“In the end, these are the things that matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” ~Buddha
Last year my yoga teacher told a story in class about Hanuman, an ancient Hindu god depicted as a monkey. When asked what he was devoted to, Hanuman opened his chest and there were Sita and Ram, sitting on his heart, always with him. He was their greatest devotee.
The story stuck with me.
“What do I hold closest to my heart?” I asked myself quite often, and I was not getting the answer I wanted. Where was the dream I held close to my heart? Was I truly devoted to love, joy, and peace, or just appearing to be?
What I observed was that numbers subtly defined my life.
Numbers. Money, time, days until, days since, age, weight, calories, date, GPA, mile time, social media likes, followers, lovers, breakups, countries visited, height, miles driven, time left, time passed, books read, books to read, miles run, seconds in a handstand.
I felt like I was living a quantitative life.
I enjoy math and I think science is fascinating. Numbers have so much to offer the world, but they should not be playing a role in how we measure the value of our lives.
Numbers are everywhere, and they offer us an opportunity to look at the decisions we are making. Numbers can help us set goals, assess our progress, and recognize areas for growth.
There is so much that can be measured in numbers, but this realization offered me an amazing insight.
Often, a number cannot define what matters most. It has to be expressed with words and felt with the heart.
Laughter. Connection. Love. Organic, raw experiences. Spontaneity. Forgiveness. Adventure. These are all things that numbers cannot distinguish.
As a human, it does not matter how old I am; my age is irrelevant if I am happy.
As a twenty-four-year-old, it does not matter how many relationships I have had that did not work out.
What matters is that I am willing to feel and open my heart to another person. That I am willing to learn and make mistakes and be grateful for all that has come out of the relationships I have been in. What matters is whether I have been able to forgive others and myself for the mistakes we have made.
As a traveler, it does not matter the number of countries I have visited.
What matters are the experiences I have collected under my belt that become the keys to unlock doors I may encounter in the future. What matters are the genuine connections I have made, the laughter I have shared, with people twenty years older and twenty years younger, who speak a different language than me.
As a social media participant, it does not matter how many likes I get on a photo. What matters is if I am using social media as a platform for authenticity, connection, and positivity.
As a yoga teacher, it does not matter how many people come to my class. What matters is that my students walk away feeling light and love.
As a runner, it does not matter if I run for twenty minutes or two hours. What matters is the intention of treating my body as my home, where I live and doing my best to take care of my home.
As a yogi, it does not matter how long I meditate or can hold a handstand. What matters is union, my breath connecting my body with my mind.
As a woman, it does not matter how much I weigh. What matters is that I feel healthy. Health is a state of wholeness, happiness, and vibrancy in all aspects of our lives—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
The point is not to eliminate numbers, but to be aware of the purpose that they serve.
Celebrate birthdays. Make countdowns. Set goals. But don’t fall into the habit of defining yourself by your numbers, or comparing yours to someone else’s. Two lives can be equally valuable with completely different sets of measurements.
Within every human there is a place that is love in its purest form. This is where we store the wishes we place upon pennies before tossing them into fountains. It's the place where we hold memories that make our eyes sparkle and our hearts beat with joy. The place inside us where we dream big and without fear. It is a love for ourselves and a love for all that is.
If there is anything that defines us, it is this love.
Most importantly, numbers are not necessary to define this present moment. We don’t need any math to appreciate the moment we are in right now. Everything is simply as it should be.