I have found one way for me to cultivate more acceptance of myself and others: to accept that I am a judgmental asshole.
Yes, that is right. I am a judgmental asshole. I have so many perceptions and opinions about how the world should be and how others should act.
Whenever a new student shows up to class, my mind is so quick to cast its impression about this new student. My mind is always ready to jump to a conclusion. My mind is always reactive.
In some instances, my mind concludes that they have a perfect yoga body and will be great students! But there have been times as a yoga teacher when I have had new students show up to class and my mind is negatively judgmental. In those moments, my mind concludes “No way! Your body is not a yoga body. You don’t look like you’re going to commit. You’re too old. You don’t have what it will take.”
There was one specific memory I have from when I first started out as a yoga teacher. One day a student showed up. He was in his mid-to-late fifties. He did not look like he had been to a gym in years. He did not look like he had done much in the way of exercise, at all. In fact, he looked like he had not walked to the end of his driveway in decades.
In that moment I remember my mind jumped to a million conclusions about this man: “He is not serious. He will come to one class, maybe two, and then give up. This is the kind of person who will try to eat as much of my time as possible and not give back anything in return. He is going to be a needy student.”
I remember that moment when all my snap judgements reared their ugly little heads. And they were ugly. Looking back, I am mortified by some of the opinions I used to have.
In that moment, I remember stepping back and saying to myself, “Aaron, your job is to hold the space and allow what needs to be born to be born.”
It is not easy to step back from ourselves to see ourselves. Often it is too easy to give into our preconceived notions. Our ego and sense of self are fighting to hold on to themselves, and yoga is the process of disseminating it.
As time passed, this student became one of my most regular and devoted students. This student, who I was so ready to dismiss, became a pillar and shining example of commitment. He demonstrated deep dedication and devotion not only to the practice but to the community and those in need of help.
He, in turn, has become one of my dearest friends. As the years passed, this student began to follow me around the world on yoga retreats. He came with me to India and followed me into the Himalayas. He was there for me in times when I truly needed support.
Can you imagine what would have happened if I let my over-sized, self-indulging ego take over? I have accepted that my mind is a judgement machine. In this deep acceptance, I have found that I (and I alone) can choose my reactions. I can take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and ask, “Does my opinion really matter? Why do I feel the need to see myself as superior to others?” It is from this place that I am able to move on and observe the struggles of my over-inflated ego. It is from this place that I am able to be more compassionate and understanding.
Gandhi once said that the greatest war he ever fought was the with within himself. We can not make changes or champion world peace until we find peace within.
We are all judgmental. I have had friends end relationships with me because they did not want to accept this.
People like to wear spiritual masks and say, “I am not a judgmental person. I just love and accept everyone.” But that’s nonsense. We are all judgmental, opinionated, and self-righteous. And it is these attributes which hinder our own path to fulfilling the purpose of our own lives.
I urge you to learn to accept the parts of yourself you wish to remain hidden. Cultivate more awareness of how your mind reacts. The first step on this path is to tell the truth. Once you accept the dark parts of yourself and bring them into the light, you will discover that you have a higher potential. Your highest potential is to love and joyfully accept yourself. Our core potential is to effortlessly accept others as they are – and not how we wish they could be.
Have you had to own up to and admit anything particularly difficult? How did that help you find peace?