Training the Mind to See the Abundance of Greatness
The daily practice of yoga gives us ample ground to test out the hypothesis of an infinite universe. When you see an accomplished practitioner achieve masterful feats of asana that does not mean you cannot go and accomplish the same thing. Yet it can sometimes be exceedingly frustrating to see someone accomplish a goal or posture that has long eluded you with little to no effort. This is where the real yoga actually begins. If you look at the success of others and think that their greatness only puts you in their shadow you miss an opportunity to ride on the coattails of their success. The Yoga Sutras teach us that we should cultivate attitudes of friendliness towards the virtuous and successful. In other words yoga asks us to retrain our minds to celebrate the success of others and really mean it. We can only do so when we truly understand the inclusive nature of life. Life does not judge us, we do. Life does not create harsh lines of exclusion and failure. We do. The yogic mind relinquishes these judgements and replaces them with the happy acceptance that leads to the realization of greatness.
Being great does not necessarily mean that others are not as great. If you assume there is a limited amount of success available in the world you will always see life as a competition with a set number of prizes. But in a world of infinities all possibilities eventually find their way into being. When you see someone else’s greatness there is a tendency to think that the same level of greatness is not available for you as though life is a zero sum game. You might wonder, as I did, if there is space in the world for your unique contribution. But just because one person is successful doing exactly what you think you are destined to do it does not mean that you cannot do it too. Instead of operating from a truly expansive view of the world and life where we trust the limitless potential of creation, we more often assume the perspective that tells us there are a finite number of accolades in the game of life. Lucky for us there is no discriminating deity handing out a small number of prizes. The divine spark of the universe is just that–universal and equal in its love for all beings and their dreams. Just because two people dream the same dream does not mean that they cannot both get it sooner or later.
The path to this endlessly peaceful way of being is straight through one of the more base emotions. From a purely egotistical standpoint when we see the success of others we most often feel negative emotion. It can be envy, jealousy, anger or even depression. When we feel this devastating rush of sensations we direct the desperation of our inner yearning on others and ourselves in a negative way. We create excuses for why that person is better equipped to have the success we desperately want. We invent reasons for why they deserve or do not deserve the things they have achieved. The gulf that stands when we see manifest a dream we have long labored for accomplished by someone else hurts. It hurts because we see a mirror of all that we could be but are not yet. It is not the fault of the successful person who managed to cross the gap. Whether it is a yoga posture or life goal that we see reflected back the teaching of yoga asks us to smile at the image of our greatness and follow to beacon to the source of the light. For if we consciously train ourselves to celebrate the success of those whose greatness we admire we can let these powerful beings be our teachers. In the mirror of success we must retrain our small, scarcity thinking minds to see the potential of who we really are.
When we see a successful person whose power, grace and beauty is awesome and we feel a muddled mixture of emotions it is the time to actively practice a new way of thinking. This yoga of the mind asks you to carve out new pathways in the neural network of your brain. Out of awe, yearning, fear, doubt and jealousy arise a lovingly inspired view of what we can be. The abyss between where we are and what we want to be is actually the source of all the negative emotion we feel in the presence of other people’s greatness. It is not their greatness we react to, but our own apparent littleness. If in their presence of greatness we choose to focus on all the reasons why we have not been able to be great ourselves, we will only ever be small in our minds and in our lives. Yoga teaches us to remain open to our own greatness and learn from those who set the standard ahead of us. Remaining happy about your own journey can give you the happy realization that coming second can be easier because the path is already laid out before you. To be the first ones to pioneer a new way to be successful is hard, arduous and requires great strength. If you want to follow in the footsteps of the great ones it is often easier to walk along the clearly laid out path before you. So in the presence of people whose accomplishments you consider great drop your ego and learn.
Once you stand of the side of accomplishment noting can take that away from you. It does not detract your achievements when someone else also surmounts the same hurdle. It is not any less awesome to lift up into a handstand when another student does the same thing. If you fear loss of ground gained from others attaining similar results, you are acting from the ego-based fear that assumes there is a limited amount of success in the world. If you learn a challenging yoga posture and someone else also manages to do ti too, it does not make your posture any less valuable. It just means someone else did it too. You could even say that when many people attain the same results it gets easier and easier for even more people to attain those results. Rather than making it less meaningful, it means the impact is greater and further reaching. In a sense when a massive amount of people are able to walk the path laid out ahead of them the unification of desire, goal and ideal is so powerful so that these individuals in some way stand as one. This unity amplifies the original message and makes it stronger.
While we are all unique and make a vital, unrepeatable contribution to the universe, if you think you are more deserving of a better place because of your attainments then success has actually evaded you. Instead when success is a reflection of a happy inner state and comes with a zen-like non-attachment to the results, success is guaranteed regardless of the outward results. But when you attain success and fear the loss of it you are caught in the scarcity mode of being that assumes there is a limited number of coupons for success available and that the only way anyone else will attain the same results is to steal it from you. But that’s neither true nor realistic. If you believe that you have to protect your assets by creating spheres of influence where your power is the ultimate will, you will create a war between worlds, people and communities that will actually destroy everything you hold dear. The wisdom of yoga teaches you to relax your attachment to your achievements and let go of the notion of your own preciousness just long enough to be generous to your fellow human beings. Only then will you have more than you ever imagined possible.
Longterm yoga practitioners learn that if you want to be a truly great person you have to master not just the attainment of material success and accomplishment, but the enlightened perspective to remain non-attached and peaceful when it is time to let it all go. The truth is that despite our property laws, trademarking, copyrighting and ownership deeds we do not actually own or control anything. In a sense we have it all on vibrational loan from the energetic world and it could all be gone tomorrow. Instead of ownership, perhaps stewardship is a more enlightened way to navigate through life. Success is a not possession when we attain it. Instead it is an experience that we receive and like all experience it passes. If we try to hold onto it we lose it. If we grasp at it with severe yearning and painful attachment we will never get it. Every experience comes into our life to enrich us and then it leaves. Sometimes we love what we have so much so that we never want it to change. Sometimes we hate what we have so much so that all we want is for it to change. But yoga helps us learn that the reality of life is that everything changes sooner or later. Nothing in the material world lasts forever so the only lasting peace comes from aligning your sense of self with the eternal nature of your being within. The residual feeling of every experience is an echo of love etched into our soul’s memory. This window into eternity is our only real, lasting legacy.