The Most Powerful Lesson I Learned at the Yoga Ashram

 
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Travelling to India to do my yoga teacher training almost a decade ago was a transformative experience, but it wasn’t the physical practice of yoga that changed my life the most. While we did learn yoga asanas, it was learning to practice mindfulness that really changed my outlook and made me feel more grounded in my life.

One of the most powerful mindfulness lessons I learned during my time at the ashram was this too shall pass. Of course, I’d heard this popular phrase before—but in the context of mindfulness, it took on a new meaning.

For me, the idea that this too shall pass is all about letting go of attachment to our experiences and living in the present moment—something many of us want to do, but which runs contrary to how most of us are taught to live.

Clinging to Pleasure, Fighting Against Pain

Most of us go through life living either in the past or in the future. We cling to pleasure, hoping it will last forever, and we actively resist suffering, hoping it will end—but neither of these experiences serves us.

Typically, when something good happens to us—like getting a promotion, falling in love, or buying a fancy new house—we pour our attention and awareness into prolonging the experience of pleasure. Often, we allow the experience to define who we are in some way, thinking, “This is who I am,” or, “This is my life.”

When something bad happens to us—like falling ill, losing money, or experiencing heartbreak—we invest our attention and energy into railing against it. We don’t want this to be our experience, and we want to avoid suffering as much as possible. We have thoughts like, “I hate this,” or, “I’m unlovable.”

In either scenario, we often develop a static picture of what’s happening to us and in doing so can become stuck. The experience will take over our sense of self and we become attached to it, forgetting that, inevitably, all experiences and emotions eventually pass.

Living in the Present

Mindfulness is about experiencing non-attachment from all moments—both the bad and the good—by observing what is happening in the present moment with non-judgmental awareness.

When we live mindfully, we are no longer at the mercy of what happens to us. We can have a range of experiences and emotions without getting hung up on them. We let all moments arise and dissipate, like clouds in a blue sky. We acknowledge and express gratitude for positive moments, and we acknowledge and express gratitude for negative moments.

Most importantly, with mindfulness we understand and experience all moments as ephemeral—knowing that this moment, too, shall pass.

Anchoring to the Self

Living mindfully allows us to remain consistently anchored to the self instead of to our experiences. This means that we can maintain perspective on our experiences of pleasure and of suffering. We still acknowledge and have a range of experiences and emotions, but we don’t anchor ourselves to them.

Instead, our inner selves become the steadfast core around which everything else moves. I picture it like a solid marble pillar at my core: the good moments and the bad moments swirl around the pillar, but the pillar never moves because it’s solid and unchanging. I may have moments of euphoria and moments of feeling like I can’t get out of bed, but these moments pass. And when they do, I’m still there—still strong.

Of course, if we want to feel anchored and connected to our true selves we have to do some deep self-work to get there. Part of this is about practicing mindfulness, but we also need to understand who we are, what our purpose is, what our values are, and what gives us meaning in life. All of which will help us to develop a strong connection to our inner selves.

When we lived anchored to ourselves instead of our experiences, everything improves—our relationships, how we feel about ourselves, and the decisions we make.

Ultimately, in letting go, and knowing that this too shall pass, we can experience true freedom.

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What does the phrase “this too shall pass” mean to you? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or send me a message with your thoughts!