There are times when having an opinion is important and necessary. A lot of the time though, we make opinions on people and situations without being even a little bit close to understanding the whole picture. We take in a limited amount of information on something and immediately engage in creating duality. This is good, that is bad, this is worthwhile, that isn’t, and so on. The problem is that we then put on our blinders and the ego only allows us to see what we want to see. Decided something or someone sucks? We then find ourselves looking through a pinhole of a perspective that seems to validate that judgment, we lose the capacity to see a bigger picture, a bigger story.
This post is closely related to my post on impartiality and equanimity. I’ve had time to let this practice set in and I’ve been discussing it a lot more in classes. Our yoga mat is an amazing platform to train for life. We become partial on the mat all the time, we favor poses, sides, teachers, and frown down upon others or ourselves. This limits our ability to understand the entire scope of what is going on. When we’ve decided we don’t like something, we check out, underestimate its importance, and what we can learn from it. I say this a lot in class and I firmly believe it, “you can’t find change and transformation without getting uncomfortable.” But we could make things overall much less uncomfortable if we stopped forming so many opinions, if we stopped making decisions on how we already feel about something, if we keep our eyes and our minds open.
This week in class, we’ve been breaking down the pose Svarga Dvidasana, Birds of Paradise. Many people cringe at the thought of holding a full bind while standing on one foot and attempting to fully extend the other. I get that! But once we’ve made the decision that we already don’t like it, we shut down, physically, emotionally, energetically. We begrudgingly hold the necessary preparatory poses knowing that the whole thing is already going to be a failure rather than melting and marinating, softening and relaxing. I’ve been asking my classes to attempt the pose, making sure the they’ve found themselves relaxed in each step before they move on to the next. Rather than letting the anxiety and tension build as we come closer to the peak pose, I’ve been inviting my students to cultivate confidence through easing the breath, step by step. I’m getting amazing feedback from students that they were able to reach new depths with the pose while going into it with a blank slate of a mind, a beginner’s mind.
How can we take this practice of impartiality off the mat? Notice the times when you get most fired up. Many of us can understand the stress of sitting in traffic. Anxiety, frustration and anger undeniably build. But for someone who is in training to be a warrior, this would be a much different situation. Can you remain indifferent to the fact that you’re stuck there? When you decide that the situation you’re in is awful and horrible, you continue to see it and the universe seems to reflect it back.
You could practice impartiality when you find yourself in a conversation with someone who is losing their temper. Rather than deciding that they are an inconsiderate asshole, can you let go of your opinion? Can you practice not thinking less of them? There are situations influencing their lives that you will never understand, which never warrants judgment. Can you practice being a warrior? We often looking at this as being “the bigger person”. You are not bigger, you are not better, you are operating on a level of awareness that allows you to take a step back and consciously choose to simply be an observer instead of a reactor. You are able to recognize that other people are enduring the cycle of suffering, samsara, just like each and every other person in this world. We are all equal, we all live, suffer and die. Can you keep your blinders off and become more perceptive by recognizing when your opinions, your judgments and your criticisms limit the capacity of your mind? Open your eyes.