February 12 2003 was the day I did it. The day I floated into headstand. I had given up the struggle and had absolutely no expectations. My teachers had promised me that when my body & mind were ready, my legs would literally float up with very little effort, and they did.
Being a person with an inflexible body, I felt accomplished, like for some reason standing on my head was going to bring me one step closer to enlightenment, which is something that I was determined to reach in this lifetime. How wrong I was.
I was living at the Integral Yoga Centre in Coimbatore at the time, and loving the life of a yogi. That whole trip was in response to a mid-twenties crisis I was having at the time. I was determined to solve the dramas in my life, so I took to spiritual disciplines very diligently.
Because of that discipline, I saw progress. My body started to go into poses I would have thought impossible, I sincerely thought I was getting somewhere. But deep down inside, I was still confused and feeling a little bit of despair. I had no idea where I was going in my life.
It was the day I got into headstand, feeling really great about myself, when I walked out of yoga class and then yelled at someone for misunderstanding an instruction I had given earlier. Where on earth was my spiritual progress then?
It hit me like a ton of bricks. What was the point of it all? Why do all this hardcore discipline if I couldn't control myself from snapping at someone because they didn't do what I wanted, when I wanted? I was horrified at myself and actually got a little depressed about it all.
Of course being at the ashram, I couldn't exactly turn my back on the practice, despite my confusion. After all, I just got into headstand... so I persisted. But at the front of my mind was this question: What is the point of it all?
With guidance from my teachers, I soon learned that I was living my life solely for me. My practice was to solve my problems. My personal dramas were the centre of the my universe. My consideration for others was secondary.
The point of all spiritual discipline is to increase our awareness and strength to make different choices. Achieving the headstand inflated my ego purposefully, only to be popped open to realisation about the error of my ways. Superiority is very subtle. I naively believed that all my practice made me a better person, when in fact the discipline just opened my eyes to my imperfections.
The only thing that makes us a better person is to stop the need to be the centre of the universe all the time. Consideration for others is equal to consideration for your self. This starts with breaking down barriers and opening our hearts up. Taking a step out of our closed up minds and thinking about another person's life.
Hold your tongue and quiet the mind next time someone cuts you off on the freeway. Change the thought pattern. Maybe the person's need to get from A to B is more urgent than yours. Walk down the street and look at a garbage collector. Ponder what their life might be like for them. Do they have the same basic needs and fundamental desires as you? You bet! Maybe a person who has hurt you doesn't have spiritual discipline to guide them. It does not make you a better person nor does it make you worse.
This comes right back to an ancient teaching: "As you sow, so shall you reap. With whatever measure you give, with eh same measure it shall be given to you."
So I swallowed my pride and apologised. I became aware of others around me and made a conscious effort to care about someone else's life instead of mine. Instead of feeling confused and isolated, I felt open, connected to others and developed friendships. No matter where my life would take me, at least I knew I could be happy and content now. I enjoyed the opportunity to live in such a sacred place and appreciated the people and culture of South India that now hold a permanent place in my heart.