I did a 1-month yoga teacher training in Bali this spring and then quit my job. Not immediately of course. I waited two weeks 😉
It was a safe, at times, exciting job in the lobbying department in the arguably most powerful Swiss business association that paid well and gave me an excellent work-life-balance. Some congratulated me for my decision to leave (“you follow your heart”), some were worried (“don’t you think this can all go wrong?”). Here are the major factors (I think) that have led me to my decision:
1. I got a glimpse of what it means to really accept myself – even my fear.
In the teacher training, we were taught philosophy in the afternoons. Which is where I fell in love: with the teacher, Sharada – she seemed vulnerable and yet so strong – and the teachings. The Vedanta-philosophy, in which yoga practices have their roots, touched me deeply. I felt like I’ve found the truth I’ve been looking for, for so long. A perfect match.
My teacher first told us that yoga is a means to come to the heart, to come home to ourselves. What is it that all humans ultimately want? We want to be happy. And the source of not being happy, of suffering, is that we do not accept ourselves. So we accept what is. We drop our agendas. We welcome everything that is. Even our fear of being rejected, of not being loved (which is the essence of nearly all our harmful thinking and behaviour). Instead, we say, “Oh fear, I welcome you. You’re my best friend. Take my hand and let’s go together.”
This little children’s-song-like mantra (along with praying to elephant-headed god Ganesha, but to explain this would take too long right now) has carried me throughout the teacher-training more effectively than anything I’ve tried before to make my anxiety more bearable. Anxiety that would usually creep in when I stand in front of many people (sometimes even only a hand full) and open my mouth. Anxiety that has darkened my life a lot and ever since, accompanied by very destructive thinking (“I’ve messed it up in so many aspects, nobody can take me seriously or find me loveable anymore…”).
2. I learnt that thoughts, feelings, emotions come and go. They’re not me.
Second, we learnt that thoughts, feelings, the surrounding come and go. And the I, it stays. It’s unaffected by the surrounding in effect! When we understand that, we no longer identify ourselves with our emotions and thoughts. And we can free ourselves from our so-called binding desires (as opposed to non-binding ones or preferences respectively): whether we don’t get something we want or we get something we don’t want – in the end, this does not need to be the reason for feeling happy or unhappy. The source of happiness, love and security is within ourselves.
We learnt that according to the vision of Vedanta, we are a part of this universe and we in essence are perfect the way we are. We’re whole and complete. And there’s an order in everything. Even in our feelings, thoughts and behaviour that we may not like. This is the knowledge we want to acquire through yoga and the teachings. We want to bring in knowledge where there’s ignorance. Bring light into the darkness – more and more often.
This vision has relaxed me so much: first, there was an order in the things I don’t like about me and hence I don’t need to be so hard on me. Second, there’s a way out from identifying myself with my emotions and thoughts. I’d “just” need to raise awareness to this philosophy on a regular basis.
3. I realized that it’s not good for me if I live against my values
Third, we learnt that values are of utmost importance to feel at ease. This has never before made so much sense to me than when my teacher told us about it. Usually, I would be confused about values. Can’t there be good reasons for why it’s ok to betray a partner (maybe he orshe is more satisfied with a lover on the side, so it doesn’t harm anybody, right?)? Or isn’t telling a white lie better if the truth would only hurt? We learnt though that not telling the truth as well as judging, betraying, stealing and so on – does actually ultimately hurt ourselves. And that as soon as we’ve understood the value of values, we do not compromise on them any longer.
I knew before that in my job I’d over time gone more and more against my values due to a few but decisive aspects in our company culture and whenever lobbying for values which were not mine. I only after Bali though concluded that money and comfort is not a valid exchange for feeling sometimes rather empty inside and becoming cynical (neither for the fact that I could fight for my values at times, which I’ve always appreciated). I realized that in order to grow I now need to go exactly in the reverse direction – at least for a while.
4. I can live with less
I read Fumio Sasaki’s “Goodbye things. On minimalist living” before Bali and it has made me see more clearly than ever that things do not make us happy (of course some things need to be present, but I, for my part, have had more than enough and was never really aware of it). The Vedanta philosophy says the same: it states that humans seek security and pleasure. But things and what we consider exciting moments do only give us that feeling for a short time. There will always be harsh ups and downs as long as we don’t realize that happiness and security do not lie in the chocolate cake.
I looked back on my past three and a half years with a steady income and on the years before. And I realized that it’s true: have all the things I’ve acquired, people and experiences I ran after, really given me a feeling of peace? It will never be just enough if I keep looking for it in the outside. So, I decided that I could allow myself to live with less and that there was no reason for why I should compromise on what is valuable for me right now.
Nourished, with a lot of trust in myself and in the teachings, I came home, saw a post on Instagram about Sharada’s Be Woman Project offering a 9-month apprenticeship.
And did my job by quitting my job.
With many thanks to Ariane for editing ❤