Keeping a Light Heart

Written by: Amanda Whittal.

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.

Albert Einstein

This quote, uttered by such a brilliant mind in history, offers a simple and profound approach to being content and happy with one's life.

When learning to embrace a yogic or holistic lifestyle, two main points are emphasized: balance, and acceptance of things as they are. Amazingly, it is quite easy to slip out of balance with this, and implement an excessive amount of rules and restrictions in an attempt to mold our world into what we see in our mind's eye as 'the best scenario'.

yoga by the water

Consider...how many times have you taken a vacation, set out with a carefully planned agenda and every good intention to make the most of the trip, only to find yourself in circumstances drastically different from what you calculated? Recall how you felt. Frustrated perhaps? Disappointed? At the mercy of forces beyond your control? This is the essential summary of my past visits home.

I have been a resident of Toronto for 7 years, making visits to my parents in Calgary, my original home, twice a year. Despite my best attempts, time and time again, to plan accordingly and ensure my stay was equally divided among my family, I inevitably ended up in a flurry of anxiety-driven activity. Constant stress and worry marked my 'holiday', and upon returning Toronto, I often felt I needed a vacation from my vacation.

This time, however, the difference was quite remarkable. It had been a year and a half since I last visited, the longest period away since living in Ontario. Over the years, my own personal growth and that of my family has created an atmosphere strikingly different from these past experiences. It was noticeable immediately, as I abandoned my previous formula of the strict plan approach, and instead simply arrived with a sense of peace and trust that I would do the best I could and allow things to occur as they would. Any excess worry was futile, as it would not serve to alter whatever situation arose. Needless to say, this has been one of my most enjoyable and relaxing visits to date, with the added bonus of gaining some very valuable insights.

Returning to the notion that we as humans have a tendency to take things (good or bad) to the extreme rather than maintaining a healthy balance, one can see that this is precisely the trap I had been caught up in. I arrived for each visit a vision of how it would look; what would make for a relaxing holiday, and how it would unfold. I am not a fortune-teller. It is not surprising then, that unexpected events arose each time, changing the course of my precious plan and throwing me into a state of concern and anxiety. What 'was' did not match what I thought 'should be'. Outcome: disaster.

When learning to live healthier lives, there exist countless situations that parallel this example. Despite the genuine effort to optimize our well being, we instead disrupt the peace in our lives in attempt to live the ideal version, and when it doesn't turn out according to our expectations, we create a state of disharmony. This was the case with my vacations in the past. It is often the case for people who get attached to specific routines; whether they are certain diets, exercise habits, spiritual practices, etc.

As soon as we set expectations for something, if we are not willing to allow room for the very real possibility that things may not turn out that way, we set ourselves up for disappointment and struggle, and ironically lose the balance we are striving to find.

In other words, it so important in our quest for a better quality of life to allow ourselves the freedom to laugh and stay joyous, and remember not to take things so seriously. In fact, most of those who truly embody such lifestyles live with an air of ease, dancing effortlessly between the ability to celebrate what works and let go of what doesn't.

Don't get me wrong. By all means strive. By all means aspire and dream. By all means, be the best you can be. Just don't forget to LIVE in the process.

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