Breaking down Barriers

It seems like, more and more these days, more barriers are created rather than struck down. In general, I consider myself a very positive person – optimistic at times, even – and while I don’t necessarily think this is a negative observation, perhaps it is.

Also, perhaps my observation skills were not so keen in my younger years, and I’m just starting to catch on, or my observations may be deluded by our national elections, my chosen profession, and/or my sensitivity.IMG_1561.PNG

Why do categories and labels exist? Why do stereotypes exist? While I can see their appeal – it is much easier to make a snap judgment than to personally consider each and every object as an individual – where do the categories and labels begin to shape the person, both externally and in our own minds? Am I a “smart” girl because I was constantly told I was smart? Because I was the daughter of a very intelligent woman? Or because I am, inherently, smart? (I mean this only in the fashion of book smarts… I have little to no street smarts, and I can verify that for you on several different counts. However, perhaps its these labels that make me less street smart rather than my actual lack of them.)

I can also see the appeal in forming communities. Communities bond and unite together with one thing in common – whether that be their political preferences, their religion, their preferred style of yoga, their love of gardening, craft beer, high level mathematics, etc… – and yet, while bonding in this way, it naturally excludes those who don’t fit the bill. Is this a natural response to forming a community? My own thoughts say yes. I naturally feel a bit excluded when around my husband and all of those who love and talk about baseball – because I don’t share that affinity. While they probably don’t mind me hanging around and sitting quietly at the table, and I don’t mind sitting there and drifting off into my own little Amy world, we would both be just as happy separate, around different people, discussing vastly different topics.

I don’t think this is wrong – I think this is just natural.

What I don’t understand is how we go from “Oh Amy doesn’t enjoy baseball, that’s okay,” to, “Amy doesn’t like baseball? Well she must be scum of the earth.” Frequently I see communities or groups admonishing those who don’t follow their particular brand of preferred past times, or religions, or politics, or yoga preferences. The yoga part is quite astonishing to me, because the word “yoga” means “union.” What kind of yoga teachers are we if we, ourselves, create divisions between different yoga groups?

I am no historian, but I will tell you what I understand of yoga history as detailed by my own personal yoga teacher (please feel free to correct if I am wrong – I am always happy to learn): hatha yoga, or the physical practice of yoga, grew out of tantra, which embraced each object as containing some spiritual entity, just some to greater degrees than others. Hatha  yoga became connected with Patanjali’s yoga sutras when Swami Vivekananda merged them as a personal preference – and the philosophy of Patanjali is often interpreted as dualistic – correct and incorrect actions, liberating yourself from the world of the seen to the world of the seer.

In one yoga philosophy workshop I took, the teacher told us that the yoga sutras were Vivekananda’s choice because it was dualistic – and thus more relatable to those practicing Christianity in the West (heaven and hell, good and evil, etc.).

Not that much of this is of critical importance, but this: we need less dualism, and more unity. We need less barriers, and more inclusion. We need less judgments, and more love.

Whether you practice a dualistic spiritual practice or an all-emcompassing one, whether you are Democratic or Republican, whether you are a meat and potatoes gal or a hard and fast vegan – can we eliminate some of these walls between us? Can we work together in union without judgment? Can we honor that there is good and bad in everything, in every choice, just to different degrees?

And when all else fails, remember to ask yourself:  Is it true? and  Is it kind?

Yours in spirit, namaste,


P.S. Check out this incredible site that stands for everything I love. We Stand With Love. I do – do you?


3 thoughts on “Breaking down Barriers

  1. Some people are short, some people are tall. Some are physically strong, some are crippled. Some insane, some sane. Categories exist not because we imagine they do, but simply because they do. Granted, stereotyping people is wrong. But so is acting as if there are no differences between people. And those differences, necessitates that we treat people differently.

    You might trust a family member to stand behind you, with a gun, but would you trust a convinced murderer and rapist? And though I feel that the overwhelming majority of people are capable of being moral, I also recognize that the majority of them, are infact selfish and treacherous. Does that make me prejudiced, or allow me to address the problem, to seek a solution?

    These days, it is merely popular to “accept” everyone, and treat all equally. That perspective, sadly, can only be maintained by the delusional and sheltered, whom have never interacted with the dangerously corrupt and insane. If doubting thee existence of these savages, quickly google North Korea, or African Child Soldiers; any information you find on the subjects will likely provide further information on similar human behaviors throughout history.

    No, it is not moral to “accept” everyone. It is kind, idealistic, and hopeful, but it is also dangerously naive. The truly moral acknowledge the ugly components of life, so as to both solve current issues, and prevent future occurrences. Unfortunately, its very unpopular these days.

    1. Hi Louis! Thanks for your comment and for sharing your perspective. I agree, it would be silly to pretend like awful things don’t exist – and so we must face them. Part of the yoga practice teaches people to get into the thick of discomfort and sit there, because it takes seeing things as they are to make a change, if change is in fact necessary. One of my favorite (and obvious) examples of someone who facilitated great social change while also eliminating barriers is Ghandi. He saw the world as what it was and facilitated change, without hurting others in the process (and in fact created more unity among Indians and South Africans by appealing to their hearts).

      I believe that “good” and “evil” are not separate terms but rather on a sliding scale – all of us have the capacity for both, and use them to different degrees on different days and in different situations. That means I believe all people have good in them, but also the capacity for not good. I think that’s realistic, and maybe more realistic than lumping people or things into categories as a way to save time. A murderer isn’t necessarily a bad father, or a bad person – and even the law sees different murders differently. A crime of passion vs pre-calculated killing is sentenced differently, as they should be. My point was not that every person or action should be accepted, but rather perhaps we should look at things in this sliding scale perspective rather than “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” etc.

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