The mind measures, evaluates and discerns. It is a skill used to keep us safe, to determine friend or foe We use this expertise when look into a field to find food to decide if a plant is safe eat or if it is some poisonous look-a-like. When this talent goes awry for me is when I compare myself to others; I always come up short. For some reason every time I match myself up with another I come up short. How does this manifest? In madness.
“Madness” can be used to described mental illness or disease, but the word is also used to mean:
“extremely foolish behavior: ”it is madness to allow children to roam around after dark”
folly, foolishness, idiocy, stupidity, insanity, lunacy, silliness; informal- craziness”it would be madness to do otherwise”
a state of frenzied or chaotic activity.”from about midnight to three in the morning it’s absolute madness in here” bedlam, mayhem, chaos, pandemonium, craziness, uproar, turmoil,disorder, all hell broken loose, (three-ring) circus.”
This is what happens to me. I start comparing myself to others- physically, emotionally, spiritually, economically, in any fashion. I end up on the short end, lacking in some way. My yoga practice is not good enough, my body is not the right shape, my diet isn’t what it should be, the attendance at my workshops isn’t like others’, and so on. Even my recovery can be found substandard! I am not going to enough meetings, I don’t work with as many new people as so and so does, I haven’t found a new sponsor. The litany of my shortcomings can poison my view. The toxic attitude piles up and affects how I feel about the world; my world view coming from this maddened self.
Once I have “gone mad” I indulge in both extremely foolish behavior that sometimes (de) evolves into chaotic activity. I try too hard in yoga class and hurt myself. I stop practicing all together because I feel I don’t measure up and why bother. I starve myself half the day and over eat the other half. I isolate from other feeling I have nothing to contribute or I get over involved, exhausted and then truly have nothing to offer.
Nothing good can come of comparison. In addition to bringing negative judgement to what I do I also discount myself. I show no honor or respect for myself as I am not looking inward to see how i feel, what my preferences are, what my own idea of “leadership” or “success” are. I “outsource” my self esteem and neglect my inner resources. There is foolishness and insanity, there is internal chaos, turmoil and disorder.
“Stay on your own mat.” – my advice to my students as they experiment with their own limits and challenges; my advice to myself when my attention wanders. “Don’t judge your insides by another person’s outsides.” Recovery advice, so useful when taken so maddening when not.
When I am feeling good, grounded, integrated and whole, when I am feeling SANE (from the root, health) the urge to wander off my mat is nearly nonexistent. If it happens, I notice it right away and lovingly call myself back; back to mySELF, to my BEing and to my mat. I avoid berating myself, even then. I use my compassionate inner voice because I know it is part of being human; to scan surrounding, evaluate and compare. It is part of my illness, my madness to judge myself negatively. So I observe, I note, and come back to self.
TODAY- I will stay on my mat in “all my affairs” (AA Literature) and contemplate my inner goodness, my unique contributions and leave the criticism and negative comparisons alone. “To do otherwise would be madness!”