Warning: Yoga may cause you to reassess your life's purpose and—gasp!—go for it.
Gallup polls continue to reveal that only 30 percent of American employees are happy and engaged with their jobs.
I recently held a senior seat at a premier Manhattan-based financial services firm. It was a lofty accomplishment for a first-generation American whose family were refugees. After decades of ascending the corporate ladder, I was at the point where my clients were some of America’s wealthiest individuals. I was proud of my accomplishments, but had not felt satisfied with my work for some time. As people disappeared due to turnover or terminations, I began to question my purpose in life. I wondered if I would be appreciated more elsewhere and if the way I was contributing to society was aligned with my highest purpose.
I got the feeling that about half of my colleagues also questioned their purpose and, compensation being equal, would have bolted at an opportunity to change the direction of their careers.
Why all this malaise? Either we never identified purposeful vocations, or the work that attracted us at age 22 no longer fulfills us 20-plus years later.
That’s called evolving, but it doesn’t mean we are in the wrong job. It means we have done the job—it is simply time to ‘hit refresh.’
Contemplating my existential crisis, I retreat to Tulum, Mexico. On a beach bordered by jungle, I attend a yoga class. Victor, the instructor, has traveled the world seeking wisdom, some of which he will share today. (Read “Being Present While We Travel” here.)
“Claim your practice!” Victor demands as we stand in Mountain pose. “Be present. Who you are on the mat is who you are in your life. You can have the life you desire if you know what you want and claim it!”
Several of my classmates giggle. But whoa, these are heavy statements.
I’m hanging in Forward Fold pose and acknowledge that we all enter this world with gifts we can use to express our purpose.
I step into Lunge pose, recognizing that it is we who are solely responsible for ushering our talents to where these contributions will be most meaningful and appreciated, as well as from where we can derive the most satisfaction.
Although I’m not supposed to be thinking during yoga, as I hold Plank pose I wonder why we are born.
While in Upward Dog pose, I recognize that we are here to help bring forward our ideals, not for possessions or what others think of us.
“Sometimes,” Victor interrupts my ruminations in Down Dog pose, “we will stand passively, waiting rather than choosing or claiming. Will you begin anew?”
We can start over many times throughout our lives. My heart responds to Victor as I step into Lunge pose with the opposite leg. I think about how overwhelming it would feel to begin anew in mid-life. Oddly, it is profuse excitement rather than fear that I feel.
“We are reborn whenever we choose to create new experiences, shed beliefs that no longer serve us for more appropriate ones, and pursue what stimulates us,” Victor says.
Many of us have outgrown our skin. Living is experiential, I think as I hang in Forward Fold pose. If we’re not experiencing new things, if we are stuck in the status quo, we are not living.
“Life encourages us to change and evolve, but we are financially rewarded to remain the same!” Victor moves the lesson forward.
“How will you live?” Victor prods.
How will I live? I don’t want to limit my experiences by preferring safety and inhibiting myself with the goals and timetables that society encourages.
As we return to Mountain pose, I think that we have the option of challenging these dictums if we can live more simply. This isn’t easy to do in America’s consumption-driven society.
“Life is a search for meaning. What provides meaning for you?” Victor continues to probe.
I love advising clients, colleagues, friends, and family out of their financial, mental, physical, and spiritual crises. I can serve our society in many ways, I acknowledge as we return to Forward Fold pose.
“We need to let go of things to grow and allow new energy in. What will you choose to release in order to grow?” Victor’s closing question presents the most frightening of his propositions—giving something up.
In order to claim new experiences, we may have to give up attachments to things we believe we love or need. . . or forego what others aspire to. I’m feeling a breakthrough as I move from Lunge through Plank poses.
“Jasmine—be present!” Victor calls out while continuing his rant:
“Only you can answer the questions. Not your family, friends, lovers, colleagues, or the so-called experts you consult,” Victor says.
More giggles from my classmates. I’m in Upward Dog pose when I realize I’m no longer thinking. Rather, I’m feeling.
“If you believe you can grow without challenges, you are mistaken my friends. Only challenges allow you to know yourself. If you don’t want to see yourself, you may as well take your mat and leave now,” Victor says pointing to the doorway before moving on.
I return to Manhattan aware that the most critical thing in our lives is to know and express our purpose. Our short lives should be meaningful rather than comfortable.
Not long afterwards, I choose to resign from my position and take some time off rather than run to another firm.
People ask if I am ill.
I am not. No, I am one of the few who not only crave a new experience but who actually do something about it. My job today is creating that new experience. I’ve joined the 30 percent who are happy with their job.
Want more? Read “7 Ways to Make Yoga Class a Self-Discovery Goldmine.”