During my daily Salamba Sirsasana (the Sanskrit name for a supported headstand), I began to consider the concept of perception and reality. How turning things topsy-turvy everyday has helped me to view my own world, both inner and outer, in new ways.
Take a quick look at this photo:
What do you see? Some will see a rabbit while others will see a duck. There is no right or wrong here, just a simple example of individual perception.
So, does our world, as we know it both individually and universally actually exist outside of our human perception of it? If we as human beings were not here to experience this world and perhaps even this universe…
Well, we can never truly know the answer to this. (ya know, cuz we’re human!) This is where science and yoga collide in the best of ways!
Below is an excerpt from a 1930’s discussion about the nature of reality between Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore:
Einstein - “There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe — the world as a unity dependent on humanity, and the world as reality independent of the human factor.
Tagore - “The world is a human world — the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending for its reality upon our consciousness.”
Talk about ya "drop the mic" moment!
There are so many stories in “our world” these days regarding human rights. Some of these are about very basic human rights.
What does reality look like for someone just desiring to be treated equally or to feel safe and to be out of harm’s way? What is a hungry person’s reality? What about a poverty-stricken person’s? How is life for a sick or handicapped person who doesn’t have access to proper therapy or support? And so on…
Some of us who have not experienced these types of concerns, may have a very difficult time perceiving of such realities and lives. In our anxiety to make it better we may jump to thinking things like “well they need to get help from an organization” or “people just shouldn’t live in that part of the world” or “sometimes ya gotta pick yourself up and start again” and so on.
The truth (as I perceive it) is that those of us lucky enough not to have these types of severe infringements upon our day-to-day lives experience a different reality.
Even though we may have immense amounts of empathy and sympathy for others, we can never truly know what it is to be in their shoes and to see the world from their perspectives.
So our hearts and minds must continually open and re-open to truly be present in supporting others.
Empathy cannot afford judgment.
I adore this animated illustration of Brené Brown’s take on empathy (click or tap here)! It’s less than 3 minutes long and worth every second of it!
“The truth is… rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.” ~ Brené Brown
Connecting our own mind, body and spirit in order to help better connect with others is an essential and fulfilling aspect of practicing yoga both on and off of the mat.
You can begin your own personal practice by simply sitting for a few moments, listening to your breath and becoming attuned with your thoughts, emotions and physical being.
Practice becoming aware of when you are judging yourself and then how your mind, body and spirit responds to this judgment. Observe and contemplate the information that you receive and eventually you may want to turn it all upside down too!
p.s. Headstand practice is an advanced asana/pose. Please consult a certified, experienced teacher about beginning this practice if you are not familiar with it. There are several options and supported ways to approach headstand. Please work from a place of stability and safety in slow, steady kramas (stages) along your journey to developing any yoga pose more fully.