Unity, it’s not just a day — It’s yoga! 

Tomorrow marks the end of National Bullying Prevention Month, and while certainly bullying prevention and awareness are an every single day activity, there’s something kind of poetic about ending a month specifically devoted to this topic on Halloween. Halloween, a very fun day for sure(!), is a day on which we pretend to be someone other than ourselves. Imagination and playing pretend is an awesome way to light-up our creativity centers, and so absolutely be a superhero or a princess or a cactus for the day… Whatever you choose to dress-up as, if you have the opportunity to dress up this year, let it be something/someone that/who you admire, and maybe even try to learn a little more about that thing/person? 

And then, on November 1st, go back to being exactly who you are. It’s fun to sometimes pretend to be someone other than who we are born to be, but it’s just that, pretend; no matter how hard we work we can never aspire (try to become) a dog. We could aspire to be a firefighter or a scientist, and if that’s what you’d like to grow-up to do for work then great. Remember, though, that jobs are just jobs, test scores are just test scores, who we are is built into our soul, and that’s the part of us that needs the most nurturing. 

We need to like ourselves in order to be the best version of ourselves, and in order to do so we need to be built-up by those around us, or at the very least, we cannot be broken down by those around us. Enter in the concept of anti-bullying. A bully uses their power and status to diminish the power of someone else, and in doing so builds their own power even more. But, our individual power isn’t less just because someone else in our circle also has power, we can, and should each have the same amount of power, strength and confidence! 

Last Wednesday, October 25th, 2017, was National Unity Day, a day on which school-aged students across the country were encouraged and applauded for their appreciation and acceptance of other people’s differences. National Unity Day is an amazing day, because we get to tell the world how awesome it is to be an individual, and how in being unique we can build a stronger, more successful and happy community of individuals. When we celebrate each other’s distinct experiences, talents and voices, we have an opportunity to learn and advance our common goals. We come together as one, which is the point of yoga after all, Yoga, to yoke or union. Ask yourself, and comment below, how you can build community, union, with someone new today.  

Sticks and stones…

I remember hearing growing up, that words could never hurt me, and while the intention, to help soothe our tears when someone teases us, behind that phrase is an honorable one, this phrase should immediately be wiped from our vernacular! Words, how we say them and the order in which we place them, should always be precise because what we say does in fact matter, immensely. Please understand that I know how important it is to be comforted when we’re feeling sad about the words shared with us, but with the idea that words can never hurt us, we learn, knowingly or unknowingly, that words cannot hurt others as well…

Educational, and child development research is beginning to become more aware of the concept that when we are taught one thing, we inadvertently are taught the inverse, as well. For instance, think about how the word failure makes you feel: there’s a good chance that you were never expressly told that failure is a bad thing, but you probably feel badly about failure as an idea. Why is it that even the idea of failure brings up such strong emotions when in reality no one ever told us that it’s something of which to be ashamed? 

Well, the theory is that when we were told that we should strive for success, and praised for our successes early on, our brains automatically assigned the opposite of success, i.e. good, to be bad, i.e. failure. Yikes, that’s an unintended consequence, and the same principle of development and learning could be extrapolated out to reflect how we understand this sticks and stones business. Think about it, if we are expressly taught that the words that other people say to us cannot hurt us, then our brains might automatically learn that the words we use cannot hurt others either. But, that’s just downright silly, if you ask me. Words insight emotion, and triggers trauma and then we are hurt, plain and simple. 

This, of course, is a huge concept, and it’s going to take time to reframe our understanding to reflect this new knowledge, but really the underlying theme is to be more careful in choosing our words. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, and while we can apologize for the way the things we say hurt other’s feelings, we can never take back the words that were said. And to someone in crisis, words might just be what puts us over the edge. The good news, though, if words can hurt, they can also help in a big way, please choose your words to help build up, rather than tear down, and ultimately you’ll feel better about yourself, too.       

Think first, your actions will have more intention that way…

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and it couldn’t come at a better time. This is the perfect opportunity to remind everyone, especially our (the United States) country’s leaders about treating all people with kindness and respect. In case you’ve missed it, our current leadership has played a role in bullying all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, but the one common factor of that bullying is that the people being bullied look or sound different than our President does. 

Difference is a state of mind, we can look at someone else and see how differently they look, sound or act from the way we look, sound or act, or we can begin to build a common ground by recognizing how we are the same, instead. Now please don’t mistake my comments to mean that we should ignore our differences, rather it’s important to acknowledge diversity from every perspective. And, it’s important that, in order to build community, we see how alike each of us truly is, too. We are blessed to have a rich tapestry of diversity around us, and we need to be better at being grateful to that diversity and for the tremendous opportunity to do so. 

Unfortunately, when we choose to focus our attention only on the differences, we miss out on finding common interests, and bettering our world. In turn, we are more likely to treat others disrespectfully, and that is isolating. We live in a society, in which it is easier to tear others down than it is to build them up, but why? Why is it easier to impose ourselves on others and make them change to suit our needs and wants? Probably because change feels scary and so it seems safer to create a space of putting down, but what if all we really needed to change were our thought patterns? 

Remember how yoga is full of intention, but patterns are the opposite of intention, patterns are mindless behaviors which we’ve cultivated, created, and which can be broken with just a little bit of work! Just like stopping a habit which isn’t good for us, like smoking, it takes planning and forethought, but once we’ve stopped to think we have the power to react differently, to treat other people better than we have in the past. Yoga can help us with this through the process of journaling; remember yoga isn’t just about the poses, it’s about always working to have the best intentions in everything we do. In journaling we can practice using our best words, and when in real-life we fell into negative patterns of behavior we can reflect on why and how to be more thoughtful next time.