I recently dreamt that I had just graduated from high school, and I was wondering if I should go to college or not. In this dream, I had already known that I wanted to be a yoga teacher after high school. So the consideration was: Why waste four years if I already knew what I wanted to do?
My reality though is far from that dream. When I graduated from high school, I did not know what I wanted to do. When I graduated from college, I still did not know what I wanted to do. When I took on my first job, I still did not know what I wanted to do. When I took on my second job, I still did not know what I wanted to do. I had a lot of other jobs, still I did not know what I truly wanted to do. After my last corporate job, I thought that maybe possibly perhaps there is a chance that I might want to be a yoga teacher, but even then I was not very sure. I had many doubts. Would I ever conquer my fear of public speaking? Would I be good at it? Would I be able to make a living? But I put one foot in front of the other and I finally affirmed that this indeed is what I want to do with my life: to teach yoga and encourage people to look inwards, to talk about nonviolence and veganism and animal rights, to let people realize that they are capable and deserving of happiness and freedom.
It was not a straightforward path, not at all. And I can say all those years that I spent wondering and searching and exploring and even feeling stuck were not wasted time. The whole process is a lot like our yoga asana practice. When I first found out there was such a pose as headstand, I did not try it right away. It took me a while to take the first steps. Then it took me some more time practicing against the wall. Then I spent some more time kicking up even though teachers made it very clear it is not a good idea to kick up. Then I spent a lot of time falling. And then one day I got it. Would I say I wasted a lot of time against the wall and then falling? Would I say I should have saved time and went up on a headstand right away? No. Because it does not make any sense. I needed all that time to get to where I am because it is part of the process.
There are situations in our lives where we may have judged the way in which we have used our time. We may have spent three years on a relationship that did not work out, and we blame ourselves for wasting time. We may have quit our job to work on a promising project for a year, only to find out it is not going to pan out. We may have taken time off to travel or even just do nothing for months on end. Was it wasted time? When we think about it, all the time that we used gave us something in return. Relationships that ended opened our eyes and let us see the shadows that are otherwise invisible to us. Unmaterialized projects showed us where our passions lie or affirmed our determination or even showed us alternative paths. Time off to be by ourselves was a way to gain back the vitality for life we may have momentarily lost, much like a needed child's pose during a practice where we feel particularly challenged. All our difficulties and challenges are not wasted time. We have spent our time in the best way that we knew how, and we really should give ourselves credit for that.
We come to our mats to practice day in and day out. Some days we feel attuned to our bodies. Other days we feel quite disconnected. There are days we feel accomplished and there are days where we seem unable to do poses that are normally accessible to us. But we do not see any of these as wasted time. When we fall, we do not judge it as wasted time. We get back up. When our legs shake, we take a deep breath and keep our composure. We carry on. We acknowledge where we are and not let our perceived failures defeat us. This is the way we have been using our time. This is how we go through the process. This is our life. This is our practice. Sometimes it's tough and there are a lot of doubts and insecurities, but they are all part of it. All this time that we spend with ourselves to look within ourselves is not wasted time.