Yoga, like most things, was and is heavily influenced by the humans who learn it, teach it and live it. Over my years of learning, practicing and sharing yoga I believe that one of the most important things we can do, whether through yoga or ordinary everyday life, is strive to be better humans. I believe this betterment happens through regular self-reflection.
The amount of times I have been a complete dick in my life is hard to handle, let alone swallow. Being a dick is probably one of those things that is hard-wired into us from a young age. Thanks to a society that rewards competition, instills fear as a means of control, and creates separation through the age old pillar of being ‘cool’, there isn’t much room left for kindness and choosing to be a decent person.
This insight has led me to many many questions and even meltdowns, but the main things I reflect upon are: How can I be a better person AND How can I encourage and inspire my students to do the same?
Thanks to teaching yoga and training yoga teachers I dedicate time to reading and reflecting on the Yamas and Niyamas (the 10 ethical guidelines on Patanjali’s 8 fold path of Yoga). These guidelines can easily come across as simplistic, but like with anything simple, it is always laced with complexity and contradictions (truly the magic of being human).
In this regard, the yoga practice itself is based on the first Yama, known as ahimsa, roughly translated as non-violence. The amount of people (myself included, initially), who look at me dumbfounded and say ‘Oh, I’m not violent, I’m a good person’ is well, a lot.
Of course it is only natural to defend our own ‘good’-ness.
Yet if you think about it, it’s quite arrogant and ignorant to believe you are an entirely good, non-violent person... do you truly believe that everything you do is for the goodness of yourself, others and the planet.
Don't get me wrong, I can understand and empathise with why we react to this proposition with ‘I promise I’m a good person!’... it almost always comes from a lack of honest self-reflection (self-reflection could be considered the Niyama known as svadhyaya) ‘I’m a good person’ is a beautiful facade constructed to survive the day, the week, the year… a safety strategy, - ‘don't let anyone know who you really are...!’ We are conditioned to believe that being a ‘good person’ is the key attribute to present to the world, and anything else ‘bad’ should be done in secret.
I am pretty convinced that this model of reality - the ‘good’ people vs. the ‘bad’ people - is, well, not working. It definitely doesn’t help build healthy societies, it doesn’t help cultivate happy, motivated, loving people... In fact, what this type of reality does is create separation, hate, judgement and isolation. We end up believing we are separate and different from each other and that life is hard and terrible things happen. This binary view of good and bad, can actually lead us to more violence in both our internal and external realities.
So I believe ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ needs to stop. Alas, there is no silver bullet for change, it is up to each and every one of us to identify and pick up our own slack, to look at all our ‘dick-ish’ behaviour in the face and own our sh*t. Then we can start actually reflecting on how we can be better people, how we can support each other and how we can heal this planet.
Ahimsa is where Yoga starts. Take a deep breath and look at yourself in the mirror... How can each moment be approached through a lens of non-violence? What do you think about yourself, about others, about society? How do you turn up in every interaction? What do you spend your money on? What industries do you support through your dollar? What food do you put in your mouth? Do you support the torture and murder of animals for your own personal pleasure, comfort or convenience? How many difficult questions are you asking yourself daily? How much would you actually sacrifice to be that so called ‘Good’ person?
This is not to say that life is all gloom and doom, life is a gift, and a f**king fantastic one! You were given life, You were given a body, and I am going to guess… you were given much more than that… So… are you grateful, every day, for what you do have? Have you given back more than you have taken?
My own journey of Self-Reflection has been messy, long and it is still an everyday adventure. I first learnt about ahimsa when I was in India and it was pointed out to me that eating meat was a violent act... I had honestly never thought about it like that... I had eaten meat my entire life and thought about it as something ‘normal’. I think that this (incredibly tough) first lesson taught me to ask myself difficult questions, to not take things for granted, and to make sure I questioned everything. It is very easy to be scared about change and very confronting to admit that maybe something we thought, or had been doing thoughtlessly, was causing harm.
What is important, is to know that it’s OK, we are all good people and we are all bad people. This world we live in is going to trip us up, one way or another. Trying to cause no harm at all is pretty much impossible...
So... ask yourself - What can I change? What can I do better? Then, through this reflection, forgive yourself for where you have come from and what you were taught. There is a constant process of learning, growth, transformation, grief and forgiveness. This is life, and it offers so much more richness. Life is never boring when you live from an authentic place of self reflection. Understand who you are and grow from there.
I was the girl who loved eye fillet steak and could eat a whole block of cheese when I came home from work. I changed because I gained more understanding and I wanted to stand for something bigger, I forgave that girl and we move forward together - to be the light we both want to see in the world!
Self-Reflection helps you give back to yourself, to actually see how magical life is.
Self-Reflection asks you to check in with the daily interactions you have with yourself, with others, with animals and with mother nature all around.
Self-Reflection will guide you to uncover who you really are.
Inspire yourself to Uplift those around you!