The following piece was written by Brianna Goodman, copy and features editor for MindBodyBrew. Brianna teaches yoga with The Perri Institute for Mind and Body in New York City. She currently attends Fordham University, where she is pursuing a degree in English and creative writing, with a minor in communications. Catch her class Sunday and Wednesday mornings at Steps on Broadway.
“If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them.
If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live.
If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye-to-eye."
-Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road
In this passage from Gloria Steinem’s new memoir, Steinem describes bits of wisdom received in India from a group of Ghandians, members of a land reform movement inspired by Ghandi. Their wisdom: listen, learn, and see. While this advice was, for Steinem’s purposes, in regards to the organizing work that would become her career and legacy, this advice is also pertinent to everyday life. How often do we preach before we listen, or give advice before we fully understand the situation we’re advising on? How often do we demand attention, or expect an audience, before we do the work of earning that attention, and also paying attention in return?
When our lives move so quickly, and opinion pieces are written faster than the events earning those opinions can unfold, it seems required of us to formulate our own opinions and voice them immediately. But in this eagerness to describe the world in is and isn’t, in rights and wrongs that are easy to pinpoint, perhaps we are neglecting to honor the uniqueness of each situation and of each human being, with their singular circumstances and individualized history. We learn this in our yoga practices—no two bodies are the same, and often a choice that’s right for the person to our right is not what’s best for us. Yoga requires us to continuously evaluate our bodies and our minds—where is my body today? What does it need? Where is my headspace, and how does this knowledge inform my practice today?
So, how can we carry this practice of self-study off our mats and employ it with those around us, whether they be family, friends, coworkers, or strangers? Can we catch ourselves in those moments when we make snap judgements, and instead remind ourselves to ask questions and reevaluate the circumstances of a given scenario? In what ways can we make time to listen, not lecture; learn, not dismiss; and see, not simply demand to be seen?
Are there times you find yourself wanting to speak before you’ve heard? How do you incorporate the tools of svadhyaya—self-study—into your interactions with others?