“I am not stubborn, I am just standing up for my rights” said a young woman who came to me for Yoga Therapy classes. I wondered if this was indeed true. The woman had separated from her husband three years ago, and she would not let her son, who is twelve years old, to visit the father freely, nor visit the grandparents, nor let the son have a vacation with the father for even one or two days in a year. She also poisons the son to not visit the home where he was born, as there is now a “new-wife” living with his father.
I asked this woman “Is this indeed standing up for your rights? or is it just some stubbornness coming out of ego and hurt?” She replied, “Of course I am hurt, but I am standing up for my right, as I am the primary guardian for the child. And I don’t want my child in the presence of that woman.”
I asked her what about the father, doesn’t he deserve some time with his son. Especially that you are expecting him to support you and your son through alimony and other forms of support. Her reply was “I allow my son to spend two hours per week. Thats more than enough. And he paying for us is his duty. We don’t have to be nice to him, but he has to, because he is the one who has remarried.”
I suggested to her she should avoid using the child as a weapon. I said that if you use a knife to hurt someone, no doubt the person will be hurt, but there will be blood stains also on the knife. Her reply was curt and simple “I don’t have another weapon against him. He loves his son deeply and that is why he will be hurt deeply if I use him to hurt him. Then he is in my control.”
I quizzed further “But were you not the one, who left him?” Clearly angered by my questions she replied “Thats a different issue. And I don’t want to speak anymore about this topic further. Now fix my neck please. I have so much tension in my neck and shoulders.”
It was clear that she was not ready to listen to my view, that she was acting out of hurt and hatred, rather than out of clarity. So I focused on her neck and shoulder pain, taught her a set of practices.
Although it has been days since she left my office, the interactions I have had with her has not left my mind, and more significantly my heart. I kept wondering whether this is indeed fighting for our rights…or a sheer act of stubbornness.
It was very clear to me that she is not alone. I see this in so many people, including myself. Sometimes our decisions appear very strong and almost clear for us… but are not always based on what is right.
At the same time, standing up for what is right is also essential. Being strongly rooted in clarity is an essential ingredient of Yoga’s teachings. Bhagavad Gita calls it Sthita-prajna. But how can we be sure that its based on clarity and not stupidity? What is the difference between stubbornness and clarity.
Here is where Yoga offers us some insights on how to handle such situations.
In sutra I.33, Patanjali offers us four attitudes that can help us - Friendliness (Maitri), compassion (Karuna), appreciation (Mudita) and non-judgemental behaviour (Upeksa).
Very often you realise see that if decisions are based on Patanjali’s recommendation of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksa, usually we are fighting for the right cause and this can be seen as an appropriate thing to do. This is because when we act from such an attitude, then both parties gain. The one who is acting from such an attitude, as well as the one who is receiving the results/consequences of the action.
However, when they are based on the opposite attributes of Non-friendliness or aversion, indifference, criticism and judgemental behavior, then no one gains. Neither the one who is acting, nor the one who is receiving it. There is only bloodshed one way or the other.
And the hurt mind, and the hurt heart, can hold on to the hurt and create an identity around it, that convinces us to act in such a hurtful and inappropriate manner.
But is this useful? Remember the state of our consciousness is heavily influenced by the destiny of our conscious and unconscious choices.
Perhaps leaning towards Patanjali’s medicines in the form of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksa is a better choice. This is just my two cents. Reflect about it, and make your own choice. Shape your own karma.