ASK ABDI: HOW DO I ENGAGE WITH PEOPLE WHO DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE?
QUESTION: I teach yoga with deep grounding/breathing/meditation. I have some concerns I can’t get clear on. I had to give up teaching yoga for a while because what I was seeing in the classrooms disgusted me. Friends of mine, who are yoga teachers, were upsetting me with what they were saying and believing in. I mean it was all just bullshit-spewing with those typical cliché yoga terms.
I’ve tried in many ways to explain my path to so many. With kindness and respect, to help. Students, friends, family. I barely get through to them. I refuse to be a puppet or act like a fool in the name of a practice I feel is only one aspect of the whole. What blows me away is that these teachers don’t see it! As a result, I am struggling with my business. I do not want to call myself a yoga teacher. I have had severe falling-outs with three very close friends, back to back. They ask for help over and over and over again, and not once do they take any advice. I am talking years with their shit. As a result, I’m the one who comes off harsh, righteous. I know it’s all a learning lesson, which I am grateful for. I have changed, and I believe for the better, in my soul. I feel this way. I don’t expect from people the way I used to.
Do you have any advice for me on: how to engage better with family/friends who don’t want to change, when you can feel what they are going through? They want it, but they don’t do it. And how do I integrate back into my business and engage with colleagues? Lastly, how do I get better at shifting from being a teacher to just being human with friends and people that are not perfect, because I know I am not.
I am confused and frustrated with all of this. It’s bothersome. I don’t know if it’s my ego talking, I feel bad that I’ve lost some friends, I can’t just quit teaching, it’s in me to help people and when I am not teaching it hurts, I feel lost.
ANSWER: You are throwing in several issues together here, but they are interrelated. Let’s take them one at a time. Before answering your actual questions, let’s address the issue of pseudo-spirituality and ego aggrandizement under the guise of actual spiritual work. Your case in point of unconscious teachers and teachings. Yes, it can be ugly and frustrating to observe. Comedic, if it was not so painful or harmful. But remember that we all have our parts to play in this life, at different stages. Evolution works that way: we go from being unconscious to being semi-conscious to full consciousness. The reason we serve and consume ego candy disguised as spiritual medicine is because we are in pain and afraid. We will dance on the surface because we are not ready or willing to go deeper. That is a personal choice until the pain becomes unbearable. We do not have to like that behavior, but we do have to love the people who are suffering through it. This does not mean that we need to like nor be around them. Move on.
This connects to your other questions, which are all related. Keep the focus on you. Why are you still spending energy with people that are addicted to their pain? For them, there can be both negative pleasure from suffering at play as well as a fear of going deeper. Why are you engaged in the dance of people who over and over repeat this pattern? What are you getting out of it? Is it a sense of obligation? The pleasure of being needed? An unexamined comfort with feeling victimized? A sense of superiority of getting it, while others don’t? A messiah complex? Check yourself and feel what is at play here for you. Being engaged in people’s negative energy can be a way of pushing away our own fear of going deeper.
You say, “they want it, but they don’t do it”. If people don’t do it, they don’t want it. Our culture is awash in that behavior. It can come under the guise of a spiritual or shamanic practice, working with a therapist or healing modality, etc. We put the time and mind in, and confuse that with actually putting the heart in. Hence, there is no change. This, in many ways, is worse than doing nothing, because we fortify the illusion that we are doing the work. We love our pain, until we do not. No one can help us but us. So if you choose to be around people who are firmly connected to being unconscious, take responsibility. If you are getting triggered, you are responding to your own unresolved issues that need healing and are being projected onto others. What part of you is doing the same thing by not practicing what you preach? How are you using your energy in places that are wasteful as a way of not doing your own work?
This holds true for your second question. You integrate into your business of being a teacher by holding all of your own imperfections in plain sight. We do not preach nor hold anyone below or above us. We are all the same with different levels of awareness. We do not berate a two-year-old for not being a 50-year-old. The two-year-old will get there in due time. If you find yourself being frustrated or angry, pull back and examine what in yourself is being triggered. Again, if you find yourself too worked up over someone’s issues, look inside for the culprit that is being reactive.
As soon as love and calmness leaves our heart, we are not useful to another. And by love, I do not mean the idiot compassion of holding a fake smile on our face while mindlessly preaching nonsensical BS. I mean Love, which holds on to the inherent perfection of all that is. While holding the paradox that there is work to be done to stabilize our consciousness, a truth which is not obvious.
You answered your own last question about how to be a human being instead of a teacher: do not hide under preaching, knowing what is best for others, or other such behavior. We all play for the same team. We need to remember this while holding on to the fact that we ourselves are far from perfect. The more we can have compassion on that aspect of ourselves, the more we can be trusted with matters of this world as well as the welfare of our fellow teammates. Sit with your last line about how not teaching hurts and you feeling lost without it. Putting our center and sanity outside of ourselves in any thing or person is dangerous business.