What do we do when we’re given a chance to practice what we’ve learned? Do we default to our old imprints and react as we always have? Or do we recognize the opportunity, accept it, and attempt to act in accordance with our new intention?
Gary Zukov has talked about how “fear is disguised as anger, rage, depression, jealousy, hostility, anxiety, judgment, and impatience. Fear is the opposite of love.”
When we are confronted with people who seemingly lash out at us in any form of the above, how do we react?
I had a cultural misunderstanding with someone I care about. It could have been resolved with a calm discussion but instead it escalated to something far greater that was deeply hurtful for both of us.
I really wanted to walk away, to accept that this was a sign that it’s not the right relationship to be in, which would have contributed equal anger, impatience, and anxiety to the situation.
But once I got some distance and returned to my practice, I really couldn’t deny that I know this person has been hurt before. They’ve been unfairly judged by social factors that are beyond their control and the explosive, condescending anger they presented is a defensive shield to protect themselves. It’s fear. Fear of being ridiculed. Fear of being evaluated as less than the other.
I can be exactly like those they’ve encountered before or I can be different and help this person to see something new by recognizing their pain and understanding it in a delicate, compassionate way instead of treating them with hostility.
We control how we react. That’s where we stand in our own power. No one provokes us as much as we let them. We can choose love or fear like Gary Zukov points out in this article from Oprah.com.
Regardless of what the outcome may be, and as sad and upset as I am, I want to choose love because acting in fear for myself just perpetuates the cycle.
Sometimes the only thing we can give is to be generous with our understanding. On a daily basis, perhaps that is all that we can contribute to the small world that surrounds us by choosing to love and not asking for anything in return. We heal through love.
I’m still working at my “marathon pose” – handstand. Though I’ve been making progress, it’s still, uh – evolving(?).
Do poses take longer because we have more knowledge to acquire from them? Or does the pose reveal itself only when we have learned all that we’re supposed to from it?
A few things I’ve discovered so far that are applicable both on and off the mat:
“Let Yourself Fall”
On the mat: When I tell myself, “it’s okay to fall,” I find more extension and stay up longer than I thought I would. I think this occurs for a few reasons. One, I’m more relaxed to recognize I might get hurt and I accept it’s just part of the learning process. Whereas if I’m determined not to topple over I’m so tense and rigid I hardly go anywhere. The unrealistic expectation weighs me down.
Off the mat: We have to face the certainty that no matter how big or small the pursuit is, we’re going to have to confront the unknown at some point. Whether that’s in the form of new information, an unanticipated obstacle, or a surprise response, something that we haven’t imagined will appear. We can accept it and embrace it, or be in denial and at odds with it. Regardless, we may flub how we handle things but it’s okay because it’s a necessary part of the learning process. We have to flub.
“Work On Your Core”
On the mat: Whenever I do my ab work first, my handstands are stronger and steadier. Our guts are the bridge between our foundation of support (our arms) and what’s dangling above us (our legs and feet). When that connection is established, it’s a sturdy pathway of extension for growth.
Off the mat: When our relationship to our core values is broken, we tumble around in a directionless free fall and are moved away from our center. We need a solid foundation and a sturdy connection to extend ourselves, to grow into the best expression of our higher selves. It’s only when we’re attached to our core values that we can sprout into limitless potential.
“Focus On What’s Working”
On the mat: If I’ve eaten a big meal or in general, am just feeling large and heavy, when my attention is on those parts, I feel like I’m dead weight. I have to kick harder and exert more energy just to get up. Instead if I shift my focus to what feels light, say my toes, I float up with more ease.
Off the mat: Our dead weight in life is in the form of doubts, worries, limited beliefs and fears. Instead if we focus on our strengths and what’s going well in our lives, we lighten our being and can move more swiftly through any endeavor.
I cannot stop thinking about an article Yoga Journal ran in the February’13 issue, “Practice Awareness,” that gathered Baxter Bell, Ana Forrest, Gary Kraftsow, and Patricia Walden to discuss how injuries occur.
Unfortunately, YJ does not have the article posted on its website but Mr. Bell has a synopsis of it on his blog, here.
The consensus between all of these tenured panelists was everyone comes to class with an ailment that’s bothering them. While this exchange mainly focused on the occurrence of physical injuries, I found myself drawing parallels to other areas of life where we suffer from impairments.
How many times have we witnessed a seemingly healthy, uninjured person come in late to class and righteously ask practitioners to rearrange everything for them (props, mats, row capacity), which throws off the perfect, staggered spacing everyone negotiated before the teacher started their dharma talk. Once in the flow their feet come too close to your face or their upward arm swing nearly smacks a nose off and then this person ends up leaving class early.
Curses to them!!! Oh – I’ve done it with scowling looks and heavy sighs.
It’s very hard to feel compassion for someone who is so unconscious. But that’s their wound that has their attention. They’re not noticing what’s going on, on the outside because their inside is a mess.
Everyone comes to class injured. I’d add everyone we encounter in everyday life is injured emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
We’re more likely to believe someone is hurt when we can visibly see their battle scars. Like Mr. Cutie above. When you first looked at him, didn’t you feel bad for him? Awww…poor bear.
Actually this, in part, is our trust issue, our egos, not wanting to give something intangible the benefit of doubt. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Perhaps people come to class to work on their problems of faith by opening up to a teacher, venturing into a new experience, or are striving to believe in themselves and to cultivate their instincts. Or maybe they’re not used to experiencing a feeling of community.
Can we start small and practice dropping the judgement for those who have invisible wounds just for an hour, in the studio? We, as a congregation, have the chance to contribute to deepening what is already crippled or to help it to heal.
Emeli Sandé’s “Next to Me” is climbing the charts here in the US. When I first heard the lyrics I thought it was a gospel song but once I did some research, I found this clip of her explaining the meaning behind the song.
Regardless of how we classify it, religious or spiritual, what a great concept to believe that unconditional love is next to us all the time.
The real question is do we open ourselves up enough to recognize it’s there, no matter if it’s in a traditional or unconventional form?? Is it in an animal, a friend, or a teacher?
Hope you all check out Emeli’s song here on iTunes.
Biological science caps human growth at adulthood yet there is still a maturation process that occurs in our psychology, hearts, and souls. Throughout our lives we are, and will continue to work through various developmental stages. It’s one thing that signs of our age show in our hair and on our face and body. But what about our spiritual age?
Yoga Sutra 2.5 says, “Ignorance is regarding the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-self as the Self.”
While it’s nice to have long-term relationships, I think it’s also important to notice who lets us experiment without judgment, without applying a permanent label to our behavior. Who can tell the difference between our non-self and self?
For instance, when our parents say something similar to, “Remember when you were five years old and you smeared poo on your face?”
Especially when this is mentioned in front of someone who didn’t know this before it’s like, “Okay…wow! What a great reminder of behavior that occurred when I didn’t know better yet you still attribute that one incident to the present me, thirty years later. Thanks!”
Besides trying the poo, there are those metaphorical, adulthood times when a marriage is ending, a career path is coming to a fork in the road, or a general restlessness occurs with where our lives are; the signs of spiritual aging. And maybe we drink too much, eat to medicate, or lash out in anger at others.
More times than not, some may only see the resulting behavior and not the behind-the-scenes accumulation of what’s really going on. Later, when perhaps we’re faced with these people who had an encounter with our former selves, it can reveal certain attributes about ourselves and them.
Who branded the impermanent parts of us as the permanent? Were our growth spurts used as a form of entertainment to laugh and poke fun at or were they honored as sensitive material and handled in a compassionate and loving way?
Some people are just going to be markers on our journey as spectators, not seers. People have attachments to us that we can’t control. But that’s their attachment, not ours.
We have to be aware of how much ignorance is tolerable in our lives. Is it damaging or healthy? Does it serve our humility or does it cause us to lose what we’ve gained?
Or it may be that it’s ourselves who are designating certain behaviors with unnecessary shrewdness.
Spiritually, we can age gracefully by recognizing those things that were impermanent and not characteristic of The Self, our center, and practice forgiveness. At times everyone needs to act out a little.
We are the only ones who can free ourselves from any form of judgmental prison. Instead can’t we use the past to help recognize the amazing capacity of our current being?
The former fumbles, the cringe-worthy conduct are signs that we tried something different. Whether it worked or not is what helps give us a sense for where our center is. The impermanent allows us to understand the permanent.
So keep investigating…