I’m writing from the yoga mecca that is Los Angeles where I’ve come to recharge myself. At first when I was planning this trip, I thought about trying to schedule some workshops or classes to teach, but I am relieved that I decided not to work at all. Instead, I am making my own mini-retreat by cooking healthy food with my friends, meditating twice a day, and attending as many yoga classes as possible. Although I am always looking for new ideas to take back to my own classes, I am also savoring the chance to just be a student again. I try to walk into each class with humility, open to the gift I might receive from each teacher. Often (quite often) I notice my ego flaring up for one reason or another. The teacher knows everyone’s name but mine and therefore compliments everyone but me. I hit handstand in the middle of the room and wonder if anyone noticed. I breathe a lot and laugh at myself. I am able to see my ego more clearly against this unfamiliar backdrop.
In a recent conversation with a friend, she was worried about how she was being perceived by her community based on comments they had made. In that moment, it was easy for me to see that taking their comments personally was a waste of her energy. We rarely know what someone’s intentions are when they say something that hurts us. Yet, when I am the one who is hurt, that feeling overtakes logic and compassion. We are often instructed to trust our feelings, but what about when our feelings lead to unnecessary suffering? It’s not that we should be completely unconcerned about what others think. In fact, I’m trying really hard to teach my daughter to care more about what others think and feel. It seems that the challenge to find a balance between being aware and concerned of others and also self-reliant is one that begins in childhood and might never end. How can we listen to the feelings, and then listen beyond them? Recognize and own our feelings, then learn from them and let them go?
Yesterday, I was invited to a 2 hour teacher’s practice with local teachers. I was surprised and a little dismayed to find myself feeling nervous as I walked into the room. Why should I be worried about what these people think of me? Why am I not secure enough within myself to be enough just as I am without the approval of other? It’s crazy how most of us are both self-centered and overly concerned with what others think at the same time.
Every one of us is at the center of a story about ourselves, where other people only play supporting roles. We see others though a very thick filter of our own experiences, prejudices, and fears. So while the feedback and advice of our friends can be very valuable, it should also be taken with a very large grain of salt. Whatever someone is telling you to do is coming from a very specific perspective. Rarely are we able to separate ourselves from our own drama to offer unbiased advice. So when advice appears to be insulting, it is usually just offered insensitively. I should know. Throughout my life I’ve been the queen know it all. Offering unsolicited advice at every turn. Doesn’t everyone what to know what I think? Won’t they be impressed by how smart I am? I’m even doing it right now by writing this post. But I’m slowly learning to be more aware of others. To offer my advice in a way that acknowledges my limited understanding of someone else’s situation. And sometimes even shutting the fuck up and just listening.
My boyfriend said something to me recently that both struck me as true and also kind of hurt my feelings (ego again). He said that everyone is essentially alone in this world. That sounds sad and lonely, but really it’s not. While the connections we have with others can be nourishing and sweet (or draining and bitter), the connection that each of us must develop in order to be truly happy is the one with our own deeper self. Through our connection to that source, we actually become more connected to everyone and everything, but in a way that bypasses the sneaky ego. We connect to all beings equally, without expectation, without need. In those moments, we are both completely alone and also fully connected.
How do we connect to source? There may be as many different ways to do this as there are drops of water in the ocean, but many people who know about these things recommend meditation. Through the steady, regular practice of sitting quietly by ourselves, we become self-reliant. We learn to turn within to seek comfort, wisdom, and joy. This does not make us cold or distant to the rest of the world, rather it allows us to open more fully to it. To let go of another drop of judgement that separates us from each other and from ourselves.
Do you experience anything like what I’m describing as a connection to your source? Is there anything you do to bring about that state of connection or does it happen spontaneously?