Seven years ago, I was asked to imagine my ideal life. I was prompted to dream of where I wanted my life to be in five years. At that point, I was living in a Jersey City apartment with two young ladies with whom I did not get along very well. After a bad lupus flare and a three-month medical leave of absence, I was just getting back onto my feet. I had a good job, and was very grateful for how understanding they were about my sick leave. But I knew something was missing.
I wasn’t close to living out my dreams for my adult life. Yet, it was hard to articulate what I wanted—what I hoped for—when asked. I had looked to others for direction and feedback for so long that I wasn’t clear about what I really wanted. So I pondered the question for a while—and eventually came up with a few goals. I wanted to go back to school. I wanted to buy a house and move to Washington, DC. And I wanted to own a yoga studio.
That vision became the guiding force for my life and influenced my decisions for the next five years. I asked for a transfer from my company’s Brooklyn headquarters to a DC satellite office. I studied for the LSAT and enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. I even opened and operated that yoga studio. None of these things happened overnight. I made slow but consistent progress toward my goals over that five-year period. I focused on the next step I had to take, and then followed up with the one after that. Inch by inch, the dreams became my reality.
I should have been happy. I had fulfilled dreams that had previously seemed impossible. And I was happy, sometimes. By the studio’s one-year anniversary, I also was worn out, frustrated, and exhausted. Things weren’t flowing. I had to exert a great deal of effort to keep the studio going. After I celebrated its first anniversary, I traveled to Spain for two weeks (another lifelong dream).
Spain gave me much-needed time away. It refreshed my spirit, and showed me that things had to change. I stopped teaching my five weekly yoga classes, and closed the studio two months later. I withdrew from all my volunteer, professional and social obligations. I began a period of intense self-care and renewal. I let go of all my dreams and expectations. For several months, I was content to just be. I stopped grasping and reaching for the things that I thought I wanted.
That’s when opportunities began to fall into my lap. One of my students periodically wrote during my teaching sabbatical to inquire about when I might be offering a class in our neighborhood once more. She was missing her weekly yoga practice. I discovered there was an open slot in the Trinity Center weekday evening schedule that didn’t exist before. I took it. A friend and teacher at my studio sent out word that a wellness center was looking for instructors. I sent in my resume, met with one of the owners, and taught an audition class. That same day, I was offered a spot on their staff. A reader of this blog who happens to work for Yoga Alliance (an international professional association for yoga teachers) asked me to consider facilitating an online workshop on yoga philosophy for YA’s members. I agreed to facilitate the workshop, and over 500 people registered for my session. Almost 400 participated in the live audience; the rest listened online when the recording was made available.
The Yoga Sutras explore the concept of asteya, which usually is translated into English as “nonstealing.” I think that limits the definition too much. When I think of asteya, I think of the opposite of greed and grasping. To me, it is about openness and generosity. Patanjali, a wise yogi who wrote down the Sutras for his students and future yogis, explains asteya as follows:
If we are completely free from stealing and greed, contented with what we have, and if we keep serene minds, all wealth (financial, relational, professional, material, physical) comes to us. If we do not run after it, before long it runs after us. If nature knows we aren’t greedy, she gains confidence in us, knowing we will never hold her for ourselves. (Yoga Sutras 2:37)
The harder I worked to make things happen, the less successful they were. When I stopped reaching and grasping, when I allowed opportunities to come to me, they arrived with great success. I have learned a very valuable lesson: It is important to walk through life with open arms ready to receive all the unique goodness and blessings that the Divine has in store for me. If instead, I am fearful that I won’t get my fair share, and I start grasping for what I think I deserve, my hands are often empty.
Do you walk through life with open arms or grasping fingers? What can you do to open your heart to recognize the goodness that surrounds you? How can you let go just a bit of the grasping of your fingers
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.