I believe that everyday each person in the world starts with a fresh piece of paper. It’s clean and bright white – no marks, no tears. It’s perfect.
As the day wears on, depending on how a person is treated by others, the piece of paper either stays in tact or little bits get torn off. Someone cuts you off in traffic – they take the upper right hand corner of the paper with them. A person makes an unkind remark and they take a piece of the paper as well. A relative or close friend says something that truly hurts you to the core and they might as well have ripped your piece of paper in half. By the end of the day you may be lucky to have even a tiny piece of paper left for yourself.
This analogy of how we treat others and the effect it can have on them is something that I’ve thought of for years. Paper is the perfect symbol of a person’s feelings and self-esteem. It’s vulnerable. It can easily be crumpled, ripped, or trampled on. I even use this in everyday conversation with my husband. We’ll be discussing something and if it starts going in the wrong direction I’ll say, “Please don’t rip my paper.” He immediately gets it and backs off.
The thing is we have no idea what a person can handle in any given moment. The words that you say may seem benign, but can hang with a person if the energy behind them was insincere or catty.
I’ve had plenty of paper ripping happen to me in the hot room when I was a yoga student and would hate for my students to have that experience with me. There was the time I had a teacher have me demonstrate Triangle Pose to show everyone exactly what not to do. Or the time I had a teacher tell me that I would never touch my head to my feet in Final Stretching because my legs were just too long. (She may have been right, but my reply to her was, “That may be so, but I’ll die trying.”)
What these teachers didn’t understand was that though it was their job to push me a little I had enough going on outside of the room – auditions in which they would assess your looks, voice, dance abilities, overall talent, as well as, performances where a critic prints in paper or online every flaw of your take on a particular character. I didn’t really need to be picked apart in the hot room as well.
As a yoga teacher I feel as if it’s my job to offer my students some tape in order to put their piece of paper back together, not add to situations that make a person feel less than good enough. I do push and correct, but it’s only because I see the potential of a student’s posture, or their practice, improving. I know they have come to heal – their bodies, their minds, or emotional state. And the teacher must hold the vision of the student as healed in order for the student to meet that reality.
But it’s the job of the yoga to make a person’s self-esteem rise to a new place in which a “paper ripping” situation that may cross their path has no affect on them at all. If you practice long enough you become bulletproof to the words and opinions of others and claim your life in a new way.
So, choose your words mindfully, assess their true intent and speak with kindness always. Don’t rip another’s paper and try and not let someone rip yours.
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