I always considered myself to be open minded.
I thought I accepted people for who they are, regardless of race, religion or sexual identity.
In reality and deep in my gut, I really believed that as long as “those” people who were different than I was, lived by my definitions of right and wrong, I didn't judge them.
There was an implied, if this than that. If "those" people looked, acted, dressed, and lived like me, than life would be wholesome and happy place for me. And them, but that was secondary.
Gay people can be together, just don’t call it marriage. They should have the same rights as I do as a heterosexual but keep it to themselves. I don’t want to see it.
Racism wasn’t my problem. I could sit back in my lily white community and say they deserved equality and the same rights I enjoyed as a middle class white woman as long as they stayed out of my neighborhood. I didn’t truly understand their issues and believed that if they would “just go get a job”, “stop being lazy”, “and don’t break the law” their lives could be as wonderful as mine.
Religion, same thing. Practice whatever you want but don’t bomb me when I don’t agree with you. But quietly in my head, I knew my religion was the true one and only religion. Other religions were based on a different set of rules which were not as good as my religion.
Life seemed so easy, practical and fun. From my self-defined "open minded" point of view. These judgments I placed on others made me feel superior, which in reality was my own shame, or feeling not good enough.
It was never about them. My limited, closed minded belief system was all about me. The fears I had been programmed to believe, the bullshit I saw on television, the way I hid myself from reality. Reality as in real, not the reality made up in my head. That reality is fiction.
I was a hypocrite.
What I said and what I truly believed were not in synchronicity. It all fit nicely together as long as it fit into my truth of what I wanted it to be. Not what it actually was and is.
My belief system kept me feeling safe. As long as I lived in my box, surrounded by my friends who looked and dressed like me, drove similar cars and believed what I believed, all was good in the world.
Those “problem” people weren’t my problem. Stay out of my fenced in yard, stay out of my neighborhood and I could be as open-minded as I decided.
As my yoga practice grew, I began to notice subtle differences in the way I thought.
As my body opened to breathing and the movement only yoga can attain, my muscles started to feel free and my mobility opened up. Along with my muscular and body movements changing and becoming more fluid, my thinking also became more fluid and open.
But I didn’t want to change my old way of thinking. My way of thinking had served me very well for over 36 years. I felt solid in my beliefs.
I fought this change. I held on tight to what I wanted to believe.
The shifts were subtle yet obvious.
Daily events that used to make me crazy seemed to roll off my shoulders. Drivers that cut me off didn’t bother me. Instead of flashing my middle finger, I began to happily wave, trying to spread my change in attitude to others. Kids running through the house screaming, chasing each other, bringing dirt into the house and upsetting my peace and enforced, uptight cleanliness made me smile instead of cringe. I didn’t feel the need to constantly clean my house, my incessant need of perfection, whatever that even means, dissipated. Instead of trying to be a person who went along with everything to make others happy, I began to say no to things I didn't want to do.
My anger issues began to wane.
My beliefs and what I held to be true started to become self evident.
I wasn’t doing anything but yoga to make this change happen. My life was the same it had always been.
Yoga was doing the work yoga is meant to do. Yoga opens our bodies, then opens our minds.
If I could love another and I was a human form made of energetic cells, why others energetic cells deserve anything different than what I was allowed by law? Why was their love deemed different than mine? Isn’t love, love?
Were the races I considered lazy, jobless and criminal really those things I judged them to be just because of how they looked? Could I so easily place people into a belief system I had no true understanding of from my lily white, middle class point of view? Was I creating and responsible by my beliefs for the struggle those of different skin colors had to endure?
Could there be more to my story than just the simplistic views I had chosen to believe? Could there be more to life then the simplistic beliefs I had attached to it?
This shift was scary. The shift made me begin to feel.
Feelings. Emotions. All those scary things I had shoved in to a belief system that served my external view of the world and made my world safe.
Internally something was rising. Palpable movements were inching into places I had often run from, afraid these feelings would overtake me. I fought these emotions as the external emphasis of how I viewed life shifted to internal feelings. These feelings scared me. These feelings woke me up to see a world as a unit, not individual pieces of a puzzle that didn't fit together.
I felt love and empathy instead of self righteousness for those who were subjugated to a different set of laws and judgements. The color of a persons skin, the tattoos on their arms, the cut of their hair does not make the internal being of a human. These external sights only represent the longings to be seen by a society driven by judgement and fear of what some deem unusual.
Because those deemed "different" and didn’t fit in to societal norms that were set by a powerful and invisible force, should not make them subjects of others physical hatred.
I saw the world not as the simplistic difference between right and wrong. I saw the world as a complicated string of events that though they were seperate, were intertwined, affecting us all in one way or another. Instead of me, I saw us. We making a collective whole.
The definition of what was “right” in the life I had grown up with and was taught by culture, where and how I lived, and the church where my foundations were built.
These beliefs were not my truth, but theirs. I only chose to believe them, I didn't have to continue to believe.
Being open minded is the ability to step out of the confines we are told to believe and choose to see things as they actually are. It's investigating our own truths, not what we are told. It's turning right when we are told to turn left. It's stepping out on our own.
My mind could not expand if I was only willing to feed it information that backed up a belief I already believed.
I had a choice. I could live in what I learned was a closed minded point of view, or I could expand my thinking by choosing to learn other ways of thinking.
I chose expansion.
And I've never looked back.
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