How do we create a meaningful and joyful life? And what’s the purpose of our existence? At ten years old, Baron Baptiste, the son of two prominent yoga teachers, traveled to India for the first time to study yoga. Two decades later, he helped introduce power yoga to the American public and catapulted the practice into the mainstream. With his ability to empower and uplift, Baron is today one of the world’s most prominent yoga teachers. But even he has struggled with these age-old questions. “I’ve always sought a way to get to the heart of life,” says Baron, the father of three sons. “It took me years of fumbling around to find a life that I felt made a real difference to myself and others.”
For this month’s Cover Story, we tap into Baron’s vast knowledge. From how to deal with pain to finding our true purpose, Baron is an ocean full of wisdom and joy. Soak it in, print it out and stick it to your wall for those moments you need a boost, a push to keep going or simply a reminder that you’re fine no matter what. • Ulrica Wihlborg
Baron teaching yoga in Kenya through his Africa Yoga Project.
1. Act As If
It may sound weird, but the premise is easy. Act as if you’re whole and complete and perfect. Because you are. No matter what you’re going through, or where you are in life, or what society may think you lack in terms of beauty or material possessions or what not. It doesn’t matter. You are whole and complete and perfect and nothing is missing. Always act as if that’s the truth. Because it is.
2. Don’t Worry What Other People Think About You
I wish I’d done this earlier in life. For the longest time, I worried what other people thought about me. I was afraid of being judged or not accepted. I think we all have to go through it, but the sooner you let that go the better your life will be. Don’t let the fear of other people’s opinions stop you from doing what you believe is right for you. There’s an incredible sense of freedom once you let go of that.
3. Look Beyond Yourself For Your Purpose
I know everyone says this, but it is the quickest way to truly feeling happy. If you feel stuck in your life, or discontent, or you don’t feel you have a purpose, all you need to do is start connecting with others. It can be something simple, or something big, but the important thing is that you get outside yourself and connect with others in a positive way. It generates tremendous energy, and instantly makes you feel fulfilled. It’s the best gift you can give yourself.
4. If You Feel Bad, Stay With It
Be mindful of your pain or suffering. That’s often where your greatest opportunities lie. If you feel pain, truly feel it. Sit with it. In feeling is great healing. When I’m feeling pain, I allow myself to be with it. I completely accept it and observe what happens, and then I let that energy transform into something new. A new vision, a new opening, a new possibility. So when you’re feeling grief or despair or pain, you should allow yourself to feel it. Then take that into a direction where you’re doing something that’s bigger than yourself.
5. Make Unplugging A Habit
The brain gets addicted to being connected. It happens to me, too. A good teacher for me has been my 14-year-old son. He doesn’t like it when I’m on my phone, and he will tell me. The phone or whatever device you’re using allows you to be engaged over there — whatever is on the other side of that device — and takes you out of the present moment. Yes, it’s addictive, but it’s not reality. You’re missing out. If I spend too much time on my phone, texting or doing whatever, I start feeling lost. I don’t feel connected to myself. So don’t spend your life living through a device. Turn it off whenever you can. It’s crucial to be present and experience real moments. Otherwise, you might wake up one day and realize your life has gone by while your eyes were glued to a screen.
6. Change Your Perception, Change Your Life
Sometimes, all that you need to do in order to overcome a difficult situation is to change your perception. I know it’s hard — most of us are rigid — but that’s what being of power is about. If you change your perception, you change your energy. Let me give you an example. I’ve always loved my mom, but I’ve always felt she saw me as not being able to take care of myself. It was both hurtful and annoying. But one day in my early 30s, I finally got the courage to tell her about the way I saw her. Suddenly, I was having a real conversation with her. We started getting to know each other in a new way, and I learned about her childhood and how she grew up and what interested her. Even more important than that, I started loving my mom like I had loved her when I was five years old. It was a love that I had lost because I was always listening to her from my limited view of her. Because I changed my perception of my mom, I came back to the love I had felt for her when I was a child. In a way I grew up, and it has transformed my life. •
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Baron Baptiste is the author of four books, including Being of Power: The 9 Practices to Ignite An Empowered Life. To learn more about Baron Baptiste, please visit his website and follow him on Twitter @baptisteyoga.