice many, many hours a day and you can still be a world-class pain in the arse with a fuse mere microns long. You will be healthy and in great shape, which are two very good things, but if you came to yoga for more than the stretch, then I invite you to begin looking at your yoga practice as your life practice. As you are the only person in charge of what happens on that yoga mat, so are you in life. When you begin to see the metaphor of your behavior patterns on the mat and how they transfer into your everyday living off the mat, you start to connect with your ability to own your role as the common denominator of your life.