I've learnt some valuable lessons in life recently; interestingly perhaps, they began just at the point my youngest child left home. I see this as life's way of re-adjusting things; calling things into question as suddenly the space open up to do that; to contemplate.
When my son left, I found I was already thinking about the labels we apply to ourselves and others and reflecting on why we do that. Does it make it easier for us to categorise difference rather than seeking 'sameness'? Is it easier to protect our soft and tender places when we make a decision that someone not the same as us must be 'wrong' about the world,and therefore 'wrong' about us too just because they are different? Why do we separate, segregate and need to be 'right'?
I began to recognise two things; one, that labels create tension and tension creates dispute, and secondly, we can find ourselves backed into tight corners when adopting these 'labels' for ourselves, and once wearing that label, we may just realise it isn't actually right for us any more, and perhaps it never was.
It's easy to label people, and much harder sometimes to keep an open heart and mind, to truly listen to another person's experience without needing to jump in an offer an opinion before even really accepting what has been shared.
Over time, the labels I have applied to myself or which have had applied to me have changed a great deal; trouble, addict, sex worker, slut, whore, bitch, ballbreaker, entrepreneur, business woman, employee, mother, breathworker, vegan, heterosexual, bisexual, vegetarian, teacher, shaman, coach, etc; the list is endless! Some were reclaimed words, others not. Some levelled at me in anger or hate, others not. Some gave me the comfort of belonging, the feeling of tribe, of community, others left me distinctly an 'outsider', but the one thing they had in common was that somehow, in some way, they created separation or identity, neither of which are especially helpful.
Of course some labels can be useful; 'what do you value in the world XXX?', or 'what do you offer?' Questions that can be asked to get to know a person better, but when does that knowing become a label, then become a 'decision' about the person?
I have built a fair amount of my career around healthy eating, clean food and eventually plant based living. Prior to that much of my career focussed on addiction services and sexual freedom campaigning. Many different labels!
Inevitably when I came to change some of those labels recently, several things began to happen; firstly people felt it was ok to challenge my personal process. I'm ok with that, I have some very public social media pages so discussion is welcome, but what I'm less ok with is people telling me I'm 'wrong', and that they therefore must be 'right'.
The thing that really disturbs me about this is that the older I get the more I realise that there are as many versions of 'right' in this world as there are people, and that the only thing that's truly certain in life is change and death! We experience the world and we are changed by it, and when we aren't open to that possibility, we stagnate, freeze or become rigid in our thinking. We become so attached to our own worldview that suddenly, that view becomes dogma.
This list above - number one on the list of synonyms is 'teaching' and surely teaching is about sharing knowledge and allowing discussion? A principle and an ethic can be a great pointer to the values and choices we make, but the words laws, rules, beliefs and convictions leave me a little less comfortable. These suggest rigidity, and punishment for breaking the 'rules', and whilst to a degree we all have to learn to live within society's rules, when we start making our own sub-sections of 'rules', it's game over! More fighting, more dispute, more dogma.
Recently, a person tagged me in an Instagram post pointing me to a long winded rant about what was good for the body and not good (food wise). This was done to disprove some current things I'm exploring personally, and yet it's fascinating because on another page in the very same feed this morning, there I saw the long-winded advice person heralded as 'right' by my friend, being called out as a charlatan and a scammer by another nutritionist in the same forum, and the truth is that none of that matters because I'm doing it for me...not for you, not to prove anything, and definitely not to be 'right'!
Go there and go down a rabbit hole folks!
My best advice to all in my work is learn to listen to your body, find what works for you. Listen to your heart too, and use the mind for discernment only, and not for judgement or criticism and segregation. What's right for one isn't always right for another.
Today's post is to make a plea for us all to take a moment to step out of attachment to our ideologies before they become dogma; as the saying goes, "you do you and I'll do me". Let's listen more, and judge less.
Have a beautiful Sunday, and whether your particular 'church' is a religious or spiritual place, hanging out in nature, dancing or some other healing place of sanctuary for you, wherever it is, be there and be there with love, compassion and understanding...
...and always keep an open mind.
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Juicing - I just wanted to thank you. I have had a really gentle and beautiful detox. So grateful to you for the juices - all the love, care, expertise and knowledge that you put into making them. And more than that to acknowledge and honour the path you have taken and choices you have made in order to be able to offer this healing to others. Thank you!" SA - Author
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