As Yogis, our wisest leaders tell us that we must embrace unconditional love for each other if we are to find true transformation. And yet, many of us feel fear, sadness and anger more often than we feel peace and serenity. It’s not easy to simply drop an emotion and change our thoughts on a dime, so how can we navigate our way to that place of Yoga in our minds?
When I am confused and my mind only feels and sees chaos, I often look to Yoga Sutra 1.33 to give me guidance in how to find this unconditional love: “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” (translation Swami Satchidananda)
Usually I read this Sutra as a guideline for how I can shape my own attitude, and as a goal for which I can strive. After all, change begins from within. Today, though, I am reminded that we do not live our lives in a bubble, and I can help change myself through what I hear echoed back to me from family, friends and community. My insight today is that this Sutra can help me learn how I should behave towards others, and it can also help me determine which people in my circles are assistants or detractors to my own personal transformation.
For example, when I experience mental disturbance like anger or even rage, I can recognize that the friends and family who ignore the mental disturbance are true assistants in helping me find Yoga. I will listen to them more closely than to those who engage with the anger and try to fuel it. When I experience sadness, I will receive more help to find mental peace by listening to the friends and family who give me solace, and disregard comments from well meaning but misguided friends who say, “toughen up,” “get over it,” or “you’re being too sensitive.” When I am happy, the friends who celebrate with me will be most helpful. And, when I am trying in the way I feel best to move our society in the direction of positive change, those friends who give words of encouragement, as opposed to cynicism or despair, will be the best allies towards my own personal growth.
Most of us feel loved and supported by our friends, because we can choose our friends. But family members are a different story. We may not be able to escape the family members with whom we profoundly disagree. It’s important to remember that as family, we may even have internalized some of their attitudes as we were growing, learning, and developing as children into the adults we are now. This may be one of the reasons why it can be difficult to adopt new attitudes: family members have a profound influence on us.
Many of us are headed into a holiday season that brings us to interact (or purposefully not interact) with our families. Keep in mind that we are all at different places on our journey towards personal transformation, and we all have different “triggers” that misguide us. Remember to use the lessons from Yoga Sutra 1.33 to help discern between helpful and unhelpful attitudes – both your own, and those of those around you. And then, when you find yourself in that peaceful place of loving, no matter which actions emerge, you will be able to trust you are on the right path towards peace for all.