Wisdom from a yoga daddy
From monkhood to fatherhood: Gopala Amir Yaffa explains how his yoga learnings have been challenged by everyday family life.
I started practicing yoga and meditation when I was 14 and became a Hindu monk when I was 16 and have been wholeheartedly devoted to this path for 10 years.
During those years of intense practice of meditation, yoga and service, I gave my whole trust to my guru. I believed in him, drank eagerly from his wisdom and followed his every word religiously.
After 10 years of trusting someone else, I finally learnt to truly trust myself. I left the Ashram (yoga monastery) when I was 26.
The patterns and grooves that this practice made within me are deep. Even now, 12 years after leaving the Ashram, sharing this knowledge is my passion and my livelihood.
Being a monk was easy for me. I only needed to focus on one thing at a time; I had a lot of time to introspect and figure out where I stand in this world, and with all of the intensity of the practice I did not have to carry with me worries about anything.
Well, I’m not a monk anymore. Now I am married to a beautiful and passionate woman, have four children, just bought a house, and have a very fast growing yoga business.
Wow! Life is busy and time to go within is scarce. Being able to do one thing at a time is almost impossible…I’m challenged, to say the least!
I love circus arts, and juggling is something that I like experimenting with.
But it’s juggling real life 24/7 that I do now, trying to make it all flow seamlessly without thinking about it too much.
Here are some yogic principles that I find helpful now as a father when all of the juggling balls are in the air:
I always try to maintain my values above everything else. Family life is hectic; to remain afloat amidst this storm you need to keep looking up to the moral principles that you are not willing to compromise on.
In our family, it is Ahimsa, non-violence. So regardless of what happens, we keep striving to communicate and act in a non-violent way. Starting from what we eat (we and our four children are all vegans) and all the way to how we treat our toys, plants, and, of course, people.
I need lots of this! In 10 years of being a monk, I thought I had conquered anger. Well, no one in the Ashram knew how to get to me as well as my kids do know!
Breathing helps us not to be so reactive and implosive; rather, pause to take a deep breath and respond in a way that is going to create a positive change.
- Be flexible
We all come to our marriages and our family life with baggage. We have learnt some things about the world before we got together. Some of those things apply to this new situation and some don’t.
A lot of the things that I’ve learned as a monk do not apply very well to family life. Sometimes, the knowledge and tools I acquired in the past handicap me now.
Expectations, whether from myself or others, which were relevant in the past, are simply making me disappointed now.
I find that I need to keep reinventing myself to be happy and make others happy, and most importantly, not get stuck in patterns and take things lightly.
Don’t try to control it all; you can’t anyway. I try to do my best; I fail sometimes. I impart my knowledge and life experience to my children; some of it goes deep within them to shape them into amazing creative and compassionate people…some other non-important details such as putting your stuff back in place seems like it will never sink in!
In all of this, despite minor challenges and setbacks, I trust that they will grow to be beautiful people that will make this world a better place.
- Keep striving to make yourself a better person
Children learn not so much from words, but from observing our behaviour. So being the best person we can will help them be the best that they can be.
Within all of the commotion, confusion, noise and madness of family life, I try to remember that I am still my own person and that I have a duty to myself to continue to evolve.
It is easy to get caught up in life’s day-to-day business, so it is important to step back once in a while, retrospect, learn something new, and come back to the family with a renewed attitude and inspiration to give and to be truly present.