“The two greatest travesties of Ananda are that Narayan can’t speak Italian and Dharmadevi doesn’t have a Southern accent.” Swami Kriyananda joked with us as we enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. 

Narayan is third-generation Italian but his parents weren’t encouraged to speak the language, so he didn’t grow up with it. Swamiji knew that, although I grew up in Georgia, I had purposely avoided the (usually-considered) charming Southern accent. “Southern hospitality” felt insincere to me – like saccharine sweetness. Swami was poking fun at us. 

Being back in the South with my mom, I’ve encountered a lot of truly sweet, serviceful people… and they have impressive Southern accents!

One of the hospice nurses reminded me of a funny expression used around these parts. The pharmacy had delivered the wrong medicine and when we told her, she exclaimed, “Bless it!” What a great way to express frustration – by blessing it!

The past month has taught me a lot about how I deal with stressful situations. We all react differently to emergencies. I’m striving to learn how to be a better version of myself, rather than beat myself up for responding negatively. 

Just as the “paths of yoga” apply to our spiritual inclinations and how we relate to the Divine, we can apply them to every aspect of life. The Bhakti yogi is led by feeling, Gyana yogi by intellect, and Karma yogi by action. 

My emergency response, I’ve discovered, is action-oriented. For example, when my mom had major exploratory surgery for her cancer seven years ago, the sutures were taken out prematurely and the incision opened up. It was just the two of us in her hospital room. I saw what happened, said calmly but firmly, “Mom, don’t move!”, ran to the nurses station, and got the doctor back to the room. When I sat back down, I felt dizzy, nauseous, and all the blood ran out of my face. Thank goodness I didn’t pass out and especially not before getting a doctor! 

During this visit, I’ve learned the pitfalls of being overly action-oriented, without a balance of feeling and discernment. When Mom’s legs gave out and she started to fall, I sprung into action to try to get her back to her feet. When her feet didn’t work and wouldn’t support her weight, my holding her upright was fruitless, and frustration set in as she slid to the floor. Thankfully, she didn’t get hurt, but it meant a call to the fire department to get her back to bed. 

It took a little bit but eventually I was able to observe my frustration and begin to transmute it into a calm understanding of my own nature and acceptance of a difficult situation. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Be calmly active and actively calm.” His words became my affirmation.

Something else I’ve found helpful is the Serenity Prayer. It often comes to my mind during difficult situations that I cannot change, and it touches on the paths of yoga beautifully:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

If neither of the above help, just say, “Bless it!”, give it to God, and keep moving onward and upward.