Early on in my acting career I was lucky enough to be able to fly into New York City and stay with a friend for weeks at a time. For those weeks I would concentrate solely on auditioning, hitting as many auditions as I could before I would have to go home. I was looking to book work for the upcoming year or possibly even get my big break – if that possibility even exists anymore, I’m unsure, but I was always hopeful.
One of the weekends I was in town, my friend asked me to help out with a family party in honor of his aunt’s 60th birthday. It was a surprise party and the family wanted to make sure everyone could enjoy it, so they felt employing starving actors to help out would take the burden of serving the guests out of their hands. I remember very little about the party after all of these years, but one thing will stick with me for the rest of my life. The aunt was such a happy person. Honestly her whole smile could light up any room. When you looked at her at the age of 60 she did not seem to have a frown line anywhere on her face. Each wrinkle was perfectly placed to deepen the effect her smile had on anyone in her presence.
Towards the end of the party they showed a slideshow of the aunt throughout the past 60 years. Every single picture displayed her wide smile and for the first time I think I truly understood that I had a choice – a choice to be happy and lead a happy life.
Up to that point I was leaning into the drama that life can bring. Everything affected me. A bad audition could lead to tears and feelings of hopelessness. A great performance felt like hitting the top of the mountain. I was up and down and all over the place. I was letting life and the events along my path predict my every emotion. When I left that party I knew it was up to me find my own beautiful smile and pursue the life that would help me maintain my happiness. I was nothing short of inspired by this woman I barely knew.
Three or four years later I was closing a show. It was the last show I performed in before I made the decision to attend teacher training. I was housed by the theatre and staying alone in an apartment throughout the extent of the show. I enjoyed the cast, but was no longer the type to hangout after the performance and get involved in the cast dramas. I was quite content to spend the days doing my own thing, perform the show and then go home.
On closing night I was astonished by some of the cards I received from the younger girls in the company. They wanted to thank me for inspiring them to go after their dreams and lead their best life. “Wait. What?” I thought. I had no intention of coming in and influencing anyone, but by concentrating on my own life and happiness, they had been inspired to find their own.
And this, I find, is the same way a regular yoga practice works. You walk into a studio for the first time set to get a bit more in shape or help repair a certain part of your body. Then, as your body and life begin to transform, you begin to inspire those around you. People you may never have talked to will notice your dedication and hard work within the practice and be inspired to become more dedicated and work harder themselves. You begin to share a higher energy with everyone in your life and more and more people are attracted to it. Friends and family will see the change the yoga has made to you and they want to give it a try themselves. They are inspired…and you weren’t even trying to do that for them. You are just living at your optimal level and taking care of yourself in the best way possible, and in doing so you have lit a fire and influenced every person in your life in a positive way.
This is not only true for those that have beautiful practices. The most inspiring are the ones that have health and emotional issues that have them starting from “the scratch once again.” What they overcome in the hot room day after day, week after week, is nothing short of amazing.
Be proud of the life you’re living. Work to make it the best you can. Be happy despite any other circumstances. And know that without even trying you are an inspiration to every soul you come in contact with.
As John Quincy Adams was quoted as saying, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Lead on friends.