Be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi)

One of my favourite quotes and ideals I try to follow is from Gandhi encouraging us to ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. My interpretaion of this is that we need to allow others the freedom to find their own personal path and merely to lead by example. Sometimes I find it frustrating to watch others repeat mistakes I have also made, or to be unhappy with their situation but remain within it. However their decisions need to be right for them, timing, company and lifestyle all need to be accounted for. We as individuals are the only ones to discover our own dharma or path through life. All I can do is be open about how happy I am, now that I am more able to be authentic and open with my own journey.

As a person-centred counselor you are trained to focus the sessions upon the individuals discovering their own answers. Especially at the start of training, it is more natural to want to find solutions, divert off into history or explanations to deepen your own understanding, or to take the responsibility away from the individual client. It is really interesting to learn and realize how we often spend conversations merely waiting for a break to interject with our own advice or comparable experiences. Conversations also happen within life, how we may see others’ lives or situations through the cloud of our own experience. That we need to allow others the space to be more person-centred and look inside, rather than outside themselves for solutions. That what may be a path for us to follow may not be the right choice for somebody else.

A practical example that I notice regularly is when potential students phone up to enquire about the double yoga class schedule at Warrington and Cuddington. They may enquire as to which one may suit them best but I often find it very hard to advise. Sometimes a short chat, an existing health condition or health & fitness goals may help me to suggest one class but so much depends upon personal preference. I try not to impose my personal preference of that time onto other yoga students but to allow them to decide for themselves.

Sometimes I prefer to encourage people to try both classes and also to be flexible between classes and venues if personal situations change. What may be the answer today may not work tomorrow. Yoga teaches us a flexibility of mind as well as body and we learn that we can change our minds without it being wrong. That it is preferable to maintain a constant self study to allow mobility in decisions as well as joints! Some days we may need a more dynamic class to keep us distracted or to physically use our bodies. Other days we may need to be gentler with ourselves. It is important to learn to look within and practice ahimsa (non violence) and kindness toward ourselves and provide a practice that supports and strengthens. When social or personal expectation encroaches upon what we personally need or enjoy is when we feel less enjoyment. Be this in a class- doing a dynamic class because we feel it’s more physically active whereas actually we need more a gentler, more yin practice focusing more on the breath and relaxation.

The same may happen with decisions in life; doing what we perceive is expected of us rather than listening to what truly makes us happy. Yoga encourages our perception of the world to clear & increases internal awareness so it helps us to be true to ourselves. I know for myself it is when truly owning what I enjoy, rather than what others feel I should enjoy, that I’m smiling inside & out. I think this is another reason that we need to lead by example rather than try to involve ourselves in other’s decisions or life paths.. that our dharma is so personal & can only be found by internalizing not externalizing the solutions. It may be hard but just remember that we never know how another feels inside, and that we each have our personal journey. To be a support through another’s decisions is very different to directing or imposing our expectation on others. Just remember how much happier you are when you listen to what you want rather than what you ‘should’ want. It may not be cool, it may not be clever, but if it makes you smile then why not. I made the change to following my heart, internalizing my decisions and focusing on my personal journey and hope this allows or encourage others to do the same. I often determine a decision on how comfortably it sits with me during meditation practice.

It may be hard for your passion to be different to others, but that brings diversity and interest to life. I love yoga. That is my personal decision. If other people want to find out why then I tell them to try it & to understand it may not be the same for them. Different things rock for different people, and sometimes lifestyle or timing effect decisions. We have to find our own paths in life, and remain flexible to diversions. That just being honest about making mistakes, being vulnerable and still being happy is encouraging to others to be the same. To find their happiness internally not externally. I’m amazed at how many friends who may have the more socially acceptable interpretation of success, who look to my simple happy life as something to aspire to! I’m finding that by quietly living and just being happy in my life, is more encouraging for others in their decision-making than any amount of solution sourcing ever could be.

I haven’t got it perfect by a long shot, and still need reminding that decisions have to sit comfortably in my heart space or they probably aren’t aligning with my path & won’t make me happy. That immediate gratification may not be worth the longer term stress . It is sometimes harder work to take the right path, but obstacles can be a challenge or encourage flexibility. Please try to listen to your heart before you listen to others. With hindsight we can all remember times when we recognize it would have been for the best to internalize decisions. I know ‘if only’ ad ‘what if’ are the words that frustrate me. Partly because the frustration is often with myself for over riding my gut instincts and being guided by external influence. So let’s all just try to be what we wish to see in the world and to learn about our own journey to positively rather than directly influence others.

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