Friday, June 10, 2016

Beyond Comparison

We think in focused contrast. Vedanta, the yogic philosophy, argues that we are only able to have one thought in mind at a time. The issue is that we hop around. Worry becomes a spin cycle of concerns. The main concern is the contrast. What the thought is, and what we wish it was. How the world is, and how we wish it was. Spin. Chew. Spin. Chew. Spin. As humans, our thoughts are limited by our biology. Our senses. Our surroundings. Our understanding. The way we piece together the information we have received. The conversations we have had in order to put that information together. The emotions on which the information sits.

The way we have seen the world determines the way we see the world.

The whole method of yoga is 'chitta vritti nirodhah'. The stilling of these thought impulses. Thought fluctuations. Wobbles. Waves. Between expectations and our observed reality. Worry, dreams, desires and goals can be strong motivators. A little dissatisfaction keeping us moving. 

These all work rather well while we are getting to the point of 'enough'. While we are on a path that has a fixed end point. Getting a roof over our heads. Food in our bellies. A place to clean our bodies. A sense of safety. This dissatisfaction becomes an obstacle once we get beyond what we need. Then comparison fails us. Then the impulse that says - hungry, cold, scared - becomes a negative. The impulses become holes.

Enough is far less than we think it is. Not in a 'holier than thou' way that people should be self-sacrificial heroes. I don't believe in heroes. I believe in examples. I believe in relationships. One of the key tricks to stopping those mind-wobbles is stopping those comparisons when they are heroes rather than examples. Relative thinking is very human. We can train ourselves out of it in the same way as we can train our muscles to get stronger and faster. Where our muscles become tools we control, rather than them controlling us. A key to that mental fitness is gaining a strong sense of comfort in what enough is. What enough looks like. What it feels like. 

We are very resilient. We can cope with a lot. We can handle suffering and get back up. The extra should be a bonus we celebrate. Strengthening that resilience doesn't come from reaching up, it comes from looking inside. From learning about others. Not from stories of outliers to aspire to, but stories of real people doing real things. Talking to each other. Seeing each other. Walking with each other.

Comparison is often very focused. We don't look at someone's entire life. We look at their job, their skill, their art, or something where they edge ahead of us. I have often benchmarked myself against people. A friend who runs about the same speed. One who gets similar marks in a subject. A buddy at the same age. A colleague in a similar role. That then becomes a measure of whether I have 'done well'. This is dangerous, because in the lost perspective of all the things you aren't comparing, you lose the things that are most important. 

There are lots of things that can't be compared, but can be lost. Relationships. Stories. Meaning. These all exist beyond the measurable. Beyond the measurable is the stuff that really matters. Beyond Comparison.

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