"Knowledge of other people's beliefs and ways of thinking must be used to build bridges, not to create conflicts."
Kjell Magne Bondevik
Last week brought individuals from varying cities, states, and cultures together to bridge their differences and perceived differences in a compassionate exploration of personal and cultural beliefs through the practices of yoga.
The group pictured aboved spent six days together in a yoga training to learn, inspire, and empower themselves through the exploration of varying personal beliefs and ways of thinking. Each individual self studied their own personal beliefs from childhood through present time to discern whether he/she chooses to continue the beliefs and ways of thinking that were instilled through their community's cultural beliefs and personal perspectives from life experiences. They were guided to use the first yama of yoga, non-violence, to discern whether to keep or surrender their beliefs in the areas of physical health, education/careers, spiritual practices, hobbies/fun, money, and relationships with peers, friends, and family.
The intent was to guide each person to discern whether particular personal beliefs were empowering or disempowering his/her life. Through a consistant practice of meditation, physical postures, and self-study they were asked to strengthen their awareness through inner listening skills. While meditation and physical postures are two of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, self-study is within one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga (Observances). The Eight Limbs of Yoga consist of Disciplines, Observances, Postures, Breath, Concentration, Meditation, Sense Withdrawal, and Bliss. They were requested to listen for inner dialogue associated with the following:
1. Self-Criticism, Comparison, and Complaining ("three Cs")
Thus, allowing themselves awareness and gentle surrender of thoughts connected to disempowering beliefs on a moment by moment basis on their yoga mat and in life. Access to shift to their new empowering belief is then available.
Self criticism, comparing yourself to others, comparing yourself to a memory, and complaining are thieves of an individual's peace of mind and soul. They are the root of disempowering words and actions that impact you in undesirable ways as an individual. If you believe and frequently state, "I am sickly", you will live a life that proves your sickly state. I had a student that approached training with a request to miss sessions when needed due to her constant sickly state of life. I encouraged her to not assume her experience would require the absences and to gently surrender her comparisons to past personal experiences. This opened up a new way of thinking and approach to the training and her life. She wrote a beautiful blog on the transformation in her life from this simple request to consider the gentle surrender of comparing herself to past experience memories.
In addition last week's training group was asked to explore if their thoughts were assumptions or factual. As individuals, we believe what we believe so strongly that we often confuse our personal opinion with facts. This confusion of our beliefs as facts creates assumptions. For example, as a yoga teacher I have lead a class that I thought was subpar and that students did not receive a positive experience. I was self critical and disappointed in myself. Then, post class a student approached me to let me know that they experienced svasana in a state of ease that they never had experienced before. While I had the right to experience the class as I personally experienced it, I self imposed my beliefs on the students. Assumptions lead to false beliefs and a disconnection from others' experiences.
Gentle surrender of thoughts associated with the three Cs and assumptions gives access to practicing the first Discipline of yoga, non-violence, while in the work of transformation from disempowering thoughts to empowering thoughts. This gentle surrender and transformation of thought leads to empowering words and actions that have the ability to transform life.
Patanjali's Yoga Sutra I.2 translates to, "The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.". While it may seem obvious that you as an individual choose what you believe, my experience working with students and teacher trainees disproves this. Many adults have not taken the time to bring awareness to their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions in a discerning manner. It takes courage to strengthen your inner listening skills, challenge your beliefs, and bring awareness to the impact they have had on your life. It also gives access to peace of mind and an empowered future life.
The level of self criticism, comparison, complaining, and assumptions you have about yourself as an individual is directly related to the level of criticism, comparison, complaining, and assumptions you have for others. You give others what you give yourself. You cannot give what you do not have. If you have $3.64 and lunch costs $9.78, you cannot buy lunch. If you have $9.78 for lunch and lunch costs $9.78, you can buy lunch. If you do not give yourself compassion and gentleness, you cannot give it to others. If you give yourself compassion and gentleness, you can give it to others.
When we give ourselves permission to live by beliefs aligned with non-violence that are chosen rather than imposed, we are more likely to allow others to think and choose for themselves. The experience of joy, freedom, and the power of divine grace creates the self trust to allow others to choose for themselves. These experiences allow for non-violent conversations that connect people through similarities rather than differences. Personal knowledge of your own chosen beliefs and personal knowledge of others' chosen beliefs through nonjudgemental communication build bridges rather than conflict.
The group of individuals pictured below gathered for individual work and left the week as a community through the art of listening and the practice of non-violence. Their personal listening skills and new self awareness gave them new listening skills and awareness for others. Listening skills based on non-violence builds bridges between human beings.