Before my life as a yoga teacher, I had a normal office job. One time I was on a business trip in Beijing with my bosses from London. I suppose my presence there was largely due to my language skills. I translated English to Mandarin and vice versa as necessary. After the official events were over, they wanted to go shopping. We went shopping. Then they were hungry and wanted to have dinner somewhere. By this time, I was already vegan so I knew dinner would be a tricky situation. I had suggested going to a vegetarian restaurant but one of them said he does not really eat vegetables so the conversation stopped there. I know that I would not be willing to order non-vegan food for them. I know it was not my place to stop them from ordering peking duck or whatever it is they might want to eat, but I also cannot in good conscience help them do it. In the same way that I may not be able to stop rape, I am not willing to help someone do it. That was clear in my mind.
On our way to the restaurant, I thought a lot about what I would say to make my ethical boundaries clear. I thought I would say "I would be happy to order vegan food that everyone can eat. But if you want something else, I am afraid I cannot help you." I was sitting there thinking about the best choice of words that would balance my intentions, that is to make my ethical stand clear, while communicating that this is not about me being difficult.
We arrived at the restaurant and for some reason or another, it was closed. We had an English-language magazine that had a listing of restaurants, so we picked one, got on a cab, and asked to be taken there. We got to this second place and it turned out that the address was not updated. The restaurant had moved to another area. We then chose a third restaurant to go to. By this time, the traffic had become so bad that they decided we should all call it a night and go back to the hotel. Just like that, I was spared from my dilemma.
Was I lucky? I certainly felt lucky. Was it a coincidence? Of all the many restaurants, we picked three that did not work out for them but worked for me. It seemed like an amazing coincidence. Yet I've been learning from reading resources for February Jivamukti focus of the month that when one's intentions are strong, the world outside would start to match the intentions. The skeptic in us might brush this off. If this were true, then should we not focus all our intentions on winning the lottery? It does not quite work that way. Ego desires and intentions of the spirit unfold quite differently.
In the field of psychology, Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity to describe events that are meaningfully related. He believed this to be proof of the collective unconscious and parallel to theories in quantum mechanics. In spiritual teachings, it is said that if we live our dharma- the right path of living- things fall into place. We may be going through a specific situation and we meet someone who says the exact thing we needed to hear. It is the path of least resistance.
They say synchronicity or signs are everywhere, but we are often too busy or too shut off to notice them. That is where the practice of yoga comes in. When we are new in our practice, we may find that no matter how the teacher struggles to describe where to place our hands or feet, we get confused because of a lack of body awareness. In time, we become more tuned in to our breath, our body, and even the more subtle movements. Without looking at our feet, we may instinctively feel if they are lined up or not. It is this learned awareness that will help us see those coincidences as signs and synchronicity.
Many of us spend so many years of our lives wondering what our purpose is, why we are here, what we intend to do with this life. The signs are all out there. We merely need to open our eyes and hearts to see them. The stars are indeed aligned so we can live the best life we could live, but it is not going to happen if we do not pay attention.
May our yoga practice help us tune in to our highest intentions. May we be grounded in that intention in whatever form that it chooses to manifest love. May we find the dharma that is our personal expression of Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.
P.S. A synchronistic event important to my path as a Jivamukti yoga teacher was that I had intended to take my first Jivamukti class December of 2010 during my visit to New York. I was, however, distracted by my vegan eating schedule, which also involved (among many others) peking duck, though this was a vegan version that I had at a Korean vegan restaurant called Franchia. No more than two months after the trip, Cat Alip-Douglas of Jivamukti Yoga London taught the first Jivamukti class in Manila which I attended. So even though I prioritized gluttony over yoga while in New York, Jivamukti found its way to me in Manila. At a time when I felt hopeless about the world being so violent, I heard for the first time in my life veganism discussed in a yoga class.
P.P.S. You can have a vegan version of the peking duck dish if you live in Metro Manila. A Chinese restaurant called IMC Kavino along Jupiter Street in Makati has it on their vegetarian menu.
P.P.P.S. I have once translated non-vegan food from Filipino to English to my couchsurfing guests. They asked me what sisig was. I said pig ears. They asked what dinuguan was. I said pig's blood. They asked what gising-gising was. I said it's chopped green beans in salty spicy and creamy coconut milk.