Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Finding Compassion in the Pause

Sunrise yoga for one...North Carolina.
I am trying to be a good student of yoga. I have a passion for it, not just because some of the poses are challenging and "impressive" but I really, really feel a connection deep inside. The more I practice, the more I meditate, the more I sit and look at the beauty and wonder and ever changing miracle of life around me the more connected I feel. It's a kind of peace and love and warmth that isn't just inside of me, but inside of everyone I meet (they might not all be nice at first but I can feel that there is something good in all of us).

Still though, many times during the day I catch myself being negative and judgmental. I try to use each instance as a lesson to either release the thought (recognize it as a habit of thinking, see that it serves no positive purpose and then let it go) or to find the root (am I projecting my own insecurities, am I harming someone else by speaking negatively just to boost myself). I might not be successful in eliminating these thoughts but it is important to think on them...and even more important to do so before speaking or reacting. Not something easily accomplished in our fast paced, instant gratification based society.

With the advent of social media, like Facebook or Twitter we are becoming blinded to the fact that with the simplicity of that 'share' (or retweet) button we can affect hundreds, or even thousands, of people. With barely a thought about what it is we are actually sharing (which often doesn't take into consideration the possible impact it can have on who the "share" is about) we are actually providing insight into our own character that might not be so flattering. In some instances we become a propagator of misinformation or a free mouth piece for whatever "cause" we are for or against, helping to perpetuate the division in our country, our cultures, our races or our religions. And sometimes we are hurting people...real people.

We complain about bullies and post horrendous stories (sometimes our own) of the pain and/or suicide of it's victims, and then we post a "funny" picture of a 'fat' girl in too tight shorts. The comments make us laugh and we justify our behavior because it's funny...perhaps to everyone except that girl. We 'bend the rules' to fit our lives because we think we are special. We post pictures making fun of other people but how would it feel if somehow, someone posted an unflattering image of us and that it had made it's way around the internet? Even strangers have feelings, believe it or not.

Caitlin Seida found herself "Facebook Famous" after this picture was spread across the Internet. "Why are people like her allowed to exist" was one of hundreds of negative comments about her body left on her picture. Not so funny anymore, huh? (Source)
It's nothing new really. We've always 'bent the rules' to make it work. Otherwise there wouldn't be a $20 billion weight loss industry. Allow me to simplify things here for the sake of argument...thanks to marketing, food additives and media/societal perceptions on weight and/or beauty most of us have forgotten how to eat to live. Now, we want the perfect body (or maybe not even perfect but with 80% of American women unhappy about their appearance we are striving for "better" than what we currently have) but we want to still bend the rules. We want a diet that allows us to eat bacon AND chocolate...preferably with little to no exercise. And when that doesn't work we can blame everything else except ourselves. For the majority of people there's a pretty clear cut way to lose weight, but it's not easy because we can't just eat whatever we want and as much as we want.

We do it with religion, a subject so taboo I won't delve too far into it except to say that we tend to pick and choose which principles we want to follow. A good question to ask before reacting (or posting on Facebook) is how is this going to reflect on my principles and intentions? If my religion is appealing because it is steeped in generosity and non-judgment, will posting negative remarks about another religion reflect those beliefs? Will posting a deeply spiritual sentiment about God's grace have any real meaning if it's followed up by a negative (possibly slanderous) meme about a political figure you disagree with that has no factual basis but it's sole intent is to harm (it's the same as "gossip")?

This bending of the rules (or, as I see it, thinking I'm somehow more special and therefor it's okay for me to do) is something I've become more aware of lately. I recently read a post by a young lady (and devoted Buddhist practitioner)  who says she wants to take her vows to become a Buddhist nun yet she disagrees with the requirement of shaving her head and refuses to do so. I understand the dilemma, I would look awful with a shaved head. However, I cannot imagine putting my vanity (call it a symbol of feminism as she claims but we are female without hair too) above a calling like becoming a nun. I wonder if this woman is really trying to make a stand against what she calls an "outdated ritual" or if this is an example of wanting to have our cake and eat it too? If my calling was to join the military surely that would mean wearing a uniform and abiding by the requirements about hair length even if olive green isn't my color, right?

As our world speeds up and our information stream and subsequent learning becomes more and more condensed we are facing the possible loss of our true intentions and authenticity. We want things to be 'better' but we don't want to have to be the ones to put in the effort. We want bullying to end but we still want to laugh at the People of Walmart. We want to get healthy or lose weight or get off our blood pressure meds, but we don't want to give up our favorite foods, even if we know they are bad for us (we would rather believe the food manufacturers whose sole purpose is to make a profit, not look after our health). We would rather believe lies that help justify our behavior (be it hatred and prejudices or the need to be "right"), and even spread these lies rather than do what might be uncomfortable yet rewarding beyond measure.

This blog is called Learning Curves for a reason. I am learning as I go...and as I grow. I am guilty of doing everything I just talked about but am learning to live with more compassion. I try to pause and ask how my comment or reaction or speech will be of any benefit (or harm). As cheesy as I always thought those "What Would Jesus Do" stickers were I can now see that they serve as that same pause. That's a pretty precious moment, that pause, it's there for all of us to use wisely if we so choose. It's that moment between the inhale and the exhale where we can make massive changes. Even if we don't think we have time to meditate, we can meditate upon that pause thousands of times a day by asking how our thoughts, actions and words are going to be of service before we react, speak, type or hit that 'share' button. Get to know your own pause and see if it's in line with how you want the world to see the real you.

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