I really love the leggings I’m wearing in the picture above. They remind me of Impressionist paintings and bring back fond memories of a trip I took with my family to France when I was twelve, where we wandered around museums and the gardens of grand palaces.
As I drove my 16 year old son to school the other day, I asked him if he liked my leggings. He quickly glanced over. “They’re the ugliest things I’ve ever seen in my life,” he responded flatly. “They look like curtains hanging in an old lady’s house.”
So what do you think? Who's right? Are the leggings as fabulous to you as they are to me? Or are they as ugly as my 16 year old believes they are?
Well, we’re both right. They are equally beautiful and hideous depending on who is looking at them. Which makes them neither beautiful, nor hideous, really. There’s no objective truth we can assign to the leggings. The leggings don’t have any characteristics of their own outside of the point of view of who's looking at them.
To me, they're amazing. To my son, not so much. He experiences them differently than I do and his perspective is as real to him as my opinion is the truth to me.
Here's another example. Imagine a spider crawls into a room. You may experience it as something to be afraid of if you don’t like bugs, something to be fascinated by if you study insects, or something to eat if you’re a reptile. The spider itself? It has no objective or absolute identity. It is simply whatever it is to whomever is looking at it, in that moment.
How does that relate to our day to day? If we remember that everyone’s perspective is as valid to them as ours is to us, what is there to ever argue about? Who’s right and who’s wrong becomes pointless. When we incorporate this concept into our interactions with others, conflict in our lives lessen. Less conflict means a happier and more peaceful life.
Not easy to master, by any means, but something to think about next time you’re having a tense back and forth with someone and you’re 100% sure you are right. Pause. Try to remember the absence of an objective truth. Maybe figure out what the other person's very real-to-them point of view is.
I’m still working hard on it... particularly when interacting with my teenagers. :)
This is the kind of stuff I teach in my meditation and yoga classes because it's fundamental in eastern philosophy. If it resonates, scroll down to see my schedule. To book a private lesson or more importantly, let me know what you think about my leggings, you can respond to this email.
See ya on the mat,
Why Be Kind?
Develop Your Heart to Be Happy
Starting when we’re toddlers, we hear a million times that we should be kind. Have you ever asked yourself why?
In my yoga classes this week I’ve been talking about what’s known as theBramaviharas, the Four Immeasurables. According to this teaching, we learn to develop four attitudes in our interaction with others: loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity.
Loving kindness (maitri) is wanting others to experience joy. Easy-peasy when you think of people in your life that you like, right? You naturally want them to be happy.
Compassion (karuna) is wanting others to be free from suffering. When we see someone we care for hurting, karuna is the sensation of wanting to take that pain away from them. Not so hard to relate to that.
Appreciative joy (mudita) is taking enjoyment in the successes of others. This is being genuinely excited at your best friend’s work promotion. Maybe slightly trickier. This means being as happy as she is, without a shred of envy.
The last of the Four Immeasurables is Equanimity (upeksha). Here’s where it gets hairy. This is the practice of seeing all beings as equal and not holding some dear and others distant. Every being. Equal.
That means your mom, spouse, lover, child, beloved pet, the crossing guard you pass every morning, the mailman, the crazy next-door neighbor, the reckless driver that cut you off last week, the pain-in-the-ass boss, and that thief who stole your wallet on the train are all exactly the same.
Now, take the first three of the Immeasurables and show loving kindness, compassion, and appreciative joy toward all beings.
Wait, did I say show loving kindness to the thief that stole your wallet? Yes. Sounds crazy? That’s yoga.
The feelings that are easy to find when we think of those we love become more challenging when we think of people we are neutral about or totally dislike. And that makes it a practice. One that you can perform in word, thought or deed. Not just to your inner circle, but to everyone. Meaning, remember that lady you got into the argument with in the parking lot of Starbucks a month ago? Buy her a latte the next time you see her, as a practice.
So why would you want to be kind? Especially toward people you don’t think deserve it? When we make kindness a regular and deliberate act, the way that we view the world changes. Our own sense of happiness and well-being increases. Anger and resentment evaporates. Jealousy disappears. When we look at all beings as equal, we develop a feeling of interconnectedness with the world and a sense of belonging and peace within our hearts.