“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively. “Bob Marley
I tried writing my blog in June and kept struggling. I would write several drafts but in my goal to share I found myself at the same time not trying hurt anyone as well. So I hit delete on many drafts. I found myself struggling and resisting.
So I woke up this morning from a post from a well respected teacher who asked the question “what is integrity to you?” Which had me thinking of a way to say what I was looking to say without hurting and yet follow my instincts.
I like this question because I hear the words and immediately want to explain what it is expected from others and their integrity. Integrity being that place where our beliefs and actions meet. Yet it also applies to our own integrity. Which brings me to my own actions. How do we know just when to share and inform vs simple reaction and wanting to lash out?
When I started learning about yoga a long time ago, I learned about the 8 Limbs. The first two are rules for living and rules for life (Yamas and Niyamas). They were quite natural though for me because you find them to be basic instructions that are taught in many other areas; from the “Golden Rule” to the Ten Commandments. I was aware of the acts; be kind, truthful, honest and avoid jealousy or envy.
I grew up Episcopalian and observed many rules in the Church. I was very involved in the Church; was in choir, was an alter girl and attended many youth group events. I went to Church summer camps and once a month my sister and I would meet up at a Church in DC for local teen support groups to talk and meditate (even if that wasn’t what they called it – that is what we did). My Church was quite aware of my abusive alcoholic home. Just like the police that often visited us though, the Priests would come to talk to my Mom but there wasn’t much to be done but leave me “with honor your parents”. In my mid-teenage years I had my first boyfriend. He was quiet popular in school and the Church. We dated for about a month and often times made out in his car behind the Church parking lot. One month was all it took for me to feel uncomfortable though as he started pressuring me to have sex. I wasn’t ready and wasn’t looking to please him or others so I ended our relationship. I never shared the truth why I ended it to him or others; I just didn’t want to hurt anyone. Instead I found myself outcast from my teen groups at Church; nobody could understand why you leave the popular guy. I wasn’t interested in gossip though so I left that Church and years later found myself involved with a Methodist Church but experienced problems there. Between ministers informing me that my Father who died didn’t go to heaven because he hadn’t accepted Jesus, to watching those who were gay being counseled into changing, to being told I couldn’t perform certain service roles in the Church because I was a woman. I was being told I couldn’t be a greeter or carry the cross but I could help pass out donuts and coffee. Something seemed wrong with this.
None of this seemed right so I spent years exploring other religions and found myself studying Buddhism. I wouldn’t say I’m Buddhist but I found many parts to this practice that did more than just tell me do this and don’t do that. To this day I still question when I’m simply told what to do; I don’t like it, I resist and ask Why? As a teacher I like suggesting and exploring possibilities because often as humans we act so certain but everything is changing so even as teacher I don’t have to know everything – I can just suggest. So I found answers that offered other ways or solutions. For example, I can forgive but also not stay around unhealthy environments. Something I just wasn’t hearing in other areas or practices. Not so much avoidance or detatchment but to understand that each of us is responsible and can change our culture or environment.
So years later I find myself knowing about the Yamas and Niyamas in Yoga and finding hypocrisy even in the yoga world. From big stories of respected Guru’s who are found doing inappropriate things, to business studio owners lying or stealing, to yoga teachers who act out of jealousy; all defending their actions to preserve themselves or their livelihoods.
Each time this happens I am left questioning; do I give up, accept that it was ok or find another solution? I feel that for a long time I’ve gone from one area to the next; bounced around hoping to find a place that finally practices what they preach. It is time for me to stop and find the middle way that I’ve learned from my lessons from the Buddha. That it is ok to fall off balance. The practice isn’t staying balanced but noticing when I’m off and come back. So it is ok to experience hurt. Not to worry so much about ever being hurt again. I can take a look at that experience, learn from it but there is no way to avoid it entirely. All I can do is see where I can make changes and be responsible for my action.
So I don’t have to leave or abandon my Yoga or my beliefs. I also don’t have to worry if others follow or believe in my way. Many times I have found myself just trusting. In the case of that first boyfriend it took years but I had one girlfriend who shared with me that I was so smart to leave him when I did and she was sorry for her actions. You don’t always get this but without attaching to the outcome, I just have to trust myself and my own path. I just have to find myself practicing the rules or steps, get up each day and start over again. Own my integrity is all I have to focus on.
As I learn to stop and pause I can also see so many other sides to experiences – yes even the bad ones. For example if I wasn’t hurt by these people in this latest event, I wouldn’t have found the routes I have today. I’m teaching in places today I wouldn’t have found. Also others were hurt, not just me, and we’ve been able to connect more with each other and share. I was so glad that I got to know one of them before she moved out of the area. Before she left we sat and had lunch and I thought – “wow – if this hadn’t happened I wonder if we would have had this amazing moment?”
So in learning to let go of this hurt. I am not forgetting but forgiving the acts from these people so I can find peace. I question their integrity because they aren’t practicing what they preach and I can see their unhappiness and the harm it is causing to their own health. All I can do is send them best wishes and hope they learn and make changes because they can’t be healthy or happy until they do.