Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Subtleties of the Bigger Picture

Yoga teaches us to trust our intuition. Some days it is a really good idea to go to a vinyasa class and move. Some days it is a really good idea to relax into a calming, restorative class. But every day is going to be different, no matter who you are. One of the only parts of each of us that is the same is that we change on a daily basis.

And yoga not only allows this, but it encourages these differences. It encourages us to look at our subtleties and understand them more fully. We can move into our bodies each and every day and understand its needs that day. We can use different modalities to calm our minds and calm our nerves every minute. We live in an age where there are thousands of modalities, and we just need to find the one that works for us.

The “real” world, however, still has not quite caught on. Law schools still seem to think the right answer for every student is a law firm life, the bigger the better (and yes, I know not all schools do this, but the underlying culture still does). Professionals specialize more and more such that simple answers outside their specialty evade their understanding. We live in a world where we try to make every situation the same because then it fits a pattern that is familiar to us.

When I was studying in New Zealand, there had recently been a change in New Zealand requiring lawyers who represented children to actually see their child clients in person. Prior to that, many lawyers just assumed all children were the same, so they did not actually have to meet their particular client in this case. And that was in family law, where seeing the child with each of the parents and more fully understanding that child’s relationship with each child was even more important.

I do not mention this to say these lawyers did not care. They simply did not think through the fact that every single person is unique and has individual qualities. When I went to see a surgeon, he really only looked at my MRI. The physical therapist and another doctor said, “I want to see you before I look at the images.” When we get into too much specialization, we lose subtleties of each and every person.

And this does not only affect the professional world. It affects our everyday lives. If we stop expecting people and situations to be different, we start making assumptions about how certain situations are going to happen. And with that, we have the potential to stop trusting ourselves in the moment of those situations. But yoga helps us tap back into that intuition in the moment. It helps us see that each and every day our body and mind are different.

For example, we learn to tap into the subtleties that make up our every day lives. We learn to find new meaning in what we might have otherwise thought would be a mundane situation. This is really the next step in gratitude. Not only can we be grateful for what we have, but we can start to see how nothing is really as it seems, and our lives are richer and more interesting than we might otherwise imagine.  But first, we have to learn to look. We have to learn to step outside of our focused vision and see the bigger picture. But in order to see that bigger picture, we have to learn to notice the small differences in each and every person, encounter, and situation.

I guess the big question is, “so what?” My 8th grade English teacher used to ask us that on our writing assignments. Why am I mentioning this? How does this affect our daily lives? Some people believe that one of the underlying reasons for unhappiness in our world is when people believe they are not fully seen for who they are. If we believe that everyone of a certain characteristic (whether race, occupation, age, etc.) is the same, we fail to see the person before us. It is not easy to do. It is much easier to put everyone in a box and go from there. It takes less mental effort . . . on the surface.

But in the long term, what takes less mental effort is not keeping people in those boxes, whatever they are, but allowing yourself to fully experience life. Just like we do not usually need the fight or flight response in our daily lives, though it is great when we do, we do not need to box people into categories anymore. We live in a different world than we did 10,000 years ago when there were reasons not to trust anyone but our clan.  Now our world will be better served by tuning into the subtle differences of each and every person and situation. For me, I have found the ability to start doing that through yoga.

Do you find yourself caught up in assumptions? How do you get out of that mindset? How do you see each person as an individual?


© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.


  1. I really needed this today and for some of what is going on in my life right now. Thank you for doing this!!! love you. miss you.