I’ve always said that one of the most valuable lesson from travelling is beginning to understand that there really is space for (many) more than one way of thinking, doing and being. What one culture accepts as paramount for survival, is completely irrelevant in another – rendering our ideas of what we ‘have to do’, ‘have to have’ or how we ‘have to be’ completely subjective and open for scrutiny. There are very few of our absolute beliefs that – if we let them go – will have us DIE. We hold onto them because they are valuable to us, define who we are, and give us a sense of identity. But when push comes to shove – they’re not really a matter of life and death. Others live and survive perfectly happily without them. Which means that while they are important to US – they’re not ‘universal’. ..and so in essence – they’re not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’: they’re just ours.
Travelling and becoming immersed in other cultures bring this idea home quite strongly. And without having to question or abandon one’s own belief systems or ideas – it just allows a sense of openness and acceptance around the fact that not everyone thinks, acts or believes as we do – and that’s okay. They’re not wrong – we’re not right. We’re just different. And on this beautiful earth – there is space for all of us. You might find what others do offensive – it still doesn’t make you right. Build a bridge – and get over it.
In the yoga community we ‘pride’ ourselves in our philosophy of openness, acceptance and non-judgment. We claim to not be attached to ideas and emotions on our path to ‘enlightenment’. That is unless, of course, someone tells us that they hate yoga…or prefer one style over another. It also doesn’t count when people question our vegetarian, paleo or vegan diets. Oh and we also become quite dogmatic about organic and non-organic, or the question about whether is yoga a religion or not – then we really get our backs up and you will hear a word or two about being offended and a be prepared for a pretty well worded argument as to why how we see it is RIGHT.
So in this philosophy which is really all about connection and oneness – we have also allowed our need to grab on and hold on, very rigidly so, onto a new set of beliefs – when all we perhaps wanted was to get out of the dogma around other beliefs we were brought up with. The notion of becoming dogmatic over things is rife everywhere – we become dogmatic about raising children, political parties, education, sports, potjiekos and so much more.
Disagreement is one thing. Failure to accept that someone might be different than ourselves, and making them wrong for it, is another. Disagreement keeps open the possibility of connection. Belittling and judgment shut that down.
In yoga, when we chant ‘om’ – it is to bring us back home to the idea of connectedness. The fact that we are all connected, to each other, to the earth, to God. Yet what we do by judging and drawing parameters around what and who is right and who is wrong – is bring separation.
So as yogis, and as humans, we need to begin to become present enough, so that we can identify when we are jumping on the dogma train and the demon of self-righteousness is lurking. To be blunt – it makes us nasty and insulting. It creates barriers, NOT bridges.
We practice yoga to practice becoming present. It’s a way of learning how to connect with ourselves in a different and meaningful way. We practice seeing ourselves for what we are with all our self-imposed limitations, the beliefs we hold that don’t serve us and hold us back, and the ways in which we feed unhealthy patterns and habits in our lives. It prepares us then to begin to connect with others: the yoga teacher, the other yogis in the room, the family members who think yoga are pretzel like postures, the co-workers who have no idea where its come from but who appreciates the calmer, more open, accepting, and non-judgmental you.
This is important because connectedness is what we really need. That is what really matters in your life, in PE, this country and the world. That is what we’re here for. Diets, political systems, cultural values and beliefs aside – we need to be connected to each other to be safe, to be happy, and to make the world the place it was intended to be.
So let’s drop the idea of being ‘right’ and pointing out the others’ ‘wrongs’. Our energy is best spent working at connectedness rather than winning a debate or argument. That is truly living the yoga philosophy.
Author: Tanya Kemp
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Following a successful career as Management Consultant, Psychologist and Life Coach in London, Tanya chucked it all in and embarked on an ‘Eat Pray Love’ journey. A journey of purposeful self-discovery, lasting 17 months, spanning 6 continents and 18 countries, including numerous extraordinary people, innumerable unforgettable experiences, and an unmistakeable sense of ‘coming home’ despite not having a physical home, all culminated in a three month period of final reflection, consolidation and strategising on Island Lamu in Kenya. The teachers came, as promised, and the message was clear: The Dream – to live Yoga. The Dream in Motion – Heal. Love. Yoga. The journey ended at home, in Port Elizabeth and has manifested in a Yoga Studio – Heal. Love. Yoga.
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