written by Emily Garrett

How do your actions contribute to other’s suffering?  Let’s be real here.  No matter how polished your yoga practice is and how many hours a day you meditate, most likely there are places in your life where you unconsciously or consciously hurt others.  I have noticed myself teach a heart opening yoga class, connect genuinely with my students, feel vital and at peace, and then come home to a messy kitchen, crying kid, and stressed out husband only to find myself yelling within an instant of walking in the door.  I recognize that home life is often the hardest practice, and in these moments I try to have compassion for myself, take a deep breath and then continue with the proper choice of action.  Lord knows I am not a “perfect yogi”, whatever that is.  I do, however, try to be honest with myself and others.

I was very moved by Obama’s speech in regards to the Trayvon Martin case.  Particularly his call to action for all of us to look at our biases and begin to honestly notice how we judge others, how we hold onto stereotypes, and how we hold negativity in our hearts towards people we do not know simply because of the way they look.  I remember my meditation teacher telling me, once you begin to practice you will start to notice your prejudices, for example maybe you don’t like obese people.  At the time I thought, “me.  really?” but as I’ve explored the inner workings of my mind I have noticed that he is right.

We all judge people the moment we meet them.  It is part of the human condition.  We judge them based on the clothes they wear, their skin color, how much money they make, their accent, and their sex.  What Obama and my meditation teacher are asking is, “Can you continue to look?”  Can you recognize that your initial judgement may simply not be true?  This is a crucial moment in which we can pause, take a breath, and open our minds to the potential of getting to know someone not for what we think they are but for who they actually are.

Although hard to accept, once we become aware our biases we can awkwardly and honestly address them.  As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said “Everything is workable”.  In order to work with anything, we first have to acknowledge it exists.  I encourage you, and myself, to start the conversation.  Find the courage to honestly examine your biases and judgments and, with compassion, begin to give them some air.  Admit they are there.  This is the first piece and perhaps the most important as once we accept, we can start to talk about and uncurl the negativity we hold in our hearts.