Wednesday, November 17, 2010
On the Surface
In the current political climate, which seems increasingly intertwined with religious and core values, science, and basic personality differences, I find myself often vacillating somewhere between a pure yogic state of serenity and non judgment to downright frustration and even anger. I strive to be of service to others and have more than tolerance....compassion and acceptance.
I'm successful at these intentions most of the time. And I am human and my ego shows up at times too. Yes, I'm very much human. I admit it...sometimes my opinions shift all the way over to judgment...not a very enlightened state of being, to say the least.
I recently engaged in a discussion with someone who proclaimed authoritatively that buying organic food was a luxury and someone who received government assistance should not be able to enjoy such a luxury. As someone pursuing my holistic nutritional consultant certification as well as a liberal minded individual with much more left than right leaning tendencies, I view an organic diet not only as an individual's right, but as a way to be healthier, thus reducing potential medical expenses in the long run. Furthermore, I don't think it is anyone's right make that decision for someone else whether or not that person is on welfare or food assistance. Whatever it may appear like on the surface is not the whole story. Other recent debates included judgments of a woman buying electric curlers who was also on welfare and a medicaid patient with gold teeth. My feeling? I'm not them...I don't know their story nor is it my business. If people are allowed to decide what is a luxury or a maximum limit to a particular item, then who sets the limits and at what amounts? Do I get to vote on what kind of car or home someone gets to own if they are also receiving some sort of financial aid from the government?
Not only do I feel it is wrong to be judgmental and view others on the surface appearances, I also am willing to be a compassionate and open minded citizen who would hopefully be compassionate and understanding. My father instilled a sense of the Golden Rule in me from a very young age and it always stayed with me. I certainly am not above needing help myself one day, and I hope others can give me a chance if so.
I have strong convictions with these thoughts...these opinions. They are core values of mine and while i want them to be respected, I also have to extend that same respect and work towards non-judgment towards those who don't agree. It's simple really...though darn, for me...it is not always easy!
I view much (maybe most; maybe all?) of life as a test. And all experiences, situations, and people with whom I come into contact are generally all there for some sort of reason or learning experience. Friends, old and new, housemates, fellow yoga practitioners and teachers, acquaintances...all little life lessons in the making. Being vulnerable despite the potential pain...going out of my comfort zone only to reset that zone. One lesson I've learned is that it is generally not about me; in fact, I think I'll be so bold as to say it is definitely not about me. I think often many of us, myself included, often only look at the surface of a person or situation. It's natural. Checking out the book cover to see if you want to read the book. Judging. It applies to so much and most people are guilty of it. Recent discussions on a political nature have made it even clearer to me how people judge. And rather than point my finger at them to somehow elevate my own ego, which, by the way, is damn tempting, I have to pause and realize that this is simply a mirror for my own judgmental nature.
A recent housemate and I, who sometimes clashed due to, in my opinion, our similarities rather than our differences, taught me much about respecting others' paths to their own growth and enlightenment. It showed me that I don't have to defend or fight so much to get my viewpoint across (no matter how right I may think I am)...they deserve their own path, as do I. We each have our own story, our own history and experiences which shape us, so how dare I be so arrogant as to assume my mindset is superior. If we could only look at people and somehow see a bit beneath the surface...their pain, their story...then maybe the judgments or simple "tolerance" would cease...and compassion and acceptance would prevail.
Years ago when I had an antiques store, a group of people walked in. When I happily greeted them, they seemed to ignore me. My immediate reaction was to judge them as rude and inconsiderate people. Then they turned around and I could see that they were deaf and were signing at each other rather than talking. I remember thinking then how wrong I was to be so quick to assume the worse...making this about me and how it affected my feelings, without even knowing the whole situation. So, when the guy who pulled out in front of me in traffic the other day started honking at me, even though clearly I was already in the road and certainly not in the wrong...rather than get upset, I instantly looked a little beneath the surface of the situation and figured that maybe he had a rough day, a fight with his wife or coworker, a sick kid...something. But it definitely was not about me.
I recently contacted two old and dear friends who I'd had partings with. I stuck out an olive branch and neither responded. I can't say I know what's beneath the surface...and I cannot say a different outcome would have been desirable to me. I can, however, say that I did my part and have to leave the rest to the universe. And it's not about me.
I think we all judge at times. For me, the answer to stopping with the judging of others is to first stop with the judging and comparing of ourselves. Then the compassion comes in. And acceptance. And the willingness to acknowledge that below the surface, things often tell a very different story than the initial view. Will you take a moment to pause to allow that process? Will you find compassion within for yourself? If not, how can you find it for others? We each have our own paths to follow.....