Monday, December 7, 2009

From High On My Soapbox

"I actually thought about getting breast implants because I'm a radical, militant feminist and a hypocrite, it turns out." --Maria Bamford

Hypocrisy. Not a pretty word. Within it is wrapped lying, deception, harmful selfishness, and mistrust. It is something most of us have (intentionally or not) dabbled in and all of us have been subject to.

This weekend I was witness to hypocrisy in action within a world that I have cherished (naively, of course) as a safe haven from such unfortunate human characteristics. I witnessed a yoga teacher, a person I automatically included on my "people-that-are-awesome-by-virtue-of-knowing-where-mula-bandha-is" list being a violent, intentionally cruel person without cause towards someone who was just trying to do their job.

(I should probably mention that none of this really involved me, so arguably it's time to get off my soapbox and talk about things that I've directly experienced but this really made me all itchy and bothered inside and I've got some time on my hands and have missed writing in my blog. So there.)

This is obviously pretty regrettable behavior in anybody, but something that makes me incredibly sad and depressed about in a person who should know better. Because yoga, just like most religions or spiritual traditions in the world today, encourages people to follow simple rules of behavior. In yogic philosophy, these are known as the yamas and niyamas.

In short order, the yamas: non-harming in thoughts, words and deeds (ahimsa), tell the truth (satya), don't steal (asteya), don't be promiscuous (brahmacharya), live minimally with respect to your needs (aparigraha).

(Side note: These are more "guidelines" than "rules" due to the fact that yoga is all about you, on a personal and individual level, living life consciously enough to recognize when actions and thoughts have positive value. So take what works and leave the rest--just like anything in yoga--but these tenets are simply a common sense way to live a more positive, content lifestyle.)

Common sense though, wouldn't you say? Which is why this incident, and others that I have experienced recently, make me sad. This person's actions were in complete disregard to ahimsa and arguably asteya (What did she steal? My respect! The respect of students and other teachers! Possibly keys to the studio! Gah!).

For me this person's actions were tantamount to witnessing a Christian get a bit judgy (for thou shalt not, lest that get turned around on you and ye be judged) or watching a member of PETA kick a puppy or seeing a vegan indulging in veal marsala or seeing an emo dressed in goth or observing a researcher manipulate data.

It's just not cool.

I'm not trying to attack any of these people or their convictions, I'm just trying to use obvious examples of hypocrisy. My point (I'm getting there, seriously) is this: if you choose to follow any system of belief, be it spiritual or social or dietary or whatever, your actions should reflect that system. When you choose a label, such as "yoga teacher" or "self-proclaimed follower of yogic philosophy," you take on the role of ambassador for that label. Not only did this person's actions harm herself and others, but also have negative reflections on yoga as a whole. Which obviously really bugs me.

Okay, we all slip. But I think the more we live with conscious acknowledgment of the impact our thoughts and actions have on us and those around us, the more content we can be.

In the end, what is left of a person after you strip away their convictions and the integrity behind them?

1 comment:

Marisa said...

I totally agree with what you're saying. And in an ideal world, it would be true. Unfortunately, to answer your final question, what is left is...humanity. So the real question becomes: how can you live with the dichotomy and still be ok?