Yesterday while watching one of my favorite news shows and folding laundry I saw an ad that really struck me. It showed a person with big holes through her body, and then after making use of the product they wanted to sell her the holes were filled in and she was happy and healthy. That is it in a nutshell isn't it? All of us have holes: insecurities and emotional wounds.... some on the surface, some buried deep, some scarred over but still likely to open, and some healed. A lot of advertising involves being very good at finding and exploiting those holes, or even punching out new ones where they did not exist before. If someone wants to sell me hair dye it will be a lot more productive to remind me that I am in my 50s and older people are worth less, less desirable. If a person is already aware that society tells them over and over just that lesson such an ad will underscore that feeling of inadaquecy …. making it so much more likely that they will feel the pull to go buy the product to be like the young looking happy person in the ad. It is really hard to meet that kind of pull with the response: yes I am 50, no I do not mind grey hair, I am valuable as I am, maybe I will color my hair sometime, but it will be because I like to explore style, and not because I am hiding who I am, or devaluing it, or runin from the natural process of aging. And anyway, I could take that money and give it to the animal shelter to help feed abandoned animals, or give it to the Village Bank program to help some poor woman in Guatamala who has so little that if she gets pregnant her teeth start to fall out because her nutritional status is so poor, and I maybe developing my kindness is going to do more for my 'attractiveness' than putting dye on my hair.
Well, that is a bit of a rant. I do not really object deeply to hair dye or makeup, or fashion. I actually think those sort of things can look really cool. I do object to being asked to feel insecure or less, and that if I give someone money for something I will then be good.
This kind of marketing can exist with anything. People who work in fitness or health sometimes cross the line. Like the yoga teacher who promises if you follow their and only their program you will be not only strong and beautiful, but spiritually enlightened. Or the trainer who promises the 'perfect' body. The thing is exercise, and yoga, are really good for one. They do bring real health and happiness benefits. But is it ok to get someone to buy a class, or membership, or training by poking open one of those wounds. Sometimes the motivation is not just 'I have to keep up my sales numbers for new members this week', but genuinely 'If I can get this person who can barely climb stairs to come in she will really have so much new joy in herself”. I think about this sometimes. I really believe in and have experienced the benefits of this work. I love to share it, but I want to do so in a way that is respectful, and caring. In a perfect world I would not need to sell what I do, but could just share it. Well, maybe. That is a whole different conversation and conundrum.
The other problem is from the point of view of the consumer/student/client. If I go to wash the dishes and while I am filling the sink I do not put in the stopper the sink will never fill. If the reason one eats the tub of ice cream has to do with hunger that is not in the stomach, it will never be enough. And that is true about what we eat, or practice, or chant. We need to find and plug the leaks before we can replenish ourselves.
It seems to me the first step is to find where the holes are, to recognize one's own frailties and wounds, the second step is to work on healing them, and the third is to allow your focus to move away from them. (On my Facebook page I have the quote from the Buddha “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” There are plenty of venues for this work. Some people use therapy, or group therapy. Some use support groups. Some have a good friend with whom one can have long, deep, conversations in a place of trust and love. Some come to the yoga mat. Some run. Running can be running to or running away, but of course ANY of these places can be a place to which we bring the role we are playing rather than the self we are. There are plenty of people in yoga who play a role of very loving connected self, without being willing to look into their own eyes. And this journey takes a long time. Building trust with the self, and with a mentor/teacher/physician is not an overnight journey.
And there is another turn of the screw. For if the journey only is about knowing, caring about, and acting to improve the self it will not be enough. Being completely immersed in one's own physique, or one's own spiritual journey can be narcissistic and empty. Physical health and strength and spiritual health and strength need to radiate out and actually see and care about others. We cannot allow the social part of our being to atrophy at the expense of the other parts.
I am a fitness professional. More than that I am a teacher of yoga. People pay me to teach them exercise and yoga. I believe I am pretty good at what I do. And I believe in its efficacy. But heaven knows I cannot magically make anyone whole or healed, or 'perfect'. I have plenty of holes myself, and my own journey. What I try to offer is to promote an atmosphere where there is no judgement, but kindness. Where our essential interconnectedness is cherished. Where each person can feel safe to work toward openness, health, strength, or whatever they need. I speak my mantra to close most of my classes: I seek to understand, to care, and to act. And always I hope we can try to begin this work from the heart.
“Asking yourself Questions Instead of Questioning Oneself is being a Masterful Student and creating powerful Transformation. Inspiring Others to Ask Themselves Questions Rather Than Qeuesioning Themselves, is being a Masterful Teacher and Facilitating Powerful Transformation.”
Pair O' Dime Shift 7; Sword, Shield, or a Hug?