A shift in perspective can determine the difference between anger and understanding, despair and hope, happiness and grief. Yoga begins to teach us how we can practice widening our perspective in our everyday lives.
Try looking at life from a different angle!
There is a reason we have so many adages about empathy: Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. There are two sides to every story and the truth usually lies in the middle.
To fully accept and unabashedly love one another, we must be able to understand and acknowledge when someone has a different view from us.
The Dalai Lama said, “For every event in life, there are many different angles. When you look at the same event from a wider perspective, your sense of worry and anxiety reduces, and you have greater joy.”
When Margaret and I discussed perspective at Yogaja Yoga, she disclosed, “Perspective is about stepping back and trying to understand someone else’s point of view. It’s about allowing other people to have their opinions.”
So many arguments are about one person trying to persuade another to see his/her side of the debate, but some people are only capable of seeing one side. Margaret succinctly summed it up: “Teach yourself to accept that some people cannot see anything other than their side because they believe in their hearts that they’re right.”
I can’t fault my loved ones for holding opposing views because I know that, in their hearts, they truly believe they are right. I have learned that it’s a waste of energy to debate certain topics because neither of us will convince the other. I believe I’m right just as much as they believe they’re right--and we’re likely all at least a little wrong.
While I am capable of stepping back when it comes to the big ticket items--politics, religion--I struggle with separating myself from personal disagreements. When a friend fails to see my side of a story, or can’t understand why my feelings are hurt, it’s much harder for me to find that wider perspective. My emotions are involved and I take their words personally. Only when I am able to see their side am I able to finally let go of the hurt. This is something I’m working on.
Yogiraj Achala reminds us, “What are you not seeing because you are seeing what you are seeing?”
It’s so hard not to fall back on “I’m right; you’re wrong.” I’m trying to remind myself that everyone is a little right and everyone is a little wrong. I’m also slowly starting to realize which people in my life are a source of inspiration and positivity and which draw out the negative. The older I get, the more I consciously surround myself with joyful, encouraging people. Yogaja in particular has provided me with that--a family of yogis who want to experience and share joy and are working toward their own personal best.
In The Book of Joy, the author retells a story from Edith Eva Eger. Eger visited two soldiers on the same day in the same hospital; both were paraplegics who had lost the use of their legs in combat. One wailed about the horror of his life while curled in the fetal position on his bed. The other, rolling around in his wheelchair, exclaimed that he felt as if he had been given a second chance in life. Viewing his new world from his wheelchair, he realized that he was closer to the flowers and could look directly into his children’s eyes.
Perspective is what differed between those two men. I don’t think the Dalai Lama or Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Book of Joy are arguing that people should not feel grief, but rather that we not let ourselves be controlled and defined by tragedy.
As the Buddha says in the Dhammapada, “With our mind we create our own world.”
We see what we want to see, and only we are in control of our emotions. The Yamas & Niyamas, the tenets of yoga, teach us to practice aparigraha (non-attachment or non-excessivess), and that includes our attachment to how our life is “supposed” to go and how people “should” act. Easier said than done, that’s for sure, but that’s why we call it a practice.
Yoga trains us to practice non-attachment. In yoga, we are inevitably faced with poses that frustrate us, and we learn to breathe deeply. In life, we experience events that disrupt our normal routine, and we learn to let go. Eventually we are able to translate those patterns of behavior into daily living, whether it’s breathing deeply during a traffic jam or letting go of how you expect a friend to respond to you.
One way to continue on our practice toward joy and non-attachment is to analyze what truly brings us joy. “When you have true joy, it’s with you,” Margaret divulged. “Joy is life-sustaining. Happiness comes and goes.”
We devised a simple exercise: list 5 things that will bring you happiness. Maybe it’s buying a new car or paying off credit card debt or finding a new job. Then analyze which of those things will lead to joy. Once you have your list narrowed down, devise ways to move toward and incorporate these joyful things into your day-to-day life.
If, for example, yoga brings you joy, formulate ways to increase yoga in your life. Does it mean attending more classes? Practicing additionally at home? Reading yoga books? Or maybe attending yoga teacher training?
If your family brings you joy, figure out ways to spend more time with them. Does that mean altering your job or your hours? Or simply reminding yourself to stay present instead of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook? (I’m guilty of that last one.)
We would love to hear your list of 5 things that will bring you happiness. If you wouldn’t mind sharing, we encourage you to leave a comment below. If you’d rather not share publicly, please email us.
As always, we appreciate your comments, thoughts, and observations. Let's start a meaningful dialogue about perspective!