“Growth can only be gradual. The seed that is sown today does not sprout into a tree the next day. It does so only in the course of time, at its own pace, and by its own order.” —Swami Kripalu
Is happiness possible for all of us? How do we take the first step?
Cheryl Kain, Guest Blogger
Because the Constitution declares our right to pursue happiness, contentment can seem, for many Americans, like a birthright. At the same time, the quest for happiness can feel like herding cats—elusive and frustrating. We’re failures if we aren’t “happy” all the time—that’s why scores of books are written promising the secrets to happiness. But the search for happiness as an aggressive imperative can have the opposite effect, especially since happiness is relative for many people, including those facing poverty, health problems, or deep despair. The questions become: Can we ever truly achieve happiness? And could there be a set of universal prescriptions for getting there?
Teacher and author Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology and author of Being Happy: You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life, says the number-one predictor of well-being is the time we spend with people we care about and who care about us. “Latin Americans are happier than North Americans, because of the emphasis on relationships,” he says. “Friends and family play a much more central role in their lives.” This certainly rings true for me: In my own life, I have been far happier in my thirties and forties than when I was a singing-career-obsessed twentysomething. According to Gail Sheehy’s New York Times bestseller, Passages, I am a “deferred nurturer” and, admittedly, I did not value relationships as much as I did getting ahead in those earlier years. Smack dab in early midlife, relationships trump all for me now. My daily relational experiences, whether with my bestie or the grocery clerk, far outshine the pleasure of those long-ago pipe dreams.
Julie Sorichetti, the first Yoga Ed.TM trainer in Canada, has successfully delivered the Yoga Ed. curriculum and Tools for Teachers program to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, the Ontario Database for Daily Physical Activity, and the Ministry of Education’s Registry of Bullying Prevention Programs. A mother of three, Julie is a child and youth worker as well as a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher and DansKinetics instructor.
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A My mission is to see that all children have the tools and resources to help them through any situation.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A When I was 20, I was a child and youth worker in a group home outside my hometown in Canada. I would see the in-house doctors prescribe medication for all these young people, who were constantly questioning their diagnoses and prescriptions. I found myself questioning this as well. I felt there had to be more than medication to help kids, youth, and also adults. It was around that time that I found myself in a yoga class. Yoga wasn’t a prescription, it was a solution.
I was born in Iran. The political landscape there was not something I agreed with or felt I could change. I came to the United States to go to school. I’ve met many nice people here, but after 9/11, for some people, anyone of Middle Eastern origin represented the face of the enemy. I had many unpleasant experiences. Without knowing my beliefs, people would hate me just from looking at my face or seeing my last name.
At Kripalu, I heard comments from the teachers like, “Thank yourself for being here.” There was the utmost care and compassion for yourself. That’s what I needed to heal myself, the utmost compassion. Also, having compassion for the people who hated me for things I had no responsibility for. I learned to take the seat of the observer, instead of taking the seat of the judge and saying this is right or wrong.
Before Kripalu, any kind of yoga I tried had been bittersweet. There were so many things I couldn’t do. I thought, maybe my body is not made for it. When I came to Kripalu I could see that it’s about doing what’s good for your body. I learned there is no perfect Downward Dog. I began seeing yoga as a way to grow, and it’s okay if I never have a perfect pose.