In the past week, I have noticed a recurring theme that harkens back from the past 20- some years in my life. I have had the opportunity to take a stand, rock the boat, order off the menu and in general, speak up about controversial subjects. Back then, I would have timidly kept my thoughts to myself for fear of rejection or disapproval. These days, I am bolder and more confident. It doesn’t mean I am always right, just in integrity with my values and belief systems. The first one came after I posted something about Laughter Yoga which was created by Dr. Madan Kataria from Mumbai, India who found that by laughing, we use the same muscles that are engaged when practicing yoga and meditating.
“Hasyayoga is a form of yoga employing self-triggered laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on the scientific observation that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, and that both provide the same physiological and psychological benefits. Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughter with pranayama(yogic breathing). Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, initially forced laughter soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The “laughter” is physical in nature, and does not necessarily involve humor or comedy.” (from Wikipedia)
The benefits of laughing are multi-fold and well documented and although this modality doesn’t include asanas (traditional yoga poses), he used the term ‘yoga’ to describe it since it was part of his life path. Friends of mine facilitate Laughter Yoga workshops and had done so at a conference last weekend that I had attended. A facebook friend commented that it wasn’t truly yoga and that by referring to it as such, it diluted the meaning. I responded in explanation and he persisted in indicating that proponents of the practice were misguided and somehow disrespectful of true adherents. Without feeling defensive, I once again offered what I thought was an open minded perspective. After a ping-pong volleying session, I just let it go, agreeing to disagree.
Last night, I posted an article I had seen about ‘unfriending’ those whose political beliefs would act to restrict other people’s rights. What I added was “ I have such conflicted feelings about wondering if people in my immediate circles would vote for a candidate whose policies would restrict anyone’s civil rights. Would I still want to be their friend?” It set off a flurry of responses, some saying that it would be small minded to cut people off just because we disagree with their personal beliefs. Although the majority of those in my life reflect my own socio-political perspective, not all do, including my 25 year old son. Is it challenging to have conversations with them about the state of the world and what might be done to repair it? Yup. Does it mean that I shut them out of my heart and life? Nope. Do I express my opinion in ways that might help them see a different perspective, rather than bashing theirs? I would like to think I do. Am I non-judgemental? I have to admit that I do sometimes hold “how could you think that?” judgements when it seems that someone wants to dictate who someone gets to love, what gender roles we play, how much money people make depending upon their genetic make-up, skin color and ‘plumbing’ and how a woman takes care of her body.
What was so telling about my reaction to these two opportunities was that even as my heart was beating a bit faster and my ‘uh oh, what will people think about me now?’ tangent, I was able to feel a strength that I never would have known in my ever more active chameleon-like co-dependent days. Being in the public eye as I have come to be, involves personal responsibility and being true to myself even as I express disagreement respectfully.
For me it is a matter of speaking up if I see what I perceive as injustice (which is a whole ‘nother Bliss Blog entry). As the facebook thread continued, I was reminded of this poem by theologian Martin Niemuller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.