“First happiness is a choice. Then it is a practice.” Jason Nemer, co-founder of AcroYoga
You have to make the choice to be happy – it is like anything else – sometimes it is graceful and effortless and sometimes it seems beyond our grasp. When petty irritations arise or a sense of futility or loss dominates our days, it’s time to ask yourself, “Do I want to live in this place?” I was discussing life on and off the mat with friend and fellow yoga teacher Siri Peterson. When we teach, we put our best selves forward. So what happens if we carry that off of the mat and into our daily lives? Both of us are in the art world - I am a visual artist and Siri is a dancer. Both worlds can be viciously competitive environments, which, after a while, leave their imprint. Although competition is a reality in any professional world including yoga, the overall tone of the yoga world is one of openness, assistance, compassion, and warmth. Needless to say, we both lead slightly divided lives.
I decided this week to take that best self from the studio out into the streets. Normally, if someone slammed into me in the subway, I might snap at them or fume, feeling irritable and wronged. If a student pushed past me at Virayoga, where I teach, or shoved aside my things to put down their own, what would I do? Not much, actually. I would think, “that person really needs class today,” and then seek them out, acknowledge them, let them be heard. And that would feel good.
As a yoga teacher I make an easy choice to be my best self. Anger begets anger, just like sorrow does sorrow and happiness - happiness. When we default to anger or irritability, we perpetuate the grasp of those destructive sensations in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, feeling the entire cycle of emotions is an essential part of being complete human beings, but getting stuck in the ones that drag us down is a problem. This goes for sadness as well. When something painful happens, feel it fully – go to the depths, but then rise back up. Choose to surface. This is both liberating and empowering. Think of the sensations in your body and mind when you feel any particular emotion. What feels the worst? What feels best? What serves you most in your daily actions and interactions? Choose to constantly move toward that feeling, that emotion. Dedicate your day to it. Your week.
All week, my experiment has been surprisingly smooth. It has actually been easier to not succumb to negativity in that my mood stays balanced, my interactions graceful. I feel happy. But still, it is a practice. So try it. Begin like this:
Inhale into anything that feels stuck or blocked inside your body and mind.
Exhale whatever is not serving you.
Repeat this as many times as you need.
And then choose happiness. Again. And again. And again.
It’s like answering to the universe. And answering to the universe opens up the vastness of your heart.