Comparison is the Recipe for Suffering.
Some of you have heard about my struggles with yoga and the ease of my meditation practice.
I learned to meditate in my early 20s when I was going through a stressful time. I took to it immediately, partly because I closed my eyes and inhabited my inner world.
Yoga was a struggle for me for decades, primarily because my eyes were open in a room full of yoginis who seemed to be able to place their legs behind their heads while standing up. I felt like a “stiff upper Chip,” more lumber than limber.
It wasn’t till a few years ago that I realized that the trigger for my fixed mindset of “I’m terrible at yoga” was social comparison: how I looked to others, not how I felt inside my own body. And for the past few years, I’ve loved doing one-on-one yoga instruction with our MEA mindfulness teacher, Teddi Dean, on our third-floor outdoor terrace. Now, I feel much more comfortable and less self-conscious in a yoga class with others.
Teddy Roosevelt suggested, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Krishnamurti also said, “Where there is comparison, there is no love.” Put still another way, the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. Fortunately, it’s around midlife that we learn that life is not about proving oneself, but instead, it’s about improving oneself.
MEA alum Douglas Tsoi recently wrote me the following email:
“Last week, I was stretching after soccer, leaning up against my dog and basking in the sun. And I was so grateful. So grateful for what life afforded me: financial security, a working body, and time to enjoy life. Time to learn and do things important to me, yummy foods, the beauty of living in the Pacific Northwest, etc. I realized that other people have got other things: an intimate partnership, or children, or a close relationship with their parents. But MY job is to be grateful for MY life, for the things I have. Comparison is the recipe for suffering. My gratitude had to have ‘particular-ness’ to it, which shielded me from either envy or pride. We all can be grateful for the ‘particular-ness’ of grace.”
What would a “Day without Comparison” feel like? A day in which you settled into the gifts in your own life, with not a care in the world about how they compare with others. If you can handle a day of bliss, maybe you can stretch it to a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime.