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7 Reasons Why There's Nothing to Worry About
There is no way to happiness -- happiness is the way.
-- The Buddha
You Can't Get Happy (You Can Only Be Happy)
In all the time I've taught yoga, the question that I've gotten hit with the most is, "Why are you so happy?" It seems to mystify most people, especially the stressed-out yogis and yoginis of Los Angeles. Midconversation, inevitably a baffled line of questioning pops up, and it usually goes something like this: "What do you have to be so happy about? You're a yoga teacher. I have so much more money and stuff than you do. I have a million-dollar mansion, I have diamond mines and shoe factories. I should be happy, not you." It really bothers some people that I'm happy, a fact that only adds to their already overflowing collection of troubles.
But here's the amazing thing: By the end of the yoga class, the sourest of the sour walk away, having forgotten that they even bothered to worry about my illogical hap- piness and the injustice of it all. They wave good-bye, with the glimmer of reasonless delight in their own eyes.
In India, there are yogis who have the tiny, skinny bodies every anorexic teenager dreams of. Not because they want to look like gaunt runway models, but because they can't afford to eat more than a handful of rice and a little boiled cauliflower once a day. On a visit to India, I asked one such scrawny yogi, "How are you?" He replied, "I am so happy to see you here on this beautiful day!! How amazing is this existence, my friend, that we are here, where we are!" His eyes glistened, his face beamed. I asked him, "Are you in need of anything?"His kind eyes filled with even more warmth (if that's possible), and he replied through a wide, toothless grin, "Maybe a little food." It hit me then and there: If this person is this radiant and happy in these conditions, what's my problem?
Some of the yogis in India are barefoot, dressed in rags, and exist in "homes"that consist of dirty ground and a gutter. And yet, when you look into their eyes, they're radiating more joy and love than any Wall Street executive or Beverly Hills millionairess has ever known. In this chapter, I'm going to reveal the long kept, well-guarded secrets of everlasting happiness, discovered by the ancient yogis long ago.
Happiness isn't complicated. In fact, it's the opposite of complex: It's the simplest thing in the world.
Without looking out your window you can know the way of heaven.
-- George Harrison
The average mind will tell you, "When I get what I want, I'm happy." Upon closer examination the truth is: When you stop wanting, then you're happy. How can that be? It just is.
One person who comes to my yoga class, let's call her Claire, was a walking, talking illustration of this principle. When we first met, there was clearly no peace, no rest, for Claire. Even during yoga practice she couldn't relax. Her eyes darted nervously around the room, giving her a distinctive drunken chipmunk look. An ambitious young actress out to make it big in Los Angeles, she knew all about desire. She wanted money, fame, nice clothes, lots of friends, good eye makeup, excellent abs, you know, everything. She was beautiful on the outside, but obviously troubled on the inside -- restless bordering on extremely agitated. Nothing was working in her life. Her career track was derailing at every turn; she was single, but searching desperately for true love (she almost developed whiplash from checking out all the guys in the class); and she was always out of money.
Before practice, she'd find me and unleash any number of her life-threatening dilemmas. I remember once she had just come back from the car dealership where she was desperately negotiating for a new green Jaguar. She came to class practically quivering with nervous, excited anticipation. She was hoping her credit check would work out and, if nothing else, that she could at least get a three-year lease on the Jaguar (even though the stress of the huge monthly payments was about to drive her over the edge). Her eyes dilating like a nervous cat, she weighed all the options and considered all of the possible outcomes over and over and over in her mind -- and out loud, with me. I asked her, "It seems like you've done all you can toward getting this car. Can you let it go now and be in this moment? Relax, take a deep breath." She took a deep breath in, and on the exhale told me the entire story of why her-credit-might-have-gotten- screwed-up-because-her ex-boyfriend-borrowed-all-this-money-and-didn't-pay-her-back-and-he-never-really-appreciated-her-anyway-but-he-was-really-good-looking. It was a long story. It was a good thing she took such a deep breath. She had a lot to say. This was a typical day for her.
While everyone else in class was quietly breathing in and out, deep in stretch, aware of the peace and quiet of the room, in touch with their bodies' subtle vibrations of life, aware of their quieted, still minds, she'd be doing sit-ups, sometimes obsessing over her toenails. Often she just walked out when the room became quiet.
I'm not the type of teacher to try to force anyone into a mold. You can lead someone to yoga class, but you can't force them to relax. I just let her do what she needed to do and hoped for the best. After a few months of almost daily yoga, she could finish a whole class and meditate for well over a minute ...Happy Yoga
7 Reasons Why There's Nothing to Worry About. Copyright © by Steve Ross. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.