On Friday, I made a post on Facebook that went all around the world. That might be a stretch, but it did travel far and wide in the social media world. Chances are, you saw it there. I don’t want to stay stuck in it, but I do want to process the situation. Really, there’s a LOT to unpack. The post was about two women having a conversation in a coffee shop that involved hating on me. A conversation that was heard by another woman who walked over and stopped them. I received so much love and support in the comments on that post. Never was the intention to call attention to their actions. The intention was to highlight the woman who used her voice to stand up for me. I’ve been sitting with this situation for a while now, and there are just so many beautiful lessons in it.
I have been the women in the coffee shop, connecting in that superficial way of gossiping about another. I am willing to bet we have ALL done that. I’ll just go ahead and tell on myself here. About three years ago I was at yoga church with a friend. We were having a conversation about another yoga teacher we knew, poking fun at some of the things she does. For about two seconds, my teacher got sucked in. And then, she stopped us. She told us our speech was unskillful and she wouldn’t be a part of it and she wouldn’t allow it in her space. She called us the fuck out. It was quite embarrassing but also necessary. She was completely right in her actions and we couldn’t deny that. This is exactly what spiritual community is about. We need teachers on the path who will guide us and steer us when we stray. We need friends who will be honest with us and tell us when we are fucking up. Once we have awareness, it’s much easier to catch ourselves, stop ourselves and eventually not even go there. It’s a practice. Like everything we do.
Perhaps my speech wasn’t skillful when I posted about them. I didn’t name them, but the post was shared so many times it was sure to find it’s way to them. And they probably won’t be back to the studio, which I was initially happy about, but at the same time, a loving and supportive environment is exactly what they need. And here’s the truth. It all stemmed from jealousy. Such an ugly word and an ugly emotion. I have been on all sides of this one too. It doesn’t feel good when a pang of jealousy hits and it feels worse to know someone is jealous of me. It feels dirty. But it’s also a very human emotion. This learning to be a human is the most difficult spiritual lesson.
We can learn a LOT about being human and about ourselves by sitting in meditation. Before we are able to hear that still, small voice, we hear our own voice. The loud voice in our head. It’s really important to pay attention to this voice. To notice the way we speak to ourselves. When we are harsh with ourselves, through judgement, or criticizing, it’s a good indication that this is the way we interact with others in the world. By learning to be kind, loving and compassionate toward ourselves, it becomes quite natural to extend that to others around us. Guess what? It’s a practice. One of the books that helped me with this in the beginning of my own journey is LovingKindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzburg. I recommend this one to people ALL the time.
One of the most common ways we speak harshly to ourselves is by lying to ourselves. When we listen to the scared, insecure voice in our head that tells us we are anything less than perfect as we are, we are not being truthful. I understand that these two women in the coffee shop somehow felt that they were lacking something. Rather than build that up in themselves, they chose to tear me down. It’s a very human thing to do and I don’t fault them for it. Remember, I’m human and I’ve been guilty of it too. But, I have a daily practice of filling myself with love. I make a point to surround myself with people who are kind and loving and full of wisdom. People I can learn from. People who have the qualities I want in myself.
These women don’t know me. It was never about me. This situation gave me an opportunity to practice forgiveness. It was a good reminder to choose my own words and conversations carefully. It was an opportunity to stop and see it from all sides. The biggest lesson that I learned in this is that moving forward I want to be the third woman in this story. The one who stood up for me. The one who used her voice to say, “No. That’s not ok.” I haven’t learned how to be this person yet, but I fully intend to start practicing. The world needs more people who are willing to be strong and stand up for others. Even if it’s hard. Glennon Doyle always reminds us that “We can do hard things.”