“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” ~Carl Jung
We are all different, each one of us unique. That’s not new news to me. I’ve always been very aware of how different I am from most people around me. However, my study of yoga is bringing this truth home to me in a whole new way.
As we study the body and how differences in the way that each of us is made and how this affects the way that a posture may look from one person to another, I am gaining a whole new perspective on “correct” posture. We watched a video a few weeks ago that showed how the differences in bone structure in the joints may limit what is possible for some people compared to other people. A demonstration one of our teachers did in class showed how some postures are physically impossible for some people because of the proportions of their body parts; if one’s arms are shorter than one’s torso, it is impossible to use one’s hands to lift themselves off the ground from a sitting position.
We are all differently made, and as I teach yoga to classes, I need to remember that. The general instructions and reminders I give to the class as a whole will never perfectly fit every student because we are all unique. At its root, this is a personal practice. Historically, it was taught one-on-one to take these differences into account for each student.
As we study ayurveda and the many possible combinations of the three doshas (constitutions), I am gaining a whole new perspective on “correct” diet and lifestyle. The foods that may best fit one person may make another person out of balance. The best times of day for certain activities for one person may throw another person’s day out of whack. People need differing amounts of sleep, differing temperatures for optimal functioning, different skin care routines. We are differently made, and what fits one person well may make another one sick.
The same can be said for psycho-emotional practices. Some people spend too much time on the surface and need to learn to dive deep to find the root problems so they can deal with them. Other people spend too much time in the depths and need to learn to come up to surface to practically apply what they’ve found in the depths. Some people have boundaries that are too rigid; others have boundaries that are too malleable (if they have them at all). One person may need to learn to dream with greater optimism in order to grow, while another needs to learn to be more realistic in their evaluation of possibilities to move forward. We are all different, and we all need to work on different things in different ways using different methods to grow to greater psycho-emotional health. What is healing and restoring to one may be destructive to another.
Likewise in the spiritual realm, we all are best fed by different spiritual food. Some people find grace in meditation and contemplative practices, while others find more grace in action. For some, the senses are the best way to find bliss through music, beauty, incense, or finely crafted language. Others find peace in asceticism. We come to the divine (by whatever name we call it) each in our own way.
We are all different. I know this, and yet I’m realizing how seldom I truly live it.
How often I find myself comparing myself to others wondering why I can’t seem to do what they do. This is true just as much on the mat as in any other area of life. I wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t be as flexible … or as focused … or as cheerful… or as outgoing … or as outspoken … or as pretty … or as successful … or as whatever as the next person is. The truth is that I’m asking the wrong question. It’s not why am I not like them, it’s why am I not more like me? We are all made differently. Of course I’m not like them! My job is to be me.
How often I try to evangelize others with the solutions I’ve found that work for me, or judge another for not doing things the “right” way (which of course means “the way I do it”). If only they would adopt this habit (or diet or thought or attitude or whatever) that has worked so well for me, surely their life would improve too, right? Um, maybe not. We are all different. I can share what works for me as the offering of one possible option, but it’s up to that person to decide whether it works for them. And no matter how wonderfully it works for me, it might genuinely not work for another because we are not the same.
In our yoga training, our teachers tell us so often not to believe what they tell us just because they tell it to us. They constantly remind us to take the information and go try it and see what works for us. Yoga has been around for about 5,000 years, so it clearly works, but it does not work the same for each and every one of us. We all have to find the adaptations that fit our unique selves.
So it is in life. We are all different. It’s time for me to go beyond knowing that in an intellectual sense to knowing it in a fully ensouled and embodied way at the depths of being where I can treat all that I see and hear from others as possible ideas for me to try to see if it works for me (but without comparison or self-judgment about whether it “should” work) and I can offer my solutions to others as possible ideas for them to try (with no judgment or expectation about what they “should” do with that information).
Only by reaching this deeper knowing and living of this truth do I begin to move in the direction of seeing things as they are and setting myself and others free to be the different people that we are meant to be. May I learn to rejoice and celebrate difference—mine, yours, and theirs—to reach a life of pinchless shoes and perfectly tailored recipes for living for us all.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.