Hi friends, hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July!
These hot, humid Houston summers remind me of summers in Miami, Fl where I lived with my family through my teens. On especially sweltering days, I remember worrying that the little lizards roaming around our yard needed more shade, so I’d build them shelters out of shoe boxes filled with leaves, grass, water, and king-sized cotton ball beds. Although my intentions were pure, the poor lizards were absolutely petrified when I placed them in their new homes, and it took me a few years to realize that what I considered lovely and comfortable was not exactly what my reptilian friends needed. What a lesson for life, am I right?
I think it’s natural, and a really wonderful instinct, to step in and help when we think someone is going down the wrong path, making poor choices, or hurting in any way. The problem is that the advice we offer is often a reflection of our own experiences, needs, fears, desires, and ideas, and in an effort to save someone from pain, we can end up getting in the way of their growth. I am faced with this exact dilemma on a daily basis with my little man. At 15 months, he is zipping around exploring the world with the fearlessness of a human who hasn’t been around for too long. It’s tempting to keep him close by me at all times, safe and away from any danger, but that wouldn’t be fair, fun, or healthy for him in the long run. Similarly, we can’t save our girlfriend from heartbreak (even though we knew all along he was a #$%%$^%), our spouse from not getting the promotion he worked hard for, or our yoga students from having a crappy day on their mat.
So why do we do it? I think it’s a combo of love, fear, and avoidance. Of course we intervene because we want the best for that person, but we’re also scared of giving up full control (we know best, right?) Additionally, fixing other people is a great distraction from facing our own issues and working on our own growth. It’s way easier for me to tell y’all to breathe, take things less seriously, commit to your practice, and show yourself compassion than to actually do that for myself. As a matter of fact, it’s usually the things we are most compelled to fix on the outside that require the most work on the inside.
I was listening to this podcast by a woman named Manorma the other day. She’s a Sanskrit and yoga teacher and has the most mesmerizing voice. In any case, she was saying that we would all be in a better place if we just minded our own business. It sounds a little harsh at first since that typically implies to butt out and go away, but she was offering an invitation to tune in and go within. If we start paying attention to the flaws we see in others, to what we are driven to fix, we can get really great insight into our own triggers, biases, values, and needs.
Alright, I’ll leave you with this (very) brief story I came across recently:
A passerby witnessed a monkey in a tree with a fish. The monkey was saying to the fish, “but I saved you from drowning.”
Such a nice, well-intwined monkey…but clearly off-base in terms of what the fish needed. We may share this planet, but we are unique souls on very different, individual journeys. We can make each other smile, we can help each other out, but we can’t make anyone else happy. In the end, the most amazing gift we can give those we love is the freedom to pave their own path, make mistakes, take risks, figure things out, and become the best version of themselves, according to them. It is our unique privilege and honor to simply walk alongside them as they blossom.