I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of words. It’s a sort of cliched concept, but I think one that we tend to forget about sometimes, especially as we go about our daily lives primarily ignoring or snapping at each other. Plus it can have a negative context.
The first time I was introduced to the “power of words” was when I was about eight and my parents said to me, “Your brother may hit you, but the horrible things you say to him hurt much worse than a bruise.” It was true. When it came to saying shockingly wounding (if highly inventive) things, I had a natural gift. In fact, for most of my life, I only thought about my verbal aptitude in terms of how fast I could generate a cruel or sarcastic response.
Then I went to work at a Yoga Studio, and my job became to convince people that a) they wanted to do yoga and b) they wanted to see me every day before they did it. Somehow, I suspected that no one would be thrilled by the fact that I could come up with really original ways to mock their downward facing dog or $80 yoga pants.
So I started putting all my energy into saying really nice things all the time. I became obsessively, compulsively, creatively kind. And as it turns out, kindness means a lot to people. Who knew??
And who knew that kindness breeds more kindness? We all know that when someone is rude to us, we have bad day. But as it turns out, when someone is nice to us, and we let ourselves absorb it, we in turn are nice to someone else. It may take a while, but the more kind you are, the more kind the world becomes. As I’m reading in Michael Stone’s book, Yoga for A World Out of Balance, we are only as happy as the world at large. When we make it better, we get better, too.
In many respects, blogging works like that–in fact, all social media/viral marketing does, too. An idea germinates, and is articulated. If it’s a good one, it’s reinterpreted, internalized, and reincarnated. It doesn’t feel like marketing or selling because every person who passes it on gets to put a piece of herself into it while at the same time feeling a part of something larger. It’s a relay race dependent on all the team members. It’s about interconnectivity.
I thought about this in relation to a post by someone I’m giving a blog award to. (Yes. I’m giving BLOG AWARDS!! Mandy, over at Yoga Addicted was nice enough to give me one and now I’m passing the torch. Go read her blog, it’s awesome.)
Anyway…the first person I’m giving an award to is Chrissy Carter, who is not only an amazing yoga teacher but will also bring you breakfast for the next morning if you have a party at your house. She was my teacher trainer, and spoke many a word that had a great impact on me; words that put me more in balance. Still, she did a blog post recently reflecting that “one of the hardest things about being a teacher is the inevitable truth that you have to let your students go – their practice belongs to them, not you.”
I was surprised to read this because I’ve always felt that all my teachers have a little share in my practice. In particular, Chrissy has a share of my practicing kindness, because it was she who taught us about the four paths to yoga: action, knowledge, mastery and love/devotion.
When I first learned of the paths, I immediately concluded that my path of choice was either action or knowledge. I couldn’t decide which, but it was definitely not love. Who could be naive enough to identify with love and devotion? As it turned out, Chrissy. (Explore her blog more for thoughts on bhakti/devotion.) I had made up my mind before class that the path of devotion wasn’t even on the table for me, but the words she spoke struck me. I thought about them for a long time. Eventually, I started to reconsider. I started to accept that I was emotionally drawn to bhakti.
Unlike Chrissy, I can’t cook to save my life, but now I do practice bhakti in the form of kindness towards others. And although I do believe my practice is my own, I often think of her when I need help staying my course. I’m building on my practice and sharing it with others, but what she taught me is at the core. Just by teaching me, she has given a gift to the all the people I’ve miraculously decided to treat well. It proves that each of us really does have the power to shift the world towards a more balanced state.
Along those lines, I’m happy to say that I have positively influenced the life of the next person to receive my blog award, Chris Harcum. Chris showed up when I taught my first yoga class, and Chris was the first person to come in to the yoga studio to use his free week pass. Then, Chris signed up for a membership and THEN Chris wrote a blog post saying how yoga changed his life. (he also refers to me as “multi-talented.” Sweet.)
That’s the end of the blog awards. Quantity over quality. Balance!