I didn't think it was such a tough task when my yoga teacher gave me homework. All she wanted me to do was write 10 positive things I had experienced when I came next.
I thought it would be easy enough. After all, my stint in the US as a consultant had trained me to come up with off-the-rack answers like:
Watching the sun rise from my backyard...
Popcorn with real butter with hot apple cider...
Babies who don't cry...
But this time it didn't work. And there I was with paper and pen all set to write and nothing happening.
Half-an-hour's struggle saw me putting down two points. But both, I must admit, looked made-up to me. Without any difficulty, I was able to think of 20 negative points -- but positive ones, not a hope!
I managed to get through the next yoga class saying I was too busy at work to do my homework. My teacher didn't buy that, but she let it go.
It bothered me my days were not as bright as I thought they were. My ego was pushing me to put something down. The papers I picked up to do that seemed to scoff at me.
So I introduced the subject to my friends during dinner. One said he feels very positive when he gets up in the morning and sees the sun shining. But, he added, that feeling evaporates as soon as he looks out of the window and sees people answering the nature's call out on the streets. Another suggested I write his name 10 times over because he was the most positive thing in my life.
At the end of the dinner, though we all had a good laugh, I wasn't any closer to getting my homework done.
In the next class, I admitted failure. My teacher smiled. "Try it for another week," she said. "If you still think this is not helping, then we'll see what we can do about it."
I was determined not to fail again. I began looking at things around me minutely, and sure enough, there were many positive things:
The gardener who greeted me with a broad smile...
The fact the subsidized food at the canteen was not all that bad...
The fact this exercise has given me a new hobby...
And best of all, I was beginning to create something positive, which I now realise was the whole point of the exercise. What at first seemed like a fortuitous side effect has become my main reason for practicing yoga.
Now I wish I could say yoga has made me a saint, or able to achieve pretzel-like postures that wow my friends at parties, but that isn't so.
I still struggle to find my 10 points, but it has made me more aware of my surroundings. The trick is to look around till you see everything in a new light.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh