Imposing Conformity or Honoring Uniqueness
Being human, we’re always viewing the world from a particular and limited perspective. Depending upon the lens we use, we’ll see things in different ways. The story of the blind men and the elephant is an excellent way to understand and teach this vital truth about perspective. (According to the researcher at Sloww, the parable dates back to Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain writings with the Buddhist text Udana 6.4 containing one of the earliest versions of the story.)
When we consider all the many possible perspectives that lead to how people make decisions, one way to view them is to see them as falling into two general categories: coming from an angle of control or of empowerment.
And I always choose empowerment.
Let’s consider an example. Take this question: Do you feel there’s a limit to what an “authority” or teacher (of any subject) “should” speak to? Heck, we could change the question to be about what anyone should speak to.
I’ve found that such questions about what’s appropriate fall away in the light of empowering others.
So in this example, I don’t mull over how I could create and enforce controls of who says what. Instead, I think about how we can encourage leaders and support providers to empower others, and how we can develop and encourage discernment.
In fact, those two intentions meld together because if your overriding intention is to empower others, they will begin to listen more to their inner voice and, thus, naturally be learning to refine their discernment.
An Imbalanced Operating System
We incarnated into the long-standing, top-down, pyramidal power system that parasitically feeds the top tier elite from the energy, resources, and life force of the lower levels and Gaia. Obviously, this is an imbalanced operating system that is destroying the majority of life on the planet…. The new earth operating system has been evolving, anchoring and activating for all who choose to shift. Instead of a top-down pyramidal system, the New Earth offers a circular continuum that … functions in unity consciousness. It is a self-sourcing ecosystem that enhances life on the planet. As we move further into the 2000’s, we are witnessing a global shift from a dying system into a newly forming world system of collaboration.– Meg Benedicte
Control as the Norm
Let’s take a moment to consider humanity’s indoctrination into believing that control systems — and the assumptions built into them — are normal, effective, and the only reasonable way to run societies. For example:
- Hierarchy and compartmentalization are the institutionalized secrecy systems that limit access to information needed to make strategic, ethical and oversight decisions. The bigger picture and power is only available to a few. This is the system used by militaries, schools, governments, corporations, and media. Many indigenous societies demonstrate an alternative. More here.
- People – no matter how brilliant – are unable to make authentic and unique contributions within systems that adhere to “mainstream” (conventional, dominant), “establishment,” or “consensus” thinking and belief systems. There is endless evidence of the systems destroying individuality and creativity in schools, science, medicine, corporations, media, government and elsewhere. More here.
- One of many specific examples of how systems suppress the power of individuals is NDAs. Non disclosure agreements are used by powerful people and organizations as a way to “buy silence” from those with less power. For example, employment offers may be conditioned on acceptance of an NDA that forces the employee to mediate assault and abuse claims in private. By preventing employees from “going public” with allegations of abuse, the power-holder prevents victims from warning other potential victims. More here.
- Another example, is social ridicule: “For most of the 20th century, if scientists dared to mention anything about a unifying field of energy that connects everything through what is otherwise empty space, they would be laughed out of the classroom or right off the university stage. With few exceptions, the idea wasn’t one that was accepted, or even allowed, in serious scientific discussions.” – Gregg Braden, The Divine Matrix (2007) link
There is a Different Way
This is in contrast to philosophies such as these:
What if instead of seeing all of us as separate material objects from one another, we saw each other as fragments of ourselves and truly acknowledged that deep within our being? Well, if you grew up in an indigenous culture, this would likely be your worldview already.– Joe Martino link
The oppressor and the oppressed carry the same wound from different angles… Build relationships with Mother Nature, become an offering yourself. Go sit by that mountain; she enjoys your company. Sit by the river; she is your teacher.– Mandaza Kandemwa, Zimbabwean peacemaker and healer link
Cultures of hierarchy and control long ago abolished circle, because circle serves democracy. Those seeking to dominate and rule over others know instinctively that circle is dangerous to their desire for power.– Christina Baldwin & Ann Linnea, The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair link
Principles of Engagement
After seeing behavior in the wider world that I don’t agree with, I came to realize that often the fundamental difference in perspective is the control vs. empowerment lens.
Since I come from a lens of empowerment, I’ve come to a certain set of beliefs or principles that are the foundation for how I relate to others. I hadn’t ever written them down before, but thought that if I did, it might be beneficial to you. Whether or not you agree with all my points, seeing them in black and white might support you in clarifying or communicating your own beliefs.
I didn’t always have these beliefs, but over time, they came to be a part of my conscious decision-making.
- I see everyone as divinity in disguise. This is fundamental to what I think we’re all doing here on this planet. I remind myself that everyone is a soul playing in embodied form. If I find myself judging someone or something, I remember that judgment isn’t wise, and when I find myself doing so, I remove myself from the irritating stimulus and go inward. Non-judgment is not the same as inaction. On the contrary, neutrality prepares me to be more clear-headed and effective.
- I don’t endeavor to control or manipulate others. As such, I do not engage in telling others what they “should” do as that’s just one of the many ways to try and control another.
- I know that I have control over myself only. I watch my mind for its patterns that want to change others and that cause me to feel triggered by others’ behavior. I define triggering as feeling excessive emotion that seems to be prompted by something happening in the outer world but that is in fact highlighting something inside that is unhealed. I don’t take action while triggered.
- I am passionate about sharing information for the purpose of empowering others. I do not support withholding information for power or using knowledge for demonstrating superiority.
- I believe people who have knowledge and experience can be wonderful resources but that this does not grant them authority over others and there are always unlimited potential sources that can be supportive, including the individual seeker herself.
- I don’t support regulatory bodies and broadscale efforts to “protect” us. While I empathize with the good intentions behind regulatory bodies and all the many ways “stamps of approval” have been implemented to control the “quality” of a service, I have now seen all such efforts create more problems than solutions. I go into this more in the specific context of yoga teaching here.
- I avoid compartmentalization and favor holistic approaches which mimic the nature of Life itself. So if I pull something apart because it helps to increase understanding, I put it back together again to make sure I can apply the knowledge in a practical way and in the context of Reality. I stay open and curious to learning new ways of understanding the relationship of the subject at hand to all it touches.
- I honor each person’s independent will. I endeavor to minimize the energy of pressure, demand, intimidation, or “right and wrong” thinking. In fact, I work extremely long and hard to respectfully convey information for consideration, including potential outcomes. Sometimes, I am clearly encouraging consideration of information that points to a certain perspective, and am comparing it to a perspective I don’t subscribe to. Nevertheless, I don’t deny others the right to hold other points of view. I see my mission as empowering others, and sometimes, I am called to do this by shining a light on that which is disempowering, leaving it to each individual to make their own choices.
Yoga As a Model
Yoga is such an eye-opener when it comes to the subject of empowerment.
Students don’t need to be trained or convinced of anything to benefit from yoga. They simply need to try it. Good teaching, of course, helps them get even more out of the experience, but the point is that yoga practice is intrinsically powerful and empowering.
Since no experience is required, and a single class can make a significant impact, it suggests that yoga is like the holistic, fractal, responsive examples found throughout our natural world.
For example, every one of our 30 trillion cells has a complete set of DNA within them. And stem cells (which are found throughout the body) can become almost any cell that’s needed.
Like our cells, yoga practice (no matter the style or “level”) can offer a complex wholeness, power, and responsiveness to the current need.
Accessible to all, yoga is an excellent model for guiding us in re-discovering how to experience life in ways other than those taught to us by top-down control systems with authoritarian methodologies, hierarchical and compartmentalized systems, and excessively left-brained ways of thinking.
As a student of life, I have come to trust my own discernment which I experience as a combination of intuition and intellect. I take information that resonates and leave that which doesn’t. Since I can’t control others, I must rely on them to do the same, but whenever possible, I support others in becoming more informed and empowered.
What do you think?
But Asana Can Be Used in a Power-Over Context
While yoga itself is empowering, as with anything else, it can be broken into pieces and used within an authoritarian context. For example, I attended a class where the “yoga teacher” employed an authoritarian style, relying exclusively on “power over” techniques to “teach.” I’ve shared more detail here.
That experience prompted me to reflect on the fact that people are acting based on a philosophical perspective which can be seen from these perspectives:
- Teaching health and wellness or teaching poses and prescriptive dogma. (Dogma is “a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down… proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group.”)
- Guiding and mentoring based on one’s personal integration and a compassionate understanding of others or memorizing and parroting what one has been told without a dedication to learning how others experience the teachings.
- Empowering students and honoring their inner authority or presuming authority over them via externalized positional power.