Trying to capture what life is like here, especially as a karma yogi doing selfless service is a bit challenging.
The same issues that we all face in daily life are here in full force.
Without the veils of office decorum, political correctness, cultural awareness or even job qualifications most of the time, the situations in our daily work settings are much more powerful and blatant.
People are here for all sorts of reasons and working through all sorts of issues, usually having nothing to do with the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat. As we all know, our issues travel with us wherever we go, if we let them.
The main difference I've seen is that here, the annoying person, the co-worker who agitates or doesn't pull their weight or workload, the habitual complainers - all of these labels are bundled into one, and yogis call them "saint makers".
According to yogis, we are each "saints in the making" so to speak, as we learn and grow spiritually. We also are "saint makers" for others when we annoy, etc.
Realizing our true nature requires experiencing ourselves and observing our behaviors, reactions, thoughts - meditation provides us the vehicle to observe our thoughts and karma yoga provides us with the vehicle to bring our true natures more and more to the surface.
If there is no one to annoy and agitate us, then how can we work on the virtue of patience?
If everyone is a top performer and produces work to excellent standards, then how can we work on being less judgmental?
If no one ever complains, then how would we learn to discern, listen with compassion and go within for our peace and joy, instead of relying on others to share their happiness?
Each person that evokes in us some reaction is an opportunity to either detach from our reactions and move to the next lesson or attach and struggle through all the emotions and suffering that goes with the attachment.
Detachment does not mean disinterest or not caring. It simply means to not be attached in order to avoid suffering.
Here, the lectures often have a story mentioning chocolate, as everyone seems to love chocolate no matter what part of the world they are from. Chocolate is a big desire for many.
To provide an illustration about attachment to a desire that inevitably leads to some type of suffering -
If we are a true chocolate lover and someone gives us a big chocolate bar, we may pace ourselves a little and savor each bite, but inevitably we will eat the whole bar.
If soon after on the same day, another person gives us another chocolate bar, we will feel really lucky and without thinking, we may begin to eat the second bar too. Since one chocolate bar is good, then two will of course be even better - right?
Yet, by the end of the second bar, we will feel a little less enjoyment than we did with the first bar.
If still another person then gives us a third bar just a little while later, and this one is our favorite brand of chocolate, we will dismiss the fact that we just ate two other chocolate bars, and instead recall how much we like this type of chocolate bar, and chances are quite good that we will start eating the 3rd chocolate bar too.
By the end of the 3rd bar, we are likely to feel an upset stomach, and the chocolate will definitely not taste that good by the end.
Your limit may be two or may be five, but everyone has a point of pain, with even those things that are most pleasant to us.
There are friends here who tell the stories of time and again overindulging in chocolate bars they buy at the Boutique Store, and then being sorry they did afterwards. I have done a fair amount of overindulging with ice cream in my past, consuming as much an entire half gallon on my worst days. So, I can relate.
Detachment also is not about limiting. When we consciously limit ourselves, we are actually very attached to the object of desire.
Detachment means you can take or leave the chocolate. You can appreciate and enjoy a piece, but it is no longer something that is craved. According to the yogis, detachment from desires leads to true freedom.
I'm still working on this, and I know that my year of karma yoga and focus on yogic practices, plus supplementing my healthy diet with medicinal herbs have all helped.
Next time you are at your whit's end with someone, smile inside, and know that they are your 'saint maker' and try not to pacify your frustration with chocolate :)
Sending You Love from the Bahamas.
Thank you for taking this journey with me!
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