Being a yoga teacher, people probably think you’re a bit “weird”. I was wondering whether, when you became interested in yoga\presence\truth, you lost some relationships…
I’ve been thinking about this for the last month or so, when I realized that many things that I’ve been doing with my friends, for years now, don’t interest me anymore. Like regularly meeting up for drinks and chatting (a bit of gossiping, a bit of complaining about the job, our relationships or not having relationships…). It struck me recently that we’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s not getting us anywhere. I don’t expect us to have the type of discussions that you read in Plato’s dialogues (though I’m really interested in talking about values – love, friendship, good, evil etc.), but I do want more (or maybe something different.)
So, on the one hand, I’d like to live according to my priorities (more time in nature, more time reading, talking less about people and more about ideas), but I’m afraid that this change would make me lose friendships. So, for now, I choose to almost always say yes to these outings, partly because I want to be with my friends, I care about them, and partly because I don’t want to lose them and be considered weird or antisocial.
Do you think that practicing presence comes with sacrifice, such as losing some friends?
Just tonight I left my friends ‘early’ (10.30 PM) in a bar with loud music, to come home and frankly just to sleep and be by myself. I felt quite good with my decision until they said “Are you OK?! Oh, just stay for a little longer!” And of course I could’ve stayed, it would’ve been just 2 more hours of my life… But it’s always like that. It’s always “just this evening”, “just 2 more hours”. And, after a few years, you realize you’ve done some things just because everybody did them.
Am I taking things too seriously? (I’m old enough to know that relationships are about compromise…) Should I just grab a beer and chill? (it’s what I’ve been doing in the last months, for fear of being told “Oh, this Yogilates thing is really getting to you, watch out!”)
I enjoyed reading your letter very much, among other things because it reminds me so much of very similar questions I asked myself several times in my life.
Let’s say you are overweight and start going to a club where overweight people like to go. There will be a lot of talk about food and diet, about what to eat and what not to eat, about how to overcome the desire to eat or how to forgive oneself if one ate too much etc. Most of the conversations will be around that subject. Now, let’s say that one day, out of your own will or as a sudden change in your metabolism, you lose all your unwanted kilos. You feel good with the way you look and the way you feel. You may go back a few times to the club, mostly out of habit, but soon enough you will feel quite out of place in there… and you may write a letter very similar to the one you wrote to me. I think it is obvious what you need to do.
People go out to entertain themselves mostly because they feel lonely and empty and they try to cover that emptiness with noise. This has been happening from the beginning of time and will remain like this forever.
Without what I call presence (and presence is just a name; it can be known by several other names… or by no name at all) life can be very exciting and captivating, but is also empty, sad and full of suffering. Most people living on the planet are very disconnected from presence, they are completely desperate to find some meaning in their lives and they will resort to anything to find it. More parties, more trips, more sex, more drinks, more work, more money, more power, more fame, more relationships, more kids, more of anything because nothing lasts. It is like eating chocolate when you feel down. For a short moment you enjoy it, you feel good, but when the moment is over, you need more, and then more, and more.
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to get away (momentarily) from emptiness is empty entertainment. And as a society we are becoming better and better at it.
But if you have found presence, a magnificent, new, beautiful world opens up, and then empty entertainment is seen for what it is: empty. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a drink with your friends, if that is what you want… up to a certain point. In presence, you can feel that point very clearly, but without it, that point never arrives. And be sure that if you have reached the moment when you feel it is time for you to go, the remaining people are not going to feel happy about it. They will want you to stay, and share their emptiness with them. Of course they will not see it as such, but they will say that you don’t know how to have fun, or that you are uptight, or that you have a boring life, or whatever.
It takes a while to have enough strength to stand in your own presence, but once it is done, once you start to value presence more than anything else, a new world opens up. In that moment you are not so needy, you don’t depend so much on activities, noise and people, but you are satisfied with yourself and whatever the moment brings: the sound of the wind in the leaves, the color of the sky, a good book, your own beautiful company. And for sure, in time, you will also start to attract people with similar inclinations.*
Yes, you may lose some relationships and some people may see you as weird, but so what? Keep coming back to presence, keep coming back to yourself. See it, feel it, touch it, swim in it and allow yourself to value it more and more in your life. Allow presence to become your best friend, your more intimate relationship, let presence guide your life. It will not fail you. In time, you may start to see that that presence does not belong to you, but it is the presence of all and everything. In the end (which is really nothing but right here and now) you may have lost a few unwanted friends, but have won your life.
It is true that in the beginning it is a challenge, but I promise you, it is the birth of a more real, satisfying, meaningful and truthful life.
* Then a new challenge starts, which is when the so called ‘spiritual’ people start drinking, partying and wasting their time in very similar ways as anybody else, but justifying it because what they do is dressed is spiritual clothes… But this is a different subject.