Monday, 27 April 2015

Days Twenty and Twenty One

Rule 20
“We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is an amount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.”

Someone page the ghairat brigade right now!

I've been waiting for this rule since I started this exercise. If there was one rule I wish I could bash into the heads of most people, it would have to be this one. Especially those ultra opinionated people who feel it's alright to shove their beliefs down your throat. 

I've had to hear so many times in my life that I should not be left-handed, it's wrong. It's the "bad hand". Seriously? In my youth, I used to feel hurt. Now, I just smile to myself because I don't even think it's worth saying anything. In my head I might say, "God made both hands. He made me left-handed. What's it to you?" To me, it reduces faith to an insultingly petty level and I'm not interested in engaging. 

We are judgmental creatures, but I don't think it's innate. It's learned. Look at a child and observe the world through his / her eyes. They don't judge, they don't know how to. They can understand right from wrong, they can spot differences, injustice jumps out at them immediately... but judging others is a conditioned response. They pick up on our comments about others, our attitudes, and so begins a life-long journey of sizing others up. 

Not being judgmental is possibly one of the hardest things for us human beings, since we are always bound to have an opinion that's colored by how we perceive and how we have been raised. 

I'm ashamed to admit that I've totally been that jerk who sat in public places, saw other people's rowdy crazy kids with parents looking like zombies, and thought, "ugh, I'll never be that person". HA! Boy have I eaten humble pie since, most recently this afternoon when my younger one decided to throw a full-on screaming tantrum in the grocery store (she wanted to go home). 

*Momentary fantasy: I plop her down on her feet, walk away and pretend not to know her.*

Just kidding. 

*Reality: Distracted her with the promise that she can choose a pink towel for swimming lessons.* 

If there's one thing I have learned through having children, it's not to mock other parents. I find it surprising when I see the number of judgmental parents still around, are they getting through this without eating humble pie, seriously? Meanwhile, my working mom friends constantly feel guilt-tripped, my stay-at-home mom friends constantly feel like they have to prove themselves... Society has told us we "can have it all". Bollocks, it's all bollocks. I've been on both sides of the fence, and both have their ups and downs. I miss work and my team, but I don't miss the late hours, stress and working Saturdays (is it a 30's thing to yearn to do your own thing and not be tied down to a job?). Trying to have it all would either lead me to an anxiety disorder or stress eating. Lots and lots of stress eating. Life is hard, we don't need to be making it harder by passing judgments on each other, and yet, there we are, fuelling the countless fires and battles between parenting styles and philosophies, or knocking someone else's love life, work or lifestyle without knowing the first thing about their reality, challenges and problems. 

Sounds a lot like religion, doesn't it? It can go either way: you either realize you know jack and hope and pray you're doing the right thing, or you become a pompous jackass. The choice is yours. 

Rule 21
“When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearance. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed instead opens a third eye – the eye that sees the inner realm.”

Why is Shams such a wonderful character? He judges no one. He talks to the drunkard, the harlot... the outcasts, basically, and after every encounter they feel a little stronger, a little better. When he meets people who think too highly of themselves, he doesn't miss a chance to take them down a few pegs. Shams sees what's inside a person's heart, not their stature, their power or their looks. 

In an age when we put so much emphasis on "networking", both socially and professionally, we have reduced human interaction to a commodity. How useful is this person to me right now? Are they worth interacting with? It's amazing how many people remember you when you're at the centre of activity (it's also amazing how many people will hate you at that point). When you are out of the limelight, that's when you find out who your true friends are, who really likes you for who you are. We spend our lives trying to avoid the pain of finding that out. 

Shams stripped Rumi of his status, his respectability, because he knew that it was the only way Rumi would truly understand himself and the universe. Free from the shackles of society, free from what others will think of you... imagine that kind of freedom, to be who you truly want to be without any fear. 

This rule is sheer common sense. It's no wonder the New Testament has a very similar quote to this rule: "it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person" (Matthew 15:11). 

We all judge people on appearance. Countless research has been done to gauge how we respond to good looking people, facial symmetry, our primal need to assess the reproductive prowess of the other person. We are wired to respond to these cues, but here's a rule that tells us to open up our "third eye", to see past the physical realm. (My yoga teacher also talks about the third eye, which usually means it's time to put our foreheads on the ground and do something rather painful. All these different faiths, all these links... a shared humanity we tend to ignore.) 

One thing is for sure, the deeper we get into the rules, the more they require us to deconstruct our conditioned responses, and this questioning is tough but a lot of fun. It suddenly opens up a world of possibilities, and I hope you're enjoying that. 

PS - This rule does not mean you have free license to be a slob and throw personal hygiene out the window. You're meant to improve upon yourself, not be gross.