I once learned an unrelated lesson in my life. This scenario was only a catalyst for me to see that a simple act of doing nothing could have an impact on the surrounding people. Little did I know that this realization became the driving force for an intense self realization in my life.
I met someone once who did absolutely as little as they possibly could. I don’t think I had encountered such an advanced level of doing NOTHING before. Of course they did something, they woke up, they bathe, they ate and drank, they went to work, they participated in activities, but where they did NOTHING was where something was needed, something that would benefit the simplest comfort for all involved. I am by nature a person of wonder and curiosity and one of my favorite pass-times is to go to the airport and just watch the magnificence of people, life and relationships. So I had to sit with this phenomena, with no judgement and simply observe to see how this unfolded on a regular basis. What I observed overtime was the person in their usual state of bliss and happiness surrounded by the irritated, frustrated group of individuals picking up the pieces and cleaning up behind the them. I equated this once to a drive over the bridge behind a recycling truck with many items flying out of its bed. All of us behind the truck were scrambling to avoid the flying debris and avoid hitting each other, while the driver drove on in bliss. All my spiritual warriors are now anxiously waiting to tell me that this has everything to do with ME and my inner anger, annoyance etc. and not the other person, but this is not what this story is about. After I worked through my own feelings and could just view the scenario from a place of awe, I was able to learn valuable lesson. This person was always described as just a simple person, very quiet, no one to worry about, but I noticed that they could affect the entire close circle of people around them with their simple act of inaction. We can do an entire article on not allowing ourselves to be affected by our surroundings, imbibe the power of tolerance, the premise of spirituality, and this is exactly where my personal realization unfolded.
Abuse of any kind in itself is painful. The second painful aspect of abuse of any kind, is the part where we don’t speak about. There is a stabbing of the HEART of the soul that occurs when we recall and relive a painful experience and not give respect to the self by speaking out. The inaction is not simply laziness or weakness. Inaction is often due to a fear of retribution via abuse of authority and power. Especially as a child, the authority of the teacher, principal, police, parents, stepparents, family etc. has an impact on the shaping of your life. Evaluating the situation through the glasses of an adult, it may seem obvious and you would take your rightful stand, however as a child, there is not such insight. Confiding and trusting the “wrong’ person, or making a “wrong” move can have a lasting impact on your life and its direction. Imagine sharing with an adult that something terrible has happened at the hands of someone they perhaps admire, respect and love. Even the adult is caught in the web of stepping carefully around other people’s misuse of power and authority. Family is concerned about name and image. Spouses are afraid of losing their partner. Doing NOTHING is often the perceived necessary and only choice.( I am specifically not discussing the spiritual reasons we do not have courage to speak out, as not everyone has stepped onto a spiritual journey)
As a young adult in the workplace there is a fresh drive to prove yourself, become independent, develop a career and make your family proud. These are powerful motivations and intentions that will unfortunately encourage us to accept behaviors, belittling words, gender driven insults for the sake of not facing the wrath of misused power and authority. We and others around us, very well aware of what is taking place will choose to do NOTHING. This powerful doing NOTHING will create room for greater abuse perhaps even on a physical level. The soul injured and disregarded is hurting in silence seeking healing. Religious and spiritual communities will offer “injured” and ‘non-injured” souls a safe community, a place to belong, heal and grow. A spiritual journey is a journey of wonder and discovery. Discipline, tolerance and obedience will be key virtues in growth and development. Tolerance in particular is the one I would like to dissect further.
Tolerance in an amazing ability to endure circumstances while focused on future benefit. When I was in college, I worked 60 hours a week, had a full load in school, and was active in 3 student organizations whilst on 3 to 4 hours of sleep a day. I tolerated my circumstances as I understood the reason and the future benefit from this effort. College and my work also introduced me to a variety of cultures accompanied with their own religious beliefs and schools of thought. One would say I developed tolerance of those, however, I did not have to tolerate, I simply accepted the variety of life and its people. So what really do I need to tolerate? Tolerance power taught me loads of gems on my spiritual journey, it always shifted the problem inwards and I spent years checking and changing my behavioral triggers and accepting and transforming those habits of irritation and anger in me. I constantly moved forward from encounters of verbal, physical, and mental abuse, by looking inward for resolution. This inward journey did luckily increase my spiritual insight, resilience and power. Unfortunately what our understanding of tolerance has created structurally in spirituality and religion combined with the virtue of obedience is a taboo within the leadership and spiritual, religious community where speaking out is considered a failure to tolerate and abide. The last place where one wants to speak out is the community that provided a safe and healing environment. It’s almost a disrespect or sense of ungratefulness. Tolerance again encourages us to view inwardly and outwardly allows us to do NOTHING.
Globally across cultural and religious boundaries, in family circles, corporate circles, religious and spiritual circles there is a significant epidemic of witnessing, experiencing and doing NOTHING. Please understand that I do not live my life by the idea of 100% blame. I am not blaming victims of abuse of any kind for not speaking out and I am not here to place judgement on those who abuse parse either. I am addressing the culture of doing NOTHING that we have created and sustained for far too long that is breaking down the very fabric our communities intended to create. Whenever someone attempts to speak out, we either completely disregard their words or feelings, minimize them, or place an insulting label to insist they shouldn’t feel. Then we throw the big tolerance word at them and encourage them to do just that. One may even find an underground circle of people who all experience the same situation and regularly complain about the injustice, but when asked to perhaps stand beside or stand forward, will succumb to the fear of another’s misuse of authority and power which has silenced all.
What is this power actually, what is this authority that has caused such a massive culture of DOING NOTHING? Paradoxically, this is where the inner journey DOES benefit. Looking inward FIRST in all situations has been the key to my resilience and endurance. You cannot step onto a battle field unaware of the weapons you may or may not carry in your artillery. You must also be cognizant of your weaker flanks as this is where you will fall prey to your challengers. We must look inward before stepping outward in confidence and awareness. I feel deeply that this is the original and pure intention of religions and spiritual schools of thought. Look inwardly holding the hand of the ONE who gives you strength and guidance and then confidently step forward in faith and power, spiritual power. This IS the intentional difference here, spiritual power versus perceived power. Perceived power is the power we as individuals and communities have given to some because of the perception that they have control over our lives and circumstances (in some instances they do and I do not want to minimize those). In the workplace, this is THE ONLY JOB, this is THE ONLY WAY to succeed. In a relationship, this is THE ONLY PERSON and so on. (I am specifically not speaking of children here, because they do not have the choices we do). The power of people’s opinion and their view of us, creates bondage. When a person given authority by us and the community, can approve or disapprove of my goodness or character and can affect my future opportunities or direct them, does something which is so against what we collectively have decided we stand for, we choose to do NOTHING. We must recognize our weak flanks, the ones where we see perceived power as real power. We must realize that as a community, we gave authority and power (perceived power) to individuals who did not have the maturity or character to take on that responsibility. Honestly I do not know even my own ability to carry such power and authority, you only find out when you are in that position. Because our nature is so fragile and power and authority is so tempting to our weak EGOS, we need a strong community build on the values of protection, safety, transparency, transformation and growth to expose and correct at its roots. We can all fall prey to these temptations. The foundation of community, whether family, corporate, society, or globally is to keep us in our spiritual power. When we touch our spiritual power, the power that says that I have a right to exist, I have a right to live, I have a right speak and express and so does everyone else, there is no return. When the opinions of others, their stamp of approval, their ability to give me a career, a promotion, even love becomes so small next to the power I have experienced for myself and the power I experience from whoever you relate to as God, Source, the perceived power of authority dissipates.
Abuse occurs via a variety of methods from a variety of sources, both expected and unexpected. It has degrees of severity, from simple words to physical actions. I have observed over time however, that something is the same across all forms of abuse: It started small. It started as a test of power and how far it could reach. It started with a few surprising words that were just brushed off. It then became insulting words that one was just encouraged to tolerate. It then became manipulative actions to persuade, which were dressed up as “because of my authority”. It then became so normal in your world that you were not even sure what was right or wrong anymore. Abuse occurs via a variety of methods from a variety of sources, both expected and unexpected. It has degrees of severity, from simple words to physical actions. In abuse one thing is common, when it was small and just beginning, we did NOTHING, we brushed it off, we offered words of encouragement to tolerate, we offered spiritual advise, and it continued, it continued to grow stronger and spread to others. Others perhaps less aware, not as wise as you would fall prey to a now greater threat. There IS a cost to doing NOTHING. The act of doing nothing is in fact a HUGE act, also called enabling. Enabling tells an up and coming abuser, perhaps not even aware of their capacity to abuse, that their behavior is okay and will be accepted. A community of people around will observe and say and do NOTHING, which in turns affirms the impending behavior. Abuse occurs via a variety of methods from a variety of sources, both expected and unexpected. It has degrees of severity, from simple words to physical actions. Enabling and sustaining an unsafe environment for others to walk into is a painful realization when you realize it and I did. The #METOO movement of women stepping out of silence and being chastised for it has been a painful scenario to watch. I feel personally responsible for times where I could have made a small difference by saying “Are you seriously going to talk to this person like that” and did not. Times where I could have said “Please don’t send your children with this person” or ” I will not be treated this way anymore nor will I allow others to be in my presence”. How long have I supported the growth of this epidemic? I could almost feel the actual karmic burden of enabling on my soul. I felt the pain of that realization however, my spiritual background guides me to acknowledge, accept, understand, forgive and transform. I am not punishing myself or feeling guilty. I simply did not have the awareness of my spiritual power nor could I rely on the global community to have collectively created such environments where we address issues at the roots or create a protective network to allow abuse to be exposed. I am thankful for people who looked at me in dismay when I slurred an insult and corrected me. I am thankful for those who perhaps noticed me trying to manipulate a situation in my favor and said, “not happening girl.” In relationships we play the game of power with each other all the time, I see this in the cosmic play of life. I am simply concerned about the progression of this play when it lands in the hands of the free reign of misuse of power and authority. I have to turn this experience into a lesson, a lesson for myself and perhaps a caution for others.
I am not one to complain about something and not have given thought to a possible solution in my mind. So I do want to explore ways where I have thought of the process of changing our mindset around power and building a stronger structural organizational foundation for all involved. Abuse in the world is a multi-layered problem and requires a multi-layered resolution and I will address this all separately in another article.
Original Publish Date: February 1st, 2018
The Easy Yogi, Owner/President of mindfulCITY is a personal consulting company specializing in practical spirituality. It’s about using the soul’s innate inner wisdom to navigate daily life — essentially taking the mat to the streets — by combining instruction in meditation and Ayurveda with guidance on how to access and use your own inner compas to navigate your unique path. An early description of Ayurveda given in the Caraka Samhita says: “It is called Ayurveda because it tells us which substances, qualities and actions are life enhancing, and which are not. — Sutrasthana 30.23. The Easy Yogi offers one-on-one consultations, courses, workshops and retreats. The Easy Yogi also hosts MindfulCITY’s signature podcast.