Thursday, March 19, 2015

How To Make Me Cry

by Giselle Renarde

If you've ever done Wai Lana yoga at 5 in the morning, you'll know she plays yoga sounds at the end of each episode. Every so often, she plays one that is, as far as I can tell, a variation of this verse from the Siksastaka (a Hindu prayer):

One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind,
thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street;
one should be more tolerant than a tree,
devoid of all sense of false prestige,
and ready to offer all respect to others.

The variation goes something like this (I'm working from memory, here):

One should approach yoga in a humble state,
thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street,
devoid of all false prestige,
and ready to offer all respect to others,
without ever expecting any in return.

Every time I hear those words, they just fucking BREAK me. Strangely enough, a later verse of the Siksastaka says,

Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain,
and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.

That's exactly what happens every time I hear that instruction in humility.

And why?

Well, maybe the fact that it's 5:30 in the morning and I haven't slept has something to do with it, but I think it's more about PRIDE.

I aspire to compassion and humility, but those aren't really qualities that are bred into us in North America. Even here in Canada, where we happen to be particularly self-effacing, we're still raised to be proud and strong and to command respect. And if commanding doesn't work, you DEMAND it.

Having grown up in a household plagued by violence and addiction, I always felt like I had to work SO HARD to advocate on my own behalf, and PROVE MYSELF in a world that might otherwise write me off. I had to show my teachers how SMART I was, how GOOD I was, how I could SUCCEED despite every impediment I'd faced. I had to prove I deserved respect.

I've come a long way since then. I'm educated now. I'm self-sufficient, I have a career that I love, and I spent ten years of my life volunteering with children who faced the same obstacles I did at that age. I don't know if I'm respected by all (in fact, I'm sure I'm not), but I do respect myself. Maybe that's the key.

Even so, all it takes to break me down into a sobbing heap is the suggestion that I might give up even an ounce of my stupid pride. It doesn't take much to get my hackles up. It doesn't take much to get me feeling superior to others. Gee, it's tiring being so much better than everyone else...

I'm a pendulum swinging from helpful good intentions to steely self-righteousness when I feel like people are taking advantage. 

I don't want to feel challenged or threatened. I don't want to be angered. When I encounter someone with a dominating or demeaning personality, I only want to feel compassion for them. I want to show respect for their journey, and understand that they didn't arrive where they are in a vacuum.

How do I get from here to there? How do I get to a place where I can just abandon every drop of my pride?

I want to be lower than straw in the street.

But, man, it's not easy...

My latest release is Sapphic Confessions


  1. You ask-
    How do I get from here to there? How do I get to a place where I can just abandon every drop of my pride?

    I don't think dropping all aspects of pride is such a good idea. Be proud of your personal accomplishments. That's important to our sense of satisfaction with the way we run our lives. The rest (race, country, religion, society in which you were born) is hubris. Unless you have something to be proud of bringing about, you're hanging on someone else's ideas and consequently riding on the coattails of their status.

  2. I guess self respect could be thought of as pride, but you don't hear people telling you to have no self respect (or if they do, they're clearly losers themselves.) Maybe pride has more to do with comparing oneself to other people, while self respect is internal. I understand the metaphorical intent of trying to feel lower than the straw in the street, but the role the straw serves is not the one you serve, and no two people can be measured against each other in every way. I was going to say that we should measure ourselves by how we live up to our own goals, but we tend to be our own harshest critics, so I'll just wander away muttering with no actual insights to share.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. A very smart man once told me: "Don't judge people by *your* standards. If you must judge others, judge them by *their* own standards and whether or not they remain true to them.

  3. Sacchi, I think you've approached an insight. :) Giselle, I'm not sure that feeling as low as straw in the street would be helpful anywhere in North America. Feeling unselfconscious (like straw) might feel freeing. I'm thinking the Hindu prayer might have made more sense in its original language and its original culture. Maybe the goal is to shed the ego, a socially-determined sense of self. Having no "pride" in that sense might involve shedding the sense of unworthiness that unworthy people have tried to impose on you.

  4. Hi, Giselle,

    Love your new cover!

    I don't think that pride meaning "respect for yourself and your accomplishments" is the opposite of the humility and compassion advocated by the yoga prayer. The opposite of that humility is arrogance (which can also be labeled as "pride"), meaning the belief that you are *fundamentally* better or more worthy than others.

    The individuals who show the deepest compassion (e.g. the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa) are those who are sure of their own value in the universe. They love themselves. They're grateful for their abilities and accomplishments and try to use them for the benefit of others. They don't deny that they are special, but treat others as equally special, each soul a spark of the Eternal.

    Remember the Golden Rule tells us to love others as we love ourselves.

  5. Everyone here is so wise! I love the way Daddy, Jean, Sacchi, and Lisabet have answered you. So often when I read your posts, I just want to give you a long distance hug. So please consider yourself hugged if you're willing to be. I've struggled a lot with these fine points of morality and that elusive line between self-respect and pride, and the need to combine an awareness of imperfection with a spirit of forgiveness toward my self and others. They're not easy things to distinguish, but to me your spirit just seems so beautiful.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.