by ashley dorr
The following has been adapted from one of Ashley Dorr’s dharma talks. Ashley gave this talk before she left for her annual trip to the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. Ashley will return from Mysore at the end of this month.
In preparation for my trip to India, I’ve been making a checklist of things I need to do: get my visa (check), buy toiletries (check), clean my apartment (check), exchange dollars to rupees (check), chocolate for the plane (check!!). All these things I need to get me where I’m going.
At the same time, I’ve had another list running through my mind, a list of all the people who have helped me to get where I’m going. The obvious ones: My boyfriend, who is watching my dog. The girl who is subletting my apartment. All my teachers and friends at the Shala. My students, who inspire me to gain more knowledge. Barbara and Kristin, who first inspired me with their own stories of India, and who introduced me to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. The teachers I first started practicing yoga with.
The more I thought about it, the more the list grew, until it came to include the less obvious people. I’m thinking about the woman who exchanged my rupees, and the guy in the visa office who really helped me out during my 6-hour wait to process the paperwork.
There are a lot of people who help us get to where we are going. Strangers, even. I thought about this during the blizzard when I saw people I didn’t know shoveling sidewalks, and when I took the subway and noticed the subway workers and thanked them for being there. I would never normally thank them for being there, but they are always there.
There are a lot of people helping us all along our journeys. Maybe we only think of them during a big trip or a blizzard, but we can think of them everyday. When we do that, we realize how connected we are to the larger world. How there is yoga happening all around us all the time.
Sharon Salzberg puts it really beautifully when she talks about lovingkindess meditation, that just bringing awareness to the way others help us is an act of lovingkindness and gratitude: “Today doesn’t exist apart from the network of relationships and influences that brought us to this moment in our lives. How many people were involved in some way in your decision to meditate? How many people loved you or prodded you? Told you about their own meditation practice? Challenged you so that you decided to look for more inner calm and understanding? What about even those who hurt you, who brought you to an edge of some kind so that you thought, ‘I’ve really got to find another way’ or ‘I’ve got to look for another level of happiness’? They may be a part of why you’re reading these words. We are each swept into the here and now by a confluence of events, causes, and conditions. A larger community brought you to this moment. And you can make your sense of that human community even larger.”
A traditional rangoli by Ashley Dorr