A few weeks ago, one of my students wrote me and said she had heard a crazy rumor about me. When I asked her what it was, she said she would talk to me about it when she saw me… in a week. My first thought was, “Wow! I’ve made it! People are making stuff up about me!” My ego was pleased as punch. As the days passed, doubt started to creep in, “Oh shit! What if it’s something real. What skeletons do I have in my closet?” I started combing my past for offenses against humanity. As a teacher, I make an effort to walk my walk, but I am human after all and I make loads of mistakes: my life has been chaotic and messy; I’m crazy passionate, so I have loved and hurt people; I used to party like a rock star; I’m Latin, so it’s safe to say that my whole existence is barely legal (as an example: I have two birthdays- don’t ask!); I’m gay and gender queer (this alone is currently illegal in many countries and is barely legal here and I’m sure has offended more than one person in my past/present/future)… So needless to say- my karma is not squeaky clean! (I realize I’m using the word karma here loosely in it’s modern definition, not adhering to it’s classical form or rupa.) Then, I moved into utter despair, once I found all the messed up things I had done to everyone and anyone in my life I thought, “Oh my god! They KNOWWWWWWWWW…”
As you can see my mind went nuts… hahahaha! The monkey mind at it’s best! One random comment sent me into a frenzy. Well, after all was said and done, the piece of gossip was depressingly uninspired and relatively obvious and all was for naught. Why am I telling you this? Well… there’s an amazing quote from the Upanishads, “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.” Even when we think, we are giving energy a direction. When we speak, that direction is more pointed and has an energetic charge. If I say something nasty to someone, they feel it and I feel it too. Think of it in your own experience, doesn’t it feel icky when you say something mean? On the flip side, if someone beams a smile at you on the subway or says that they like the sound of your voice or that your eyes are pretty cool, doesn’t that change your outlook and even your whole day? These things have an impact. We have an impact. Through everything we think, say and do. When we realize that, we can take responsibility for the energy we are putting out and make sure that it is in fact, what we intend to put out. As yogis, we learn that we can change our minds, we can change our thoughts. That is at the very root of a smrti (mindfulness) practice.
At the same time, what we take in also impacts us. What we listen to, what we watch, what we read, who we surround ourselves with… It literally comes into our bodies and changes us, our energy, how we view things, our experience of the world and even, I would venture to say, our very cells. Again, as yogis, we learn that we can build guard rails in order to contain or deflect negative energy, that we have some control over what we ingest. We also learn from Kali, the goddess of empowerment and war, that sometimes we have to kill or violently slice a part of ourselves that is not working, or a relationship that is toxic and cut it out by the root. We learn that we can’t control everything that comes in, but we learn to create a little space before we react so we can more closely choose our battles. We use viveka- our faculty of discrimination- to better invite in the life we want.
Isn’t it just a downer when you have a dream in your life or a thought you finally utter out loud or try and someone says,”Oh, that’s a really bad idea.” or “You can try it but that will never work.” It’s a total buzzkill. Wouldn’t it be great instead if your person or your friends said, “Hmmm… that’s kind of nuts but jump and I will be there to catch you if you fail. Spread your wings and let’s see what happens.” Some of the most amazing discoveries have come about through people who took the risk to do crazy things.
This dynamic can also happen more subtly in groups. When you show up to an event with someone and because you don’t know anyone else, you hide in each other and become insular, as opposed to stepping into the community and taking a risk on someone new. It can sabotage your experience and and their experience and ruin the chance for you to connect. Wouldn’t it be great to support each other in taking risks?
In her TED talk “The power of vulnerability”, Brené Brown, separates people into two groups, one of the groups she calls the “whole hearted”, which are the people who simply feel they are worthy of being loved. That’s their starting place. These are glass half full people. This should be you. You are worthy of love. With all of your madness and weirdness or normalcy or whatever it is you have going on. Be someone who inspires and elevates the people around you, not someone who brings them down. That’s the world that I want to live in. With the violence that is happening around the world in our back yard, Venezuela, the Ukraine, Pakistan, Russia, Uganda… and the list goes on and on and on, you owe it to you and to the people around you. We are so privileged in this country. It would be a crime not take that responsibility seriously and do good with it.
I believe that letting yourself be seen, truly seen, is an act of activism. Often times the most vulnerable and delicate part of ourselves is also the most valuable because it is deeply tied to our Dharma, our life path, and why we are here. How awesome would it be if we could support each other in allowing that vulnerability to show? What would happen if we could let go of the pettiness and the need to control or shrink people because their brightness scares us? And what would happen if we could grow into our potential? Wouldn’t there be a place for everybody and wouldn’t the world be more vibrant and dynamic?
I thank all of you, my students, family, friends, and readers, for you are indeed beacons of shining light. You are my lighthouse when I am lost at sea. You are the whole hearted. I celebrate you! Thank you for everything you do and for continuing to support me in doing what I love to do and fulfilling my dharma.
Your comments on my posts have been trickling in. Thanks for that and keep them coming. Let me know if there is any way that I can serve you better.