Our competitive nature (part 1)
1 having or displaying a strong desire to be more successful than others
2 as good as or better than others of a comparable nature
1 strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same
I was in a yoga class today and the teacher reminded everyone to only go as deep in the pose as worked for our own body and not based on what others were doing…..to be ‘where we are’ with our own practice. This is a simple reminder and in many ways an obvious one…..but one we often bypass. I thought about the posture I was in and how even in small ways I am striving towards a ‘goal’. Pausing, I asked myself where that goal had come from……meaning was it from my own lived experience/ barometer or from an outside concept served up through comparison.
This all starts to get a little curious because the lines of ‘me’ and the lines of everything else are blurry at times. And in many ways that makes sense because we are in a constant relationship of reciprocal influence. As a society we have a continuous flow of shared ideas, styles, standards and beliefs. We are truly affected by everything that we ‘take in’ on conscious and unconscious levels and have been since our inception.
So, even something as benign as a yoga pose and how I relate to it is affected by so many external concepts of ‘good’ and ‘success’. (I know I have written before about the nature of thought, judgement and the relative nature of success…… and considering the prevalence of these things in our world and how they shape us, I will most likely continue to explore them.)
I often contemplate how I would relate to myself and the world if I was on a deserted island (extreme exercise but helps to show contrast). An island where the influences are radically different. If all I had to go on was my own personal experience, acquired knowledge and intuition. Where would ‘judgement’ be? What would ‘success’ look like? Time and time again my honest answer is it would be a much more gentle and much less critical way of living and ‘being’. A way that is much more based on the inner sensation than an outer comparison.
Now, I am a supporter of growth and striving that comes with moving towards a goal. What a beautiful thing we as humans can envision and ‘achieve’. But it seems with that comes the shadow side of our competitive nature with ourselves and others. And along with that comes the inevitable judgements and fueled sense of opposition.
How can we on a daily basis be curious about our own conditioned patterns of comparison, judgement, criticism and concepts of success? Whether it is in a yoga class, cooking a meal for someone, in our ‘art’ work, in our relationships or even how we spend our ‘free’ time….how do we take responsibility for ourselves? I think it asks us to develop our sense of personal awareness and notice the moments these thoughts or beliefs are influencing our actions and how we feel about ourselves and others. And in those moments of awareness we can pause and perhaps choose something that is less based on competition and more on what truly serves us.
It is absolutely possible to unwind the conditioning. Like anything it takes practice. And once you begin to unwind it you start to see how much of a ‘hold’ it has had on you and how much energy it takes from each of us. Why not try something different from the way we have learned and that which seems to create so much feeling of ‘less than’ or lacking…..so much competition that doesn’t serve us.
Check out part 2 for a simple exercise.
Thanks for reading……