Category Archives: Tolerance

Day 17: The Fountain of Youth

This morning I had to go to a meeting at Little Man’s school and afterwards spent some time catching up with my co-teacher (since we haven’t been traveling much lately we never see each other).  As we were leaving each other, there was an elderly lady with a boot on her foot and a cane about to cross the street.  She asked me if I would help her cross and I said yes.  As she held my hand and we slowly crossed, I found out she was going to a doctor’s appointment on the next avenue, so I offered to take her the rest of the way.  She thanked me and mentioned how difficult it was crossing the street and that if it was more windy, she would be afraid she would get knocked over.  In that time I learned that she used to love ballroom dancing and was also a fashion designer but, as she described it, now she “can barely move.”

When we finally reached her destination,  I watched her shuffle into the building and my heart ached, both for her and the whole event of aging.  I immediately thought, “this is why I do yoga.”  Because I don’t want to be relying on canes and other people to get across the street.  Ever.  Yes, that sounds incredibly stubborn, but I think being stubborn in regards to health and wellness is a good thing.  And while I do have good genes on my side (you may remember when I talked about my grandparents here….they’re 95 now), there’s no guarantee that they will prevent my muscles from stiffening up and wasting away on me.  I have plans to be a pretty kick ass (pardon my French) old lady and canes and arthritis are only going to get in my way.  So, yoga it is.

This is my plan for 83.

This is my plan for 83.

In that vein, when I got home I decided to address the thing that has been bothering me since August…my neck (August also happens to be when I turned 30…hmm…).  I’m still not sure what caused the wonkiness (that’s a word, right?), although I’m sure there is a connection to the crazy heavy bags that I carry my life around in as I trek around the city every day.  At any rate, I turned once again to the wonderful Yoga Today to see what they could do for me, and I found Sarah Kline’s class, Relieving Neck and Shoulder Tension.  Perfect, I thought.  And it was.  Sarah created a restorative class filled with tons of neck and shoulder opening stretches, including my favorite, threading the needle (if you’ve never done it, you should try it right now).  Within the first 20 minutes, my neck and shoulders were feeling more open and free.  I will definitely be adding this one to the queue.  I imagine I’ll have to keep coming back to it if I’m going to be doing peacock pose when I’m 83 (in pearls :)).

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Filed under Goals, Non-Judgement, Tolerance, Yoga

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

This weekend I visited my 94-year-old grandparents (but you didn’t hear their age from me).  They are both amazing–still living in the house my mother grew up in, my grandmother cooks and cleans (lugging a vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs) and my grandfather takes walks and swims after a quadruple bypass 8 years ago.  Both still drive, both have amazing memories of names of people, places and events from over seventy years ago.  And both grew up in a time very different from today–at least in terms of social norms.

Those are some good-looking 94-year-olds.

So, needless to say, I was taken by surprise when during the visit, my grandfather asked me how I felt about gay marriage.  Anyone who’s met Harry knows he’s made some comments that only a 90+ year old could get away with these days, so what was even more surprising about his question was that he was genuinely interested in what I thought.  He wasn’t bringing it up to start an argument, but seemingly to get a new perspective in order to see all sides.

I told him what I thought–that any couple who loves each other and is committed each other should be able to get married, no matter their gender.  When he asked, “But what about the children being raised by gay parents?” I responded that, in my opinion, a home with two loving parents is better than one where the parents are constantly fighting and creating a toxic environment–regardless of gender.  Not to mention the numerous financial and legal benefits that come with marriage that many same-sex couples haven’t had access to.

I heard his side too:  That it was something he was never exposed to (that he was aware of) for most of his life, so it certainly wasn’t part of his social norms.  Furthermore, he worried about the children of homosexual couples and if they would be affected (having had a difficult upbringing himself, he is always worried about children in any situation).  For the most part, he told me with a thoughtful expression that he “just couldn’t wrap his brain around it.”

In the end, I’m pretty sure I didn’t change my grandfather’s mind on the issue, but that wasn’t my goal, nor was it what I took from our conversation.  Rather, it was really refreshing to have a civil conversation about this controversial issue.  In a time where people post their opinions on issues and current events in social media (such as…what I am doing in this blog…) the art of lively, face to face conversation, the exchange of opinions, and debate has become a rarity.  Instead, it is replaced by “likes,” retweets, and short comments that may or may not support the posted opinion.  In this forum, you don’t really have to listen, tone can be misinterpreted, judgements made, and debates can escalate to arguments or end abruptly in silence.

In yoga, we practice non-judgement: of ourselves, our yoga practice, and others.  Of course, the key word there is practice, and that effort can make a huge difference in our outlook on ourselves, others, and the world as a whole.  When it comes to issues like gay marriage, those who disagree with it can lose sight of the fact that the decisions surrounding it affect real, live people.  If those on the opposing side of an issue really stopped to see the full picture, and even ask questions like my grandfather, they may just find that the people they are judging are not so different from them.  Take Ellen Degeneres, for example.  This week on her show, Ellen responded to critics of her JC Penny partnership (who are against it simply because she is gay) by saying, “I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for.”  That sure sounds like someone I would want representing my company, doesn’t it?

This week brought great news to gay marriage supporters in California and Washington, with Prop 8 being ruled unconstitutional and the gay marriage bill being passed, respectively.  As support continues to grow, I hope that more conversations happen, whether face to face or via media, which foster genuine interest  in differing perspectives and debate without judgement.  Total agreement on every issue is not what our country needs; practicing those traditional values that Ellen talked about–equality, kindness and the Golden Rule–is what will truly bring people together.  My relationship with my grandfather is proof of that.

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Filed under Dharma, Non-Judgement, Tolerance, Yoga