It seems like, more and more these days, more barriers are created rather than struck down. In general, I consider myself a very positive person – optimistic at times, even – and while I don’t necessarily think this is a negative observation, perhaps it is.
Also, perhaps my observation skills were not so keen in my younger years, and I’m just starting to catch on, or my observations may be deluded by our national elections, my chosen profession, and/or my sensitivity.
Why do categories and labels exist? Why do stereotypes exist? While I can see their appeal – it is much easier to make a snap judgment than to personally consider each and every object as an individual – where do the categories and labels begin to shape the person, both externally and in our own minds? Am I a “smart” girl because I was constantly told I was smart? Because I was the daughter of a very intelligent woman? Or because I am, inherently, smart? (I mean this only in the fashion of book smarts… I have little to no street smarts, and I can verify that for you on several different counts. However, perhaps its these labels that make me less street smart rather than my actual lack of them.)
I can also see the appeal in forming communities. Communities bond and unite together with one thing in common – whether that be their political preferences, their religion, their preferred style of yoga, their love of gardening, craft beer, high level mathematics, etc… – and yet, while bonding in this way, it naturally excludes those who don’t fit the bill. Is this a natural response to forming a community? My own thoughts say yes. I naturally feel a bit excluded when around my husband and all of those who love and talk about baseball – because I don’t share that affinity. While they probably don’t mind me hanging around and sitting quietly at the table, and I don’t mind sitting there and drifting off into my own little Amy world, we would both be just as happy separate, around different people, discussing vastly different topics.
I don’t think this is wrong – I think this is just natural.
What I don’t understand is how we go from “Oh Amy doesn’t enjoy baseball, that’s okay,” to, “Amy doesn’t like baseball? Well she must be scum of the earth.” Frequently I see communities or groups admonishing those who don’t follow their particular brand of preferred past times, or religions, or politics, or yoga preferences. The yoga part is quite astonishing to me, because the word “yoga” means “union.” What kind of yoga teachers are we if we, ourselves, create divisions between different yoga groups?
I am no historian, but I will tell you what I understand of yoga history as detailed by my own personal yoga teacher (please feel free to correct if I am wrong – I am always happy to learn): hatha yoga, or the physical practice of yoga, grew out of tantra, which embraced each object as containing some spiritual entity, just some to greater degrees than others. Hatha yoga became connected with Patanjali’s yoga sutras when Swami Vivekananda merged them as a personal preference – and the philosophy of Patanjali is often interpreted as dualistic – correct and incorrect actions, liberating yourself from the world of the seen to the world of the seer.
In one yoga philosophy workshop I took, the teacher told us that the yoga sutras were Vivekananda’s choice because it was dualistic – and thus more relatable to those practicing Christianity in the West (heaven and hell, good and evil, etc.).
Not that much of this is of critical importance, but this: we need less dualism, and more unity. We need less barriers, and more inclusion. We need less judgments, and more love.
Whether you practice a dualistic spiritual practice or an all-emcompassing one, whether you are Democratic or Republican, whether you are a meat and potatoes gal or a hard and fast vegan – can we eliminate some of these walls between us? Can we work together in union without judgment? Can we honor that there is good and bad in everything, in every choice, just to different degrees?
And when all else fails, remember to ask yourself: Is it true? and Is it kind?
Yours in spirit, namaste,
P.S. Check out this incredible site that stands for everything I love. We Stand With Love. I do – do you?