Be Yourself

It was sometime within the first year after I moved to India. In the early morning, I was enjoying a cup of coffee at the kitchen table with the back door open. A thousand thoughts were running through my mind, mostly about all the adjustments required after moving to a foreign land. Truthfully, just the mental work of so many new things to learn often left me exhausted. Overall I felt that I was adjusting well, but it is also expected that there would be moments of homesickness, and occasional longing for what had been my normal, for my comfort zone, and for my friends and family. With my gaze mostly turned inward, my eyes weren’t really focusing on the view from the back door. I wasn’t really noticing the sunlight coming over the rooftops of Nagpur, or the birds flying hither and yon, or the cow nibbling on someone’s garden below, or the 2 or 3 people who were sweeping and hosing off the street in front of their homes, which seems to be the early morning routine here. But then a small flash of distant movement grabbed my attention. On a rooftop terrace, maybe 2 or 3 streets behind ours, I saw a man go into a headstand. It was his feet kicking up into the headstand that caught my eye, otherwise I may not have noticed at all since it was rather far away.  I watched as he held his pose there, against a wall for support. He held it for so long that I eventually shifted my gaze back to my coffee cup. And that was it. That was all I needed to feel the doubts disappear and to remember that I am exactly where I am meant to be. Even though I stick out here, as a “taller than most and whiter than everyone" lady in a city that is 99.99% Indians, in that moment my heart said; “These are my people.” 

In India the practice of yoga can be traced back for thousands of years. There is some disagreement as to when Yoga was first introduced in the USA, but even in the 60’s and 70’s when yoga was enjoying a rise in popularity, the practice of yoga was still out on the fringe with hippies and new age guru worshippers. In the last two decades Yoga has become much more common in many cities and towns all across the USA but it is still not as widespread as in India. When I used to live in Pennsylvania, USA, if I spoke about “Surya Namaskar” only a handful of yoga practitioners would recognize these Sanskrit words. If I said; “Sun Salutations” perhaps more people would be familiar. However, if I say; “Surya Namaskar” in India, anyone and everyone would know immediately that I was referring to Yoga. In fact, in the Delhi airport there is a large sculpture depicting all of the poses included in Surya Namaskar. You can see an image of it on Wikipedia here. It is part of life here. It is embedded into the culture.  

But this blog isn’t about the history of Yoga. Let’s get back to that one man, on that one day, doing a headstand early in the morning. He didn’t know that I saw him. He was in his own life, doing his own practice, not aware at all that my observation of him transformed my low-key sadness into peaceful contentment and confidence. It turned my day around right at the start. It made me feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be - for so many reasons - but this one event reminded me of all the other reasons as well.  

My message today isn’t actually about yoga, or fitness at all really. My message for you is; be yourself. Do the thing that you love. Do it regularly and with passion. Whether it is on the fringe or in the mainstream, take time to do the things that you know are good for you, that you enjoy, that make you happy to be alive. You never know who is watching you. You never know whom you might inspire just by being yourself. It might be a headstand, or a haircut, or just the smile that you offer to others. Please don’t worry about fitting in. Be yourself. You are magic! When you live your life authentically, you (often unknowingly) are giving others the courage and the inspiration to do the same.  

I am reminded of words spoken by Mahatma Gandhi; 

“Whatever you do in life will be insignificant but it is very important that you do it because you can't know. You can't ever really know the meaning of your life. And you don't need to. Every life has a meaning, whether it lasts one hundred years or one hundred seconds.” 

I have seen this sentiment summed up in the following phrase; “It is not what you do, but that you do it.”  

You may think of your own life as nothing special, or maybe even boring, but to someone else your life is their inspiration. Imagine that! You are just living your life, your day to day routine, and someone else may be watching and finding just what they need through your example. Whether it is your work ethic, your manners, your originality, or even your headstand! Someone may be seeing you at just the right moment to get exactly the message they need. Isn’t that incredible?!

So shine on, you beautiful star! You never know whose path you will light up just by being yourself and living life in your own special way.  

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