Throughout the course of each day of our lives, we are tasked to make decisions. Small ones like, “Am I hungry for breakfast?” “What should I eat for breakfast?” “Do I have time for breakfast?”, or did I make the decision to sleep an extra 15 minutes and now breakfast consists of a stick of chewing gum and coffee at my desk?
As our day gets rolling, the decisions we make might gain significance. After all, we get to decide how we dress, who we hang out with, what we are going to say, how much effort we are willing to expend, and when we’ve had enough.
Decisions are personal. Our best decisions are generally based on the influence of those we respect and the experiences of past decision-making. When our four children were all teens, our household was a roiling cauldron of hormone-induced, peer-pressured, parental-defying decisions. Somehow, we all made it through unscathed. As adults, our children’s characters are well-constructed and we can recall the memories with humor and (mostly) mild embarrassment.
But what happens when the decisions we make and the opinions we express to support those decisions don’t exactly line up with expectations — specifically, the expectations we have of ourselves and others. Is this when we begin to topple down the slippery slope of judgement?
After all, if I decide to eat a well-balanced diet and include exercise in my daily routine, I would probably expect to look a certain way. Yet each time I catch my reflection in the mirror, my gaze is instantly drawn to THE SPOT! We all have one, and you know where yours is. Maybe it’s your belly that protrudes over your waist band further than you like, or those folds of skin that seem to appear out of nowhere and droop over your knees like lazy eyelids, or maybe, despite a daily ritual of facewash and various creams, we gaze into the mirror and the only thing we can see is that one, fiery red blemish planted like a beacon next to our too-big nose. Judgement, in it’s most unflattering form, steps into our mind like an unwelcome house guest. Loud. Boldly trampling through our thoughts and leaving feelings of defeat and frustration in it’s path.
Joseph Addison was a poet and a politician born in the late 1600s. Hepenned this line more than 400 years ago, and it still rings true: “What an absurd thing to pass over all the valuable parts of a man, and fix our attention on his infirmities.”
Yoga, in a word, means union. It is the coming together of our minds, our bodies and the world we live in. Through yoga, we learn to gaze inward. In our practice, even if we are in a classroom setting with many other participants, we are encouraged to practice “alone.” That is, within our own bodies, our own capacities, and at our own pace. There is no judgement in yoga — not of others and not of ourselves. When we come to a pose that is uncomfortable or even unattainable, we rejoice in what our body allows for us rather than power into a place that could cause injury or stress. The emphasis is on what is possible, in this moment, on this day. We aren’t stuck on the pose we are stuck on. We acknowledge the physical “blemish” or the internal “block” that appears, as a single part of the whole body, and we acknowledge the whole body as a single part of the world in which we live. And we continue to live peacefully in this body, in this world, with all the other creatures — scales, spots, fins and blemishes alike.
There is a story of a Native American tribal leader who describes his own inner struggles as two dogs that live inside him. One of the dogs is mean and evil; the other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When the leader was asked which dog usually wins the fight, he replied, “The one I feed the most.”
If we imagine judgement to be an unwelcome house guest, with its bold assessments and too-loud voice, we are again tasked with a decision. We can simply choose to live with it and forever see the blemish in our reflection, or we can stop feeding this particular houseguest. We can take away it’s comfortable resting place and show it the door, and the empty space it leaves behind will be filled with love and appreciation of our most valuable self.
Laurie Kasperbauer is an active Florida Realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. Laurie also enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes.