Monday, January 24, 2011

Looking "Right"

Everything here is backwards. I am in the Southern Hemisphere, people drive on the "wrong" side of the road, and the sun rises over the Pacific. So, what does this have to do with yoga and the law?

Patterns! In Sanskrit, the word is Samskara. One site defines samskara as “the deep impressions of habit.”

Patterns, or deep impressions of habit, define our actions every day without our realizing that it is happening. The first day I was here in New Zealand, a very kind woman was driving me around the city to introduce me to it and help me run a few errands. I kept trying to get into the driver’s seat because the cars are backwards. As much as I tried to think “Look right” before crossing the street, at least once, she had to pull me back before a car came. (Luckily the car was far enough away that even if I had stepped in the street, I would not have been hit, but she noticed I looked the wrong direction.)

Yesterday, I took a walking tour of Dunedin, and before we crossed each street, I said, “look right,” and the guide told me that being a pedestrian is the hardest part. She said that when she was in the States, driving was okay, she learned, but she never quite got the hang of being a pedestrian and having to look the other way or walk on the other side of the sidewalk (that one, by the way, is the hardest for me right now).

How many of you have driven somewhere and not known how you got there? What about those times when you know you have to go a different route and just miss it because you follow your more common path? These patterns run deep, and we do not even realize it. Do you even realize that you always walk on one side of the street?

As lawyers, getting stuck in these patterns can harm not only ourselves, but our clients as well. The law is constantly changing, and there are always new arguments to make, new ways of viewing facts that all-too-often seem to be similar between cases. As a family law attorney, I see the “same” facts over and over again, but to the parties involved, their facts are unique. Legally, they may not be - there may be only a finite number of family law issues - but personally, the facts in a particular family are facts unique to that particular family. If a lawyer ignores this fact, he or she can miss that which might help his or her client.

Noticing our patterns is the first step, and Yoga is an ideal tool for noticing. We may notice that our right side is always tighter or that we always raise our left shoulder higher to our ear in postures. Through meditation, we notice the same thoughts coming up and running through the screen in our mind.

From noticing in yoga, we can recognize how our perceptions of the world are based on our deep patterns and habits. We begin to believe that our way is right, but it is simply our way. It is just the way we have always done it. Another person’s way of seeing a situation is equally valid to our own. Truth is based on perception, and perception is based upon the filter of our past.

This is difficult to acknowledge. It is much easier to think that our way is right - always. After all, unless we train ourselves, it is difficult to see from a different perspective. It is difficult to understand what it means to see the world upside down. We like to think we are “right,” but in reality, learning to look right before crossing the street changes all that. We start to see that there is less right and wrong and more perception.

In the next post, I will comment on how yoga can literally help us overcome these samskaras and the tiny steps you can take that might help you begin to understand a different perspective and possibly even save your life when you remember to look right instead of left when you cross the street.

Until then, ponder this - the sun rising over the Pacific. Does it look “right?”

Namaste and Blessings!

© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved


  1. Hmmm, if you tell me that's the Pacific Ocean, I'll assume I'm watching a sunset...(I live in the US)

    Sometimes I drive a different route just to give my brain a chance to be surprised by a new sight.

    And, our cousin John Mack (Irv Stahl's (ex-)brother-in-law) died in London by looking the wrong way as he went to cross the street. When I was in England, it took me about 3 months to finally get it right -- only to return to the States and be looking the wrong way again...

  2. Beautiful sunrise and blog! It's great you have the opportunity to adjust to a new world. This reminds me of Victor Frankl's quote, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."

  3. That is a beautiful quote. Thanks, Marissa!