Blessings in disguise


Blessed_Cardboard_SignThe conversation came up this week during post-Yoga coffee (or dandy, or chai, or whatever…), about Yoga and health, as though one should guarantee the other. “I thought all those years of practice would make you immune to disease?”. Umm, sorry, but no, that’s a myth. Let’s shatter it right now shall we?

While Yoga well practised most definitely promotes health, well-being and harmony, it’s just not as straight-forward as that. In one of my favourite quotes of Sri Ramana Maharishi, he says, “What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain”. Some things are destined, no matter how much practice you’ve done.

But if ultimately Yoga is about waking up from the dream of a separate ‘me’, and if that is what we sincerely desire (a question worth asking), and we trust in the God-force to do what is necessary to rouse us, then times of ill-health, disappointment or dis-ease, are full of potential and in many ways blessings in disguise.

There is nothing like the shock of loss or possible loss to show us what we really value. All of a sudden what matters matters, and what doesn’t matter really doesn’t matter one bit.

And while we’d probably all script perfect health for ourselves if given the chance, a smooth graceful life of pleasure and ease, I think most of us can look back upon times of crisis or challenge, eventually, with enormous gratitude, and the understanding that we just wouldn’t be who we are today if everything had gone our way.

I can personally attest that the times that I’ve grown, let go, or forgiven most, and felt the most genuine compassion and empathy, were those when I felt extremely unsure of outcomes, afraid, or let down.

This last week has been a lot like that.

A precious girlfriend was diagnosed with stomach cancer, another bitten badly on the face by a vicious dog, rushed to hospital for emergency plastic surgery. Both are dedicated, beautiful yoginis. And right away I can think of several other dear friends who’ve recently danced, and continue to dance with some pretty heavy situations: divorce, diabetes, infertility, miscarriage, amputation and heart disease.

What makes these friends yogis to me, besides the fact that they do some kind of practice, is their willingness to look Reality in the eye – to accept it, adapt to it, but above all to use it to open them deeper into wisdom and love. They’ve been quite abruptly shaken from their very roots, but have dug in deeper until each, in their own ways, has found water.

My personal heroes are not, and have never been, the apparently squeaky clean goji-eating Yoga pin-up set with 800,000 Instagram followers and radiant health. And while I’m sure that many of those are truly inspirational people, I personally want something grittier. I want Real. I want Raw. I want Honest.

My personal heroes are the addicts who got clean and now work with those in recovery. The abused who now work to protect or support the abused. The one’s who couldn’t have children but now care for many. The ones who’ve used a crisis of health to change their life. Anyone, in fact, with the courage to look old hurts in the eye, and transform them into something more sublime.

And that’d be all of us, because we’ve all been hurt or disappointed at some time or other. As Rumi says, “the wounds are where the light enters us”.

So beautiful friends, let’s put our heartache to excellent use. Let it become fodder for our Yoga classes, lyrics to our songs, words to our poems, the gentleness with which we care for our children & animals, and the love in the food that we cook and share.

Will a committed Yoga practice guarantee you perfect health? No, unfortunately not.
But will it give you the tools to work skilfully and graciously with whatever Life has in store for you? Absolutely. Yes.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise”. ~ Oscar Wilde

Om Namo Narayani