"Be mindful of/when [blank]" is a oft-heard phrase throughout the school, used with the children as soon as they enter the school at age three. With regard to our interactions with others, from the roots of mindfulness, we nurture acceptance, which in turn gives way for authenticity to bloom. I think it is important to note that these can be interconnected. They must nourish one another in order to grow. Authenticity is still absorbing the nutrients of mindfulness in order to flourish.
We can debate the nature of authenticity, good or bad, but I will challenge you to simply reflect upon the feelings and thoughts that arise after an encounter or exchange with an inauthentic person and leave you with that for the moment.
I appreciate, respect and encourage authenticity, even if I may not agree with the principles or ideologies behind it.
On a related note... I was struck by a recent comment made by a fellow yogi in a discussion about "mindful eating". Someone mentioned the importance of carefully selecting fish to avoid contamination and mislabeling. A comment made in response, suggested that no yogi would ever even think about eating any sentient being. I immediately felt uncomfortable by the statement. The delivery in particular certainly had a tinge of passing judgment.
Many of you know that I am a vegan. I gave up meat long ago as an 11-year-old child, after viewing a documentary that included scenes from a slaughterhouse. I eventually transitioned to veganism 9 years later - still long before finding my yoga practice. Now, I personally find militant vegans to be annoying, and I don't feel that their extremism does anything but shed an unsavory light on Vegans as a whole. That's not to say I wouldn't be thrilled if everyone suddenly gave up eating and using animals. That's also not to say that I don't/won't share information about my choices when prompted, but I also respect the choices of others, just as I hope others respect mine.
Behind this particular dietary suggestion is the Yama of ahimsa (non-harming/non violence). I could have pointed out that back when it was suggested that yogis follow a vegetarian diet, including milk and eggs, factory farming didn't exist. The modern vegetarian diet, unless extreme care is taken to select small, free-range, humane farms, is not truly cruelty-free (or non-violent). And although based in fact, at that point, I could have been seen as passing judgment too.
So that comment brought with it implications that it doesn't matter if you are still salivating over a steak while unhappily forcing organic tofu1 down your throat, that's apparently, the only way to be a "true yogi".
Does this mean that in order to be a "true yogi", one might have to follow a recommendation contrary to their authentic self? Does inauthenticity jibe with this "yogic ideal"? And what about ahimsa toward the self?
Now that I've created only more questions, I think one possible, and rather apt, response comes from a quote I recently came across; it's one that was directed toward teachers, and one which really resonates with me: "[our] mission is to shed light, not to master."
As a teacher, I use gentle reminders with children all the time. We don't expect children to have perfectly mastered everything, but I think that sometimes maybe we expect that mastery from adults. Many of us are still practicing.
It is a Yoga PRACTICE, after all. Each day is an opportunity to...
BE your authentic self (whoever that may be).
1. Tofu is quite delicious, BTW.