A while ago I spoke with a renowned yoga teacher, who has thousands of followers on social media. The teacher had returned from leading a retreat and shared with me how among the multitude of positive comments and reviews, all the teacher could remember was the random guy who said that he cannot stand the teacher’s voice. That he hates it. It bothered the teacher and stayed with the teacher coloring what should have been a fantastic experience with a sour tone.
The only way to avoid negative comments or criticism is to hide in a corner and isolate ourselves from the world. We are not living in an isolated lab but in a mixed jungle populated by many humans, each with their own habitual patterns and story lines. Just by being out in the world and exposed we will eventually press somebody’s buttons and cause them to reject us or lash out at us. The source of the harsh reaction has nothing to do with us, but rather the person is lashing out because of their own issues.
We each view the world through our own very personal pair of glasses. Each person’s view is shaped by different experiences, personalities, tastes and tendencies. Each person will relate to an identical situation in their own, and in many cases very different, manner. We have no control over other people’s reactions. The same as others don’t have control of our reactions.
Basing our self-worth and joy on the approval of others is a recipe for misery. We will never be able to please everyone. No matter how much effort we put in our actions, no matter how well intended, some people will have a negative reaction to what we offer or do. A President that wins 55% percent of the vote is considered “popular.” A video with tens of millions of “likes” on YouTube will still have millions of “dislikes.”
When a person we encounter is angry or bitter, they may not tolerate our cheerful behavior towards them. No matter how positive our vibes or how much we try to accommodate the person, that interaction will not be pleasant or fruitful. Being straight forward, open and confident when interacting with a person who is hiding and concealing - may shut them down even more. Being out of sync with another person, even for the most benign reason, can be enough to drive a deep wedge that is hard if not impossible to overcome.
Depending on the opinions of others to determine our self-worth is equivalent to surrendering our free will, the ability to choose. Our power of choice is a gift we carry everywhere. Even at the darkest times of history, even the cruelest of villains could not delete the free will, aspirations and free will of their victims.
In meditation, we learn how to become friends with ourselves, unconditionally. We learn to be gentle and kind to ourselves, accepting ourselves as we are. We cultivate honesty, having a transparent gaze at who we are and what we do. Carrying that ability to be honest with ourselves off the meditation cushion can help us discern what are the true motivations and reasons for our actions. That clarity, self-honesty, takes courage but puts us in a neutral place of awareness. The neutral place helps us take an objective and honest view of all our interactions. It keeps a boundary that enables us to place our attention on our part in the interaction and to learn. Sticking to our integrity and path, we find the strength to continue with our own poem, with our own sounds of the soul.