It’s amazing how life lessons can come from the most mundane tasks. @BethanyButzer
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Case in point: Last week I had an experience in a cafeteria that caused a quantum shift in my perspective.
I spent five days at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, where I attended the Symposium on Yoga Research. Kripalu is a beautiful yoga retreat center located in Western Massachusetts, and one of the great things about Kripalu is their food. They serve all sorts of healthy, tasty goodness, and I always look forward to visiting their cafeteria when I’m there.
On this particular visit, I decided I was going to do a five day detox. The Kripalu cafeteria has a special section called “The Buddha Bar” that serves very basic food – no gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine, or additives of any kind. For my detox, I decided that I was going to eat all of my meals from the Buddha Bar, and I was really looking forward to having an opportunity to clear out my system.
One meal that is a staple in many Ayurvedic detox programs is kitchari. Kitchari can be made in many different ways, but it typically involves combining rice with mung dahl beans and some spices. It’s a very healing stew that is easy to digest and perfect for detoxes. Kripalu typically serves kitchari at the Buddha bar in the mornings, and I was planning on eating kitchari for breakfast every day of my detox.
But there was a problem.
Every morning I would arrive at the Buddha Bar and there wouldn’t be any kitchari. On the first day, I just figured they had run out and would make a new batch the next day. But on day two, still no kitchari. By day three I’d started a detailed monologue in my head that went something like this:
“Of course they ran out of kitchari for the five days that I’m here. All I want is a little bit of kitchari, is that too much to ask? If I have to eat steamed vegetables and plain rice one more day for breakfast I might go crazy. This isn’t fair. Why don’t things ever work out for me?”
Now keep in mind that I hadn’t consumed gluten, dairy, sugar, chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol in close to a week, so my thoughts about food were getting pretty distorted. Nonetheless, I was experiencing a whole host of aggravation about such a small thing. It was just stew, for god sake! But the lack of it was driving me bonkers.
At breakfast on day five, I gave up. I surrendered to my lack of kitchari, ate my steamed vegetables and rice in silence, and put my dishes away. Before leaving the cafeteria, I decided to fill up my water bottle, which meant that I had to pass the Buddha Bar on my way to the water fountain. As I walked by, I noticed a large pot just slightly behind the Buddha Bar. Something compelled me to walk over to check it out, and guess what is was.
A huge, steaming cauldron of kitchari.
I stood staring in disbelief. Had this pot been here the entire five days? I turned and asked a staff member. She said yes, for the last few months Kripalu has been offering kitchari at every single meal. Instead of putting it directly at the Buddha Bar where it used to be, they decided to put it in this huge warming pot across from the Buddha Bar so that it would stay fresh.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
I’d spent five days getting myself all wound up about the lack of kitchari, and it had been there the entire time. Not just at breakfast, but at every single meal. It was literally right in front of me. I just needed to open my eyes and look.
I learned a couple of things from this experience:
Keep a Close Eye on Your Patterns. And Don’t be Afraid to Take a Different Perspective
I’ve been going to Kripalu for a few years now, and I was so used to the kitchari being in a specific spot that I was completely closed to the idea that it could be someplace different. If I had literally just turned around and taken a closer look at my surroundings, I would have noticed that it had been there all along.
This is such an important lesson about being careful to not get stuck in our patterns, perspectives, and routines. Sometimes we get so trapped in our expectations that we don’t allow space for new opportunities to arise. In yogic philosophy these patterns are called samskaras, which refer to patterns in our thinking that are so well-traveled that they are almost like scars. Samskaras are like the grooves on a record. The needle of the record player constantly follows the grooves, unless we shake things up and move the head of the needle.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for What You Want. And Expect To Be Taken Care Of
My whole kitchari mess could have been easily resolved at the beginning of my detox if I had just asked a staff member about why there wasn’t any kitchari at the Buddha Bar. Instead, I kept my head down and turned the situation into a diatribe that was all about me and my bad luck. A different approach would have been to ask for help and trust that I was already being taken care of. I didn’t need to force the kitchari to appear – it was already there. All I had to do was ask.
Notice Your Blind Spots
I think that many times in life, we get so stuck in our patterns that we fail to see what’s right in front of us. We develop psychological blind spots that prevent us from enjoying what is being presented to us in this moment.
There are love stories that are full of this pattern. Someone is your close friend for years while you’re yearning for love and dating people in all the wrong places. Then all of a sudden it occurs to you that you are in love with the person who is right in front of you. Sometimes this story has a happy ending, in that the person realizes that they love you, too. Other times, however, you’re too late and the love of your life has moved on. Noticing our blind spots helps us avoid these tragic endings.
My kitchari experience caused me to ask myself several questions:
What opportunity am I not noticing that’s right in front of me?
Where am I getting upset when I could be focusing on the gifts that I have in this moment?
What am I taking for granted?
In what ways am I trying to force an outcome, as opposed to surrendering to what is?
What are my blind spots?
Where am I afraid to ask for help?
Where am I not trusting that I’ll be taken care of?
I encourage you to ponder these questions in relation to your life. Even better, take out a journal and write your answers down. As for me, I found a kitchari recipe and plan to make a big pot of it soon. I’m also opening up to seeing what’s right in front of me, and trusting that everything will be ok.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
Image courtesy of Tony Box.