I teach yoga and offer massage therapy in both Oakland and San Francisco, so I often commute by BART. While aboard, I witnessed a young man purposely taking up two seats, his backpack resting on the seat next to him. At the next stop, a man got on the train and kindly asked if he could sit in the seat where the backpack was. The young man just blankly looked at him. The older man asked again, and the young man shook his head. The older man, frustrated, muttered under his breath, and stormed away to stand in the center of the train car.
Not a minute later, a young woman nicely asks with a smile if she could sit down. He gives the same sort of answer. The girl smiles genuinely and asks again. And, then again. The young man looks right at her, shakes his head no, and continues to move to the music in his headphones. She walks away and moves into a different train car. Whoa, this kid was not going to give his seat up for anything!
His actions, though impolite in nature, got me thinking on a deeper level. Why is he hanging on to this extra seat? Does he not want anyone that close to him? Or, maybe he has had to fight for everything in life, and now he has something and he won’t let it go, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. Perhaps something as common as giving up a seat on the train could mean a real loss to him?
I wasn’t sure. But, I chose to take this opportunity to metaphorically “gaze into a mirror at myself.” The reflection looking back reminded me of times when I held on too tightly to something for fear of losing it. Or, times when I wanted more and more, when I didn’t necessarily need it. Even times when I was rigid and judgmental in my thinking. I thought more and more about how I could change.
Yoga has always been an inspiration for shifts in my life. In witnessing the train situation, I was drawn towards santosha. Santosha is one of the niyamas, one of the five self observances or ethics within the Eight Limbs of Yoga. When you experience santosha, you are content and counting your blessings in gratitude. You are able to accept what happens, because you do not need more than you already have. With this kind of satisfaction, supreme joy can be gained.
I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned in our every day interactions with other people. In watching the young man not give up his seat, I was inspired to focus on being satisfied and grateful for what I already have, rather than wanting more. Within days of truly applying this to all aspects of my life, I booked more private reiki and massage clients. My group yoga classes had greater attendance, and were even more meaningful for my students and I (and still continue to be). A reiki and yoga workshop that I was hosting sold out. I may have attracted a bit of the supreme joy and tranquility that comes from santosha.
Is this easy to do? Not always. I encourage anyone reading this to see day to day occurrences in a new light. I challenge you to always be grateful, because you are never lacking. These lessons only make us stronger. You are always where you need to be.