I distinctly remember the day during my teacher training when I learned about the ultimate transformation in yoga: enlightenment. The teacher took his noble seat in the front of the room and described in detail the great seers and sages who had come before us. They could stop their heartbeat and control their brain activity; they could even transcend time and space and transport themselves anywhere they wished.
I left class that day feeling dizzy, a bit discouraged, and, I have to admit, worried. If enlightenment is the goal, I thought, how would I ever attain it? And, perhaps more important, did I really want to? I had been practicing for several years and had noticed some pretty radical shifts in my life. Wasn’t that enough?
As I’ve continued on in my practice, I’ve put aside my fear that I am supposed to experience “the big E,” and learned to value the small but important moments of awakening in everyday life. One of the first changes I noticed was simple—that creaky twinge I felt in my upper back disappeared. Other physical developments have taken more time to manifest: A few years into my practice, the panic attacks that tormented me in my early 20s had all but faded. Now, when they threaten to reemerge, I am armed with breathing techniques that bring me back to the present moment.
And the first time I unconsciously floated into a Headstand after months of being plagued by fear and weakness, I felt a subtle yet powerful emotional transformation. I will never forget that moment. It filled me with a sense of confidence, trust, and, oddly enough, faith—that when the time is right, the magic will happen.
Will I ever experience the kind of enlightenment that allows me to bi-locate myself around the world? As cool as that would be, I doubt it. For now, I’ll focus on becoming aware of the small transformations—truly listening when a friend is in need, being more compassionate with my family, breathing calmly in the face of panic. All of those smaller actions add up to more ease, comfort, and joy than I could ever have imagined.