When Your Hair (or Life) Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expected

I’ve been dying my hair on and off since my early teens. Then it was for fun; now it’s to cover the grey. In earlier days I favored bright Manic Panic hair colors that you could buy at the record store, shades like “Cyclamen”, “Wild Orchid”, and “Fire Engine Red”; these days it’s more about making it look “natural”, as if I can even remember what that is.

I decided to try a new shade that promised a “warm auburn glow”. But I was quite surprised when I combed it out. Instead of a warm glow, it looked like beets on fire. I washed it nine times in three days, but it would not tone down it’s fiery brass notes.

A few days later I was in a yoga class. “Oh! I like your hair!” lots of people said, except that instead of taking in the compliment I had to tell the story about how it hadn’t turned out as I’d expected. “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” I’d say. “It didn’t look like this on the box.” How many times could we say that about events in our lives that don’t turn out the way we’d hoped? Lots.

Throughout my class I began to think about my attachment to my hair. “Geez, it’s just hair. It will grow. The color will wash out,” I’d say to myself. I realized it wasn’t very yogi-like to be attached to the physical body, or to any sense of permanence. I felt caught out in my own ego.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra II.6 reads:

Drgdarsana saktyoh ekatmata iva asmita.

False identification is confusing the nature of the seer or Self with the nature of the instrument of perception. In other words, false identification happens when we mistake the mind, body, or senses for the true Self.

Asmita happens when you identify with the parts of yourself that change–your beet-red hair, your aging body, your marital status, your job, even the style of yoga you practice–instead of recognizing that your true core, your inner Self, is unchanging.

We can appreciate and value all the different aspects of ourselves that make us unique, but connecting with the part of yourself that is unchanging, true, and authentic, means that you’ll be less likely to be bothered by physical changes, or any life changes, that are beyond your control.

You can nurture this sense of connection by spending time with yourself, doing yoga, singing, running, or any activity you enjoy can help you focus beyond the physical body. Over time, pose after pose on the mat, you cultivate that relationship with Self, and your yoga, or your hair-coloring ritual, becomes truly a practice in action.


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