This article was co-authored by Ali Valdez and Endre Voros from Pathwise Leadership.
At times, we act in ways unworthy of love. We do this in spite of the fact we yearn so greatly for the very thing we push away. One would think this essential human need comes intuitively to us, but instead what we long to express remains just beyond our grasp. The heart of every external action is accompanied by an intrinsic motivation. Reconciling the two can be sinking, as if we are swimming in a stew of our own insecurities and unwitting cognitive biases, we miss the mark, hurting others whilst wounding ourselves. What we do not realize is that an unknown and unconscious part of us is running the show hid behind our defenses and protective armor.
None of this is necessarily our fault but until we reconcile our actions with our unconscious thoughts, we also won’t be embracing the human possibilities we have underneath all of our mistakes. We need to take accountability that full transformation is not a superficial exercise, nor can it be a blame game on another. A first step is seeing that our lack of understanding and our misguided definitions of love can partially be the reason why we stay disconnected. Also, we can leverage the yogic practices of mindfulness and svadyaya (self-study) to bring a much-needed understanding of sharing and receiving love in authentic ways.
Yoga is defined as balance; balance from the center (the easy stuff) and polar extremes (when two people cannot be further apart in thought or ideals). Within the energy body, an individual is constantly working to maintain its “yoga,” the harmonization of opposing forces, reconciling extrinsic and intrinsic into a universal whole. Consider this alignment a reconciliation of soul, a forward movement. Creating that alignment with another is more movement. Anytime we make a movement towards love, we draw closer to a greater understanding, primarily of ourselves and then another. This requires commitment to the process with the boon of an awakening on the other side. We think this an important idea worth noting: reconciliation within ourselves, with the aid of psychology and yoga, is a movement towards Awakening. Psychology helps put structure around these uncharted waters.
How can we hold what’s in opposition, two types of truths together, in the same space? Mindfulness is the first step, simply creating awareness in the moment. We can also use the Platonic idea of dialectic: holding two ideas and the accompanying feelings- which seem to be in opposition- together in the same space. In terms of yoga, we may refer to this as the principle of yoking. What we will find is that if we are doing dialectic properly, tension(s) will arise. But when pulling protective armors off, this tension is actually the opening of a new idea or neural pathway. This practice of dialectic is opposite to the popular idea in our modern debate culture. Debate believes we divide and argue until a winner is found. Dialectic believes what appears to be two sides is not; it embodies wholeness when no other method can.
Self-study requires a deeper dive. It’s not enough to just sit and think within the limited paradigm of self-reason and knowing. Svadyaya requires mentors, sacred texts, universal human truths that may override your cognitive biases. Psychologically, it is very hard to see who we truly are- let alone comprehend any unseen division. We carry our defenses with us, and play puppet to a personality operating out of self-interest, not self-inquiry. We possess a laundry list of excuses to justify our behaviors, tout a salvo of rationalizations when challenged and inform our perceptions through weak-threaded narrative stitched together by revisionist storytelling. Svadyaya in yoga and psychology can help us in how we, in our defensiveness, choose to value winning and being right over being open and vulnerable.
But, when we get honest with ourselves, we see things in new ways– humbling ones. Where once we may have acted without truly loving, we now connect to those feelings with self-acceptance. This creates a natural extension to others. We see possibility, if not feel, waves of emotion that make loving kindness with others effortless, even when their actions do not live up to our ideals. By being truthful and taking stock of who we really are, in this moment, the poverty in our understanding is replaced by the riches of unlocking the potency of universal love; possessing the capability, often for the first time, of fully embodying it. Modelling this behavior can inspire others to begin their own journeys, moving past their own cognitive biases. Then true healing and reconciliation can begin.
In difficult circumstances, consider stepping back from your initially strong reactions, apply the tools offered in yoga and psychology, and become curious; find a way to bridge the gap between differences. Try leading with love; it always finds a way to bridge the gap. Beyond the dogma and science, love is our only possibility of higher evolution.
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