As many who come to the studio know, I've been out of town for the past couple weeks on a VOSH mission trip to Dominica. I could blog for days about what an amazing trip it was. I met lots of fantastic people, the island is beautiful, and we managed to have fun even while working our butts off (we met approximately 1600 patients).
This particular blog is about my own mental state at one point of the trip and how I used my yoga practice to overcome this snag.
It was Day Two. We had had a particularly rocky ride to Castle Bruce, which was about two hours from our hotel (I say hotel, but it was more a beach resort).
Mid-afternoon, I took a quick lunch break and was met by two stray dogs--one of whom had obviously just had pups. You all know I'm a dog lover, so I felt terrible for them. I didn't particularly like my lunch, so I ended up giving most of it to them, which made me feel even worse because I knew the rotary club had spent money on the lunch for humans, and it made me feel like a spoiled American to give my food away to dogs.
The enormity of poverty--not just on the island but in the world--hit me like a ton of bricks, and I stood there in the alley behind our clinic feeling totally helpless and overwhelmed. What was the point?
Before I could allow my brain to cycle through horrible scenarios for the dogs, humans, and the planet, I remembered my yogic training and all the lessons I try to share in class. As Russell Brand said, even if I was the president of Dominica (I met him--nice guy) or an even larger country, it would be impossible to solve all the world's issues--at least in a single act. No one has a magic wand. All I could do was stay focused on the moment, lead with my heart, and perform the task I had been assigned.
So, I went back in the clinic and auto-refracted the heck out of some eyeballs.
Stay present. Lead with the heart.
That whole situation could have gone down differently. Instead of returning to the present, I could have continued my dark line of thinking. I may have had a cry and beaten myself up for not appreciating my lunch or kidnapping the dogs (would have been tough to get through customs). I would have went back in the clinic and, instead of greeting each patient as they deserved -- with a hearty hello, how are you, and explanation of what I was about to do -- I could have been all teary eyed and depressed. Can you imagine a worse way to treat someone who's come to you for help?
This is why I think yoga can help the world. The more you practice, the easier it is to return to mindfulness when you're tired, cranky, and miss the comforts of home. The more mindful we are, the kinder we are to others and ourselves, because our brains aren't running through destructive scripts about a future we cannot predict or a past that is behind us.
I would also like to end this blog by saying, the dogs looked relatively well-fed and in no danger of keeling over. My brain at that moment was making mountains out of molehills, and I probably just missed my own dogs. Again, this is why mindfulness is so important.
Today, stay present and lead with the heart. Namaste.