Our mind is a fickle thing and so often it can get caught up in its stories and games. Our yoga mats are one place where we can become acquainted with some of the games it plays, and sometimes the stories our minds have about ourselves and the world are not ones we particularly feel proud of or happy about!
We might look at someone else and think we are better / worse than them, more or less of a good friend than them, have a better / worse body than them. And this game of comparison becomes etched into our psyche the more we do it. Our brains actually end up choosing the hard-worn comparison track rather than the newer less judgemental option.
And this isn’t meant to be a criticism, at all. Mostly we didn’t choose the stories we learnt to listen to. And I am a recovering judgemental comparer (I’m allowed to say that, right ;P). I thought that if I was just a different size, shape, more like her / him / them, then…..what? I guess I would be enough, loveable, likeable, just OK.
The stories that lead us to compare originate in many places; our families, friends, colleagues, parents, schools. The media, advertising, social media, our education system. We are part of a vast consumer culture, which subtly (or not!) lets us know that we need to be better, bigger, smaller, louder, quieter, a different colour, shape, size, all in order to be OK. The list is endless.
And why change? Why move away from comparison to connection?
In my experience, living in a space of comparison and judgement doesn’t make me wildly happy. It encourages me to strive for status, things, strive to change my body, my relationships, my belongings, strive to be more of an individual and less in connection with others. Because we can’t have true authentic joyous connection with comparison in the way.
And humans, as with most animals, are meant to exist in connection with other humans. We are physiologically designed to feel safe in the context of a relationship. We are wired to connect.
So why have we moved so far away from connection? This is probably multifaceted, and far too in depth to discuss here. But I believe at the root of it all is fear. We live in a culture that thrives on fear, a diet industry that thrives on fear, an education system that thrives on fear. We are all encouraged to compare every day of our livesin order to have some sense of being OK.
Recovering from a way of life led by comparison and judgement requires us to move out of fear and to step into love.
And again, I want to encourage compassion here. Most of us who are or have been the most harsh comparators (myself included) probably have been encouraged to live in fear for a significant portion of our lives. Most of us don’t move through life unscathed and the circumstances we end up in affect us in really challenging ways. Often we aren’t encouraged or enabled to connect when we are feeling the most vulnerable so it can be easier to stay in comparison and be motivated by fear. So wherever you are on this journey is OK. I’m saying that for me just as much for anyone else who is reading this. And probably moving from fear to love is a lifelong aim rather than something any of us are likely to accomplish by next Tuesday.
Making that transition from fear into love starts with baby steps. Often it starts with self-love. Compassion. A sense that we are enough. An appreciation of our body, our strength, our uniqueness, our story. As one of my wonderful friends and teachers said to me recently, “there is only one YOU.” And she is right. We are all here in our beautifully unique ways, on our beautifully unique journeys, and accepting the power and gravity of that can allow us to step into a space where others stop being threatening, and instead connection becomes ripe with possibilities and not fear.
And the beauty that is opened by connection is unrivalled. Moving away from comparison allows me to be happy for others in their journeys, to collaborate and reap rewards that are opened up by being in relationship with others. It allows me to accept and give more love. To be more grateful. To see that this journey we are all on is just that, a journey, and its commonality outweighs its differences.
This process can start on our yoga mats. For me, coming to my mat every day encourages me to show up and connect with myself. And somehow through that connection to my own body, mind, breath, soul, whatever you want to call it, there is a little bit more space for love and gratitude. And that, for me, is a part of the practice of yoga. Learning to live in connection, in union with ourselves, and subsequently with others and the world around us, all of which is energetically just an extension of ourselves.
Keep on breathing deep. I have so much gratitude for this practice.