Monday, September 23, 2013

Objectivity is Happiness

A fundamental goal in practicing yoga, or any type of meditation, is to guide our minds to a state of objectivity.  We are training the mind to perceive things clearly and objectively.  

What does it mean to be objective? Here is a definition: (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts; not dependent on the mind for existence; actual.

To perceive situations and events objectively is difficult. Nonetheless, when we can do it consistently, we will experience more peace and happiness.

If you want to find a quick example of how difficult it is to be objective, and how much it helps when we can be, think of the last time you or someone close to you told a story about being ticked off.  

A few days ago my friend told me about his bad week at work. He said he had been in a bunch of meetings with a person who was unprepared and who talked out of turn. This same person was chosen for a job that he had applied for within the company. He said he felt like every other person in the meeting was thinking, “Wow, she is really not good at this job and you were passed over for her? You must be really bad at what you do.” As a neutral observer, this subjective interpretation of the thoughts and opinions of the others in the meeting seemed silly to me. Since I was not the one experiencing his emotions, it was easier for me to see the situation objectively: it was just a meeting; the others in the meeting were focused on getting the meeting over with, listening to what was being said or how long they had before lunch. They were not sitting there thinking about my friend and how this woman’s poor performance in the meeting reflected indirectly on him. Unfortunately, he had experienced negative emotions and stress throughout the week due to his subjective interpretation of what had happened. Just yesterday I caught myself in the same trap: I described feeling left out and judged by certain group of people when I was telling my sister a story. Her reaction, along with two other family members, was simply, “No, I really don’t think they think that way about you. That doesn’t seem right at all,” and immediately I thought about how my interpretation of events was entirely based in my subjective feelings and viewpoints. My feelings and viewpoints were upsetting me.  I was experiencing distress as a direct result of my lack of objectivity.

This happens to all of us, every day. It is part of being human. But we can help ourselves and one another when the fruits of our yoga and meditation are clarity of mind and objectivity.

In both sitting and moving meditation, we make ourselves the neutral observers of our thoughts, our sensations and our breath. We gradually tap into the natural spaciousness that comes from pure awareness, unclouded by judgments and arbitrary mental patterns. When we are able to still the mind and step outside of its activity, remaining aware of all that is happening from the temporary perspective of a neutral observer, we will gradually be able to tap into that freeing objectivity in our everyday lives...not all of the time, not even most of the time, but bit by bit, until we begin to experience more peace, more harmony, more unity, within and without. This is the fruit of our practice.

We will practice this objectivity today, first in sitting meditation, then in mindfully moving through our postures. When you observe a distressing thought, or a pleasant thought, see it for what it is: just a thought. Let it go. When you observe a physical sensation or difficulty in a posture, or ease in a posture...stay with it long enough to observe it, see it for what it is, and let it go. Don’t judge it by clinging to the thoughts, “I am not good at this,” or “this is my favorite posture and I look great doing it.” Recognize what is there, and then move on, happily, freely, objectively.

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