I’m reading a great book by Seth Godin called This Is Marketing. He’s brilliant in his field and what I like about the guy is he views marketing as an opportunity to share with a community something that may offer change in a positive way. He never endorses the concept of pushing content into people’s faces who haven’t enrolled for it. I respect that.
Something Seth mentioned in his book, which hit home for me, was that a person seeking to offer change in the world has assumed that they are the person responsible for that change. This got me thinking. Personally, I am driven by sadness. By pain and suffering. Sounds a little depressing - I know. But stay with me. I’m driven by the hope that there can be less pain, less suffering in the world. I’m driven by the genuine, and I don’t think unreasonable, belief that we can truly be better as human beings. That we can be kinder to ourselves, and in turn toward others.
If you know me, you know I’m crazy about animals (we have a Pug Yoga Party happening in the studio soon if that’s any indication of my love for animals) and it breaks my heart to see how people who are so selfish, angry and defeated in their own lives can choose to take that anger out on an animal. A creature that is totally vulnerable to us. Reliant on our decision to be kind, loving and nurturing, or not. They starve them, beat them, fail to get them proper medical care, breed them repeatedly before leaving them to die or palming them off to inappropriate shelters or homes. I’m dumbfounded by it. I’ve never understood the mentality of a person who thrives on the abuse of something (or someone) ‘weaker’ than themselves. It sickens me to my core. BUT I am hopeful that people can change. That people can genuinely learn another way. To find a way of loving themselves which will naturally translate into loving others, which of course includes animals and how animals are cared for.
I grew up with role models who always encouraged kindness and generosity wherever possible. My family has been affected by a number of tragedies over the years, but still we looked for the positive where we could. And so, whilst it is not my responsibility, per se, to try and change the world. To try and make everyone a kinder, happier, more forgiving and understanding person, why not give it a shot? Why not lead by example at the very least? For if I can have a positive influence on just one person, then how wonderful the ripple effect could potentially be.
Sitting with Owen last night, we were chatting about this very topic. I said to Owen, “Who am I to try and change the world? Who am I to think I have the capacity or influence to shape this world into a kinder place?” Owen simply replied with, “If we can leave this world slightly better than we came into it, then that’s a good thing. For if we all did that, then the world would get better every day.”
Kindness. What does it mean to be kind? What does it mean to be kind to ourselves? What does kindness look like when bestowed upon others? These are important questions I believe we could all take a moment to sit and reflect upon.
Many people have asked why I’ve chosen to open a studio that operates solely on the generosity of the students who come to practice there. Who come to be a part of this community. My answer, is a “dream for a kinder world.” I’ve always liked to believe people are innately good. Whilst some say this is a naïve belief, I like to think it is true. My career in Rehabilitation introduced me to a very negative, angry world, an experience I am truly grateful for as it has very much contributed to the person I am today. I found through my work, that judging others for poor behavior, harmful words or actions was never going to lead to a successful result for the client or myself as their Consultant. Instead I sought to understand. I wanted to look beyond the behavior or words to learn why someone was behaving in such a harmful way (to themselves mostly). When I took the time to get to know people and learn of the difficulties in their lives, I saw the human. The soul. The heart that had been covered in stress, worry and pain. This is who they truly were/are – not their words or poor actions.
Now, to be clear here, seeking to understand a person’s underlying motives does not excuse bad behavior, but this attitude to my work helped me to connect with people as I was genuinely empathetic to their situation.
I found people often just needed a soft place to land. When life is stressful, we can act out. We become defensive, aggressive and feel hopeless. The light at the end of the tunnel becomes a mere flicker if it exists at all. But when someone is there to remind us of the possibilities we are capable of, to encourage us to get up every time we fall, to help us feel we are enough when everything in our being makes us feel worthless – then I believe a kinder, more compassionate world can exist.
My mission with Jessica Dewar Yoga is to make the studio this soft place for people to land, especially when they are facing challenging times in their lives. I want people to feel like it is OK not to have their shit together. To feel accepted and enough, just as they are. We are so hard on ourselves nowadays, always feeling like we’re not doing a good enough job – parents feeling like they’re terrible parents, students worry their grades are not good enough, business owners fear taking a coffee break will see their business collapse. We all need to have space to take a step back, breathe deeply and just slow down – and for that to be ok.
At the end of the day, we are all fighting the same battle. Life is tough. But life is also beautiful. Through cultivating a community committed to supporting one another along this journey, regardless of how vastly different it may look from one person to the next, then I believe that kinder world will exist – purely through increased awareness, a more relaxed state of mind and healthier outlook upon self-love. Happiness is not a destination. It is a state of mind and if I can do anything to help others feel that little bit happier in their lives, then I consider my work, my cause to be a success.
Do you feel life is just that little bit too much at times? What do you do to try and manage the daily stressors of life? I would love to hear from you and by sharing your story your healing others to realize they too are not alone. We’re in this together.
With every excursion I take here in Mysore, I am exposed to more and more of what India is really like. Here in Gokulam, we are in a lovely bubble where we are safe, have nice restaurants designed to meet the needs of westerners, and the equivalent of luxury accommodation. At first, I was shocked by the state of living.. how naive I was. Out there, in the outskirts of Mysore is a whole other story. The poverty is so terribly sad. Whilst headed for, and returning from, the Sandalwood Oil Factory and Silk Factory, I kept thinking the standard of living couldn’t get any worse. But it did. I was taken through back streets which exposed the harsh reality of what it’s like to be poor and live in this country. Children playing in dirt, people sleeping in gutters, makeshift tents which are rotten and barely standing act as someones permanent home. The homes which are actually made of cement are crumbling, rotting and like something out of a war movie (after the war has destroyed everything). People are always dirty. There is never an opportunity to be clean. Even to dry clothes, they are scattered on the sides of roads, in the dirt amongst the rubbish. I’m not joking. This is the only ‘space’ they have to dry them. That ,or on the sides of a fence or wall if they have one. As chairs are not a necessity to live here, people tend to sit in gutters as they wait in hope for someone to purchase a tomato or flower from their stand. This is their life, day in day out. Signs of malnutrition are also everywhere. Grown men with thighs the size of my wrists or deformed men and women whose legs or arms are missing or mangled surround you. It’s horrific to see in one person - but to witness an entire city which seems to be sharing the same misfortunes, is such an eye opener. Nothing short of a tragedy. And the animals - they too seem to be rotting just as the people are. Roaming the streets aimlessly - not even bothering to look for food as there is none, they too are starved and live hopeless, helpless lives - and there is nothing to be done either. If people cannot afford to feed or care for themselves, then how can they care for these stray animals? They can’t.
For me, traveling in a rickshaw through these parts of Mysore, I am unable to take my shawl away from my face as the fumes are intoxicating. But for the locals, it’s normal to breathe such polluted air. It’s literally like being within a bad dream, hoping that when I wake up the world couldn’t possibly look this way - anywhere. And for me it is something I will be able to fortunately walk away from, but the nightmare continues for millions. This is their life.
It is these experiences which open ones eyes to reality. Yes, we can all keep ourselves in lovely little bubbles where we go on luxury holidays and remain oblivious to some of the tragedies happening in the world, but I feel it is through witnessing reality - by throwing my rosy coloured glasses on the floor and crushing them - that I shall grow as a human being. To become a more empathetic and compassionate person, a more aware person.
What is more amazing, and equally heartbreaking, is how beautiful these people are to talk to. So polite. And then I think about some of the petty issues back home people complain about, or how rude we can be to one another - we should be ashamed. They have literally nothing, and yet they keep their smiles. We can learn a lot from these wonderful people.
I also felt terribly sad about the money being paid to my rickshaw driver. A young, handsome man, dressed in his best for his work, drove me all around Mysore - to the places I wanted to go and also to a fantastic shop he recommended (selling gifts and yoga clothes). He spent about 3-4 hours with me in total, much of it waiting whilst I looked in shops/factories. All this effort, for a measly $6.50AUD. I really liked this driver. He was a safe driver, a patient man and wanted to take time to get to know me. He was also happy to accept whatever money I thought was fair for the trip (believe it or not, I would have overpaid him today) which you would never normally see here as people are desperate to scrounge every cent they can. He is booked to pick my up on Saturday morning (7.30am) to take me to Chamundi Hill. This will be a bigger fee however I intend on paying him a large tip for being just a nice, honest person who is helping me to enjoy my time here. I am truly grateful to him. Somu is his name.
As a thought - I wonder if any of our politicians have seen these parts of the world???? Hmmm…
I guess this ‘reality check’ leads in nicely to my next thought. Whilst practicing yoga today, back in my little bubble in the world, I found myself having a slight existential crisis. Asking, “what’s is the point in all this work? The effort we go to?” I chatted with Owen about this tonight, and we agreed that if one can know themselves better, understand the only body they have a little better, be more aware in life, find a sense of calm or centredness, then what an amazing gift. As Owen reminded me of a quote by Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” it certainly brought everything back into perspective. Again, always grateful for these deeper conversations with him. They can really help me to make sense of my mind which often makes no sense at all…
And finally, on a lighter note, as i mentioned earlier I was lucky enough to visit the Sandalwood Factory today (Silk Factory was on a lunch break when I arrived). It was nothing like what I expected. I felt as though I was walking into a haunted concentration camp to be honest. A dilapidated old building which is committed to making the finest, 100% pure sandalwood oil and soaps in the world. Incredible. With ancient machines to complete this mammoth task, I was quite impressed. Unfortunately pictures were strictly prohibited inside so this is something one must see when here. I have a new respect for sandalwood after being here. It is the basis for all Ayurvedic treatments as the healing properties are incredible. The guide (for myself and an Italian man who happened to have the same idea) explained passionately about the power of this oil when used. Aromatherapy is one of the best ways to experience such benefits. As they will not be selling oil for another month (and at $40AUD for 5ml I wasn’t too worried to be honest), I purchased some of their soaps and incense, which they are most famous for. These will be a nice reminder of this eye opening day.
Thank you for reading. For me, my lessons are; to be grateful for the amazing and fortunate life I am living, more compassionate and empathetic, more understanding and a more aware person. Good things can only come from this.