June 10, 2011

Open Mouth, Insert Foot.

What To Do When You Manage To Break Several Life Principles In A Matter Of Seconds.

A slip of the foot you can soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over. – Ben Franklin

As part of the confirmation process, the eighth graders at our church write a “Rule of Life.” They go back through the promises made on their behalf at their baptism and spend some time thinking about the “rules” they live by. At 13 and 14 years of age, these kids have been around the block enough times to make this a fairly rich process. Sure, some of their ideas come from church and Sunday School. But they have many more moral guiding lights in their lives — teachers, parents, coaches, friends, and lessons (the hard and the easy ones) learned in the cafeteria and on the playground at school.

Talking with my son about his “Rule of Life,” led me to reflect upon my own and to consider what are the principles that guide me through my relationships? What is the code of ethics that supports my decisions and my actions? What do I do to try to live in a way that shines love into the world? Who and what are the guiding lights in my life? In short, how does my faith play out in my everyday life?

My faith and my yoga practice entwine to form my guiding rules.

  1. Set aside time — every day — for practice and for faith.
  2. Treat others as I would like to be treated.
  3. Practice doing no harm in thought, word and deed.
  4. Recognize my mistakes and apologize for them. Then, try to do better next time.
  5. Respect the dignity and individuality of every human being.
  6. Tell the truth.
  7. Do the work I’ve been given to do for the betterment of the world around me — rather than for my own good.
  8. Pray – both the talking and the listening kinds of prayer.
  9. Bow my head to my heart on a regular basis. It is easy, in this world, to allow the wisdom of our hearts (intuition, gut instinct, spiritual nudges) to get pushed to the wayside by the wisdom of our heads (our intellects and educations).
    10.  Travel lightly – both in the sense of the “stuff” I accumulate and the footprints I leave.

The time I spent last week reflecting on my “Rule of Life” left me feeling inspired and reinvigorated to live my faith and my yoga each and every day. I was on a bit of a spiritual high, I suppose.

We all know what follows any “high,” right? Yup. And, boy, did I fall. Standing in my friend’s entryway on Saturday afternoon, I crashed into the very human ugliness my practices are meant to help me avoid. I opened my big mouth and, in an instant, broke at least three of my ten rules. I said things about another person that I really wish I hadn’t said, let alone thought. Afterwards, I sat in my car with my words replaying over and over in my mind. My behavior in those few minutes completely overshadowed any brightness I’d felt from my spiritual reflection earlier in the week. How could I be such a schmuck? What on earth had gotten into me?  Cue brow beating and gnashing of teeth.

Thankfully, my yoga practice inserted itself into my bleak moment of self-loathing. What happens on my mat when I mess up? I recognize (again) that I’m not perfect. And that’s OK! I’m only practicing, after all. I try to learn something (anything!) from my failure. I try to limit the ripple effects of my mistake. Most importantly, I try again.

So, I did what I would have done if my fall had happened on my yoga mat. I set about taking responsibility for my mistake by apologizing to my friend for my behavior. (She was as loving and as gentle with me as I hope to be with myself on my mat, by the way.) I faced the bald fact that I am not perfect. I’m not even all that good sometimes. As my hurtful words repeated like ticker tape in my head, I searched to learn something. Lesson? My moment of weakness is evidence that our tongues are both the sharpest weapons in our human arsenal and the hardest for us to control. 

Quite humbled and somewhat enlightened, I dusted myself off from my tumble from a lofty spiritual high to very human low. As I set forth into another week, I am grateful for the knowledge that life is just as much practice as yoga is. I don’t have to get it all right. But I do have to be as conscious of my mistakes as I am of my successes. Just like all the newly confirmed 8th graders in my church, my freshly minted “Rule of Life” is still in my pocket – ready to guide me as I head off around the block — again and again.

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