I didn’t start teaching because I loved yoga, or because I wanted a career change. I found teaching via very twisty path that started when I was very young.
My “calling” happened when I was about 20. At the time I was an art student in Chicago. In those days I thought that all I wanted to do was study art, make paintings, get recognition for them, and hopefully get a cool job somewhere teaching to college kids. I was very committed. I had my own painting studio and took the pursuit of art very seriously. I was also a recovering addict at the time and had taken up practices like meditation to help me cultivate spirituality. At that point I was sober for about 5 years. In general, I thought I was pretty cool and had a good life planned out. What I didn’t know is that I was about to get my world rocked by an elderly Macedonian nun.
The world-rocking took place when one of my professors showed our class a 1986 documentary about Mother Teresa. The class was about mysticism and the professor was introducing us to Mother Teresa’s work as an example of mystical Christianity. In one part of the film, they showed Mother Teresa and her nuns – the Missionaries of Charity – helping a group of spastic children in Beirut during the war with Isreal. They showed the nuns coming in fearlessly rescuing the children, picking them up from their cribs and beds, holding them, loving them, and sharing incredibly deep, steady loving energy with the terrified suffering little beings. Along with the footage was Mother Teresa’s voice-over. These are the words that changed my life forever.
Small things with great Love….
It is not how much we do, it is how much Love we put into the doing.
And it is not how much we give, but how much Love we put into the giving.
God’s love is infinite – full of tenderness, full of compassion.
God loves the world through us – you and me – the way you touch people, the way you give to people – that love for one another.
Many people talk about Love and talk about God, but they may not be loving at all.
Love must be put into action.
As I watched the footage and listened to Mother Teresa’s words, something deep in my heart moved. It felt like a 10,000 pound boulder shifting. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was changed. (you can find this section in the film around minute 55)
In that moment – in less than 2 minutes – I was shown my life’s purpose. I was to be a vehicle for God’s Love on Earth. I wasn’t religious – I wasn’t even sure what “God” or “Love” even meant – but I knew what I needed to do. There was no way after that point that I could choose anything else in life. After that point, I couldn’t even imagine doing something else.
I had to serve people – and I had to be a vehicle for God’s Love.
It wasn’t a calling to work with the poor like the Missionaries of Charity. It wasn’t any particular idea of that that work was going to look like, but it was clear that I had to lead a life of service. My service has taken on many forms over the 28 years since that moment. And it’s been – and continues to be – a very sloppy and imperfect process. But from that moment forward to today, that has been my path and my life’s purpose and mission.
Whether I am writing, or teaching, or on a book tour, or taking care of my kids; whether I am leading someone in meditation, or helping someone navigate a gnarly life transition, or sitting in my meditation seat praying for people; I am trying, in my own deeply imperfect way, to put Love into action and allow God to love the world through me.
Ultimately this is what this “soulful living” work is that I do with my teaching. Sometimes I forget. But I really must never forget this. In an age where there are countless spiritual teachers, coaches, spirit guides, and professional yogis out here trying to live their truth and make a living at the same time, it’s easy to forget this basic truth of the work and get caught in the “business” of helping people. But this is not a business, not for me. This is a ministry. I am here to minister to people’s hearts and help people. To the extent that the work brings in money and support for my life and my family, I am grateful. But I know that this is the work I would do no matter what. If I were granted an endowment with millions – enough to live on well forever – I would still do this work. I might even work harder.
Lately I keep a framed picture of Mother Teresa near my workspace to remind me of that moment back in college. That moment was one of the clearest moments I’ve ever had. And what was revealed to me on that day by Mother Teresa still holds just as true now as it did then. I am so grateful. Beyond words. She and her Missionaries of Charity – with whom I have had the privilege to work and learn from – are such amazing exemplars of what I hold most dear – undying, passionate devotion to God and tireless unceasing service in the name of God’s Love. We couldn’t be more different in many ways, but they really are what I want to be when I grow up.