By Douglas S. Files, M.D.
A well-known myth states that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once spoke at his old school, Harrow. The story goes that his entire speech consisted of him telling the young audience to, “Never give up…never, never, never, never.” In reality the speech was much longer, but the legend has passed down to the present day because of the strength of its point: persistence is critical to success.
For three years I have served as president of the board of directors of the yoga non-profit theYoke. When I began I was seeking charitable work as a way to contribute and keep busy. My friend LauraLynn Jansen mentioned forming a Yoga-based non-profit organization. Its’ mission to unite and serve yoga folk intrigued me. I also relished the challenge of establishing a new charity. Despite my lack of Yoga expertise, I was familiar with administrative tasks from running a small business. In addition, my passion for education was piqued by one aspect of the organization’s mission to assist in educating the general public about the full spectrum of Yoga via a blog, podcasts, courses and so much more. Naturally I offered to help.
Recently our founder and executive director, LauraLynn Jansen, asked me how I have changed since becoming affiliated with a Yoga non-profit. For one thing, the experience has taught me more about the full range of Yoga; how it involves far more than asana. I deeply enjoy our explorations in the Yoga Folk Book Club. Learning about the philosophical underpinnings of Yoga, for example the jnana Yoga path (union through true knowledge).
has made me think differently about my life. One book mentioned that we may make up to 10,000 value judgments a day. This lesson came into focus for me as part of our readings on dukkhas. The Sanskrit roots of dus refers to bad and kha originally meant hole. According to Yogapedia this refers to the hole for an axle. “ A poor-fitting axle would lead to discomfort; hence, suffering and dukkha.” Modern translations simply give it as suffering. The impact of this understanding has brought me to spend more time focusing on the value of each moment. I concentrate more on the flow and just moving through a difficult situation versus labeling it good or bad. As a teacher of doctors, receiving criticism and being able to move through moments without self-critiquing sharpens my focus. This assists me in passing through my day smoothly versus getting stuck on petty moments or wallowing in one comment or situation. This awareness impacts my overall life and lets me approach moments from a more meta-level. I carry the benefits of this with me and it is also a form of Yoga.
“The spark of life is not gain. Nor is it luxury. The spark of life is movement. Color. Love. And furthermore…if you really want to enjoy life, you must work quietly and humbly to realize your delusions of grandeur.”
― Mark Helprin, A Soldier of the Great War