How to have a progressive mindset

In a film called Freaky Friday, a mother and her teenage daughter have a huge generation gap separating them. Mother (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) refuses to let her daughter go on a date, the daughter is naturally upset, and as they argue with each other at a restaurant and bite into their fortune cookies, the mother finds herself in her daughter’s body and the daughter in her mother’s. It’s a role reversal and an opportunity for both to understand what the other is going through. Finally, they discover that only an act of selfless love will put each of them into their own bodies.

Unfortunately, these things don’t happen in the real world, which would be a better place if parents and children got an opportunity to walk in each other’s shoes.

Unlike plants and crops which give way periodically to fresh plants and crops, humans with their long lifespan and memories don’t give way easily to the new generation and their new ideas. Often, this is a good thing, because the young have much to benefit from the experience of the old, but the only thing that is constant in the world is change, and if parents kept their minds open they too would learn a lot from the young. This perfect balance, however, in which both parents and children are sensitive to each other’s fears, needs, desires, goals is rare and unusual. Just as parents need to sensitize themselves to the changing world, the young also need to understand that it is their parents’ care and concern, sometimes a bit too much, that is at play. Not closing this gap can disrupt and damage relationships and the problem could escalate to extremes.

So how can this slippery slope called the generation gap be negotiated?

Yoga, not to be confused with Yoga asanas, which are  only one rung in the eight-fold path of Yoga, has something to offer for the body, mind and the soul.

Some introspection (Swadhyay) can help us distance ourselves a bit from the situation and view it as a witness. A calmer and composed mind, possible with Yoga, can help us cultivate a more matured outlook because it could remind one of the days when one rebelled against the opposition from one’s own parents and now the wheel has come full circle. Introspection can also teach us to respect the other person– even if it is one’s own child– and this person’s beliefs, feelings, actions; it can teach us the importance of stepping into the other person’s shoes.

Yoga teaches and encourages one to cultivate the feeling of Vairagya (detachment), and as one delves deep into one’s own self, if an honest effort is made it becomes possible to develop a more philosophical outlook and distance oneself, become a witness to the turbulent changes of the world.

Our memory often prevents us from moving ahead because we look for the security offered by doing things the way they have been done for years, but this may not be possible in a changing environment. For example, women did not cut their hair short in the old days and a parent may unreasonably expect his or her daughter to behave in the same fashion. . A forced `No, don’t do that’ will definitely be resisted by children whereas the same `No,  don’t do that’ in a friendly manner has a better chance of being heard. This feeling of `Maitri’ (feelingness) is worth cultivating.

But `Vairagya’ or `detachment’ are much abused words. The first question a parent is likely to ask is `Does it mean I should give up on my children?’ Of course not. As the late Dr. Jayadeva of the Yoga Institute used to say, `Do your best and leave the rest.’ It is an attitude of knowing that beyond a point things are not in our control. Detachment does not, in this case, mean giving up; it just means that after an honest and friendly dialogue with the young ones, one leaves them with their own responsibility and accepts the outcome, whatever it is.

Parents often disapprove of their children’s decisions because they fear the social disapproval that may be heaped on them. It may be their own low self-esteem that may be causing them to resist change, and clearly there is a need to understand this and cultivate a sense of `Aishwarya’, a greater sense of self-worth. One also has to make an attempt to become aware that one’s child’s happiness is more important than making the neighbours happy, and one’s decision should be guided by this.

There are asanas to help build on these bhavas of detachment and self-esteem.

`Anitya Bhavna’ is a technique that makes it possible to let go of the mindsets, habits, attitudes, that one tends to cling to. `Anitya’ means `temporary’ and the technique, easy to practice and taught at the Yoga Institute. It requires one to relax and reflect on the following words in order to develop a broader outlook:

What was there in the morning is not there in the evening, what is there in the evening is not there at night.

What was there yesterday is not here today, what is there today will not be there tomorrow.

So why should I worry about something that is not permanent and will pass away.’

All these techniques, practices and attitudinal changes are easier said than done, and it is not as though you can merely sit in a certain posture and you will find yourself a changed person. A little effort is required on your part to cultivate these changes.

Understanding oneself is the key to understanding others. Like the mother and daughter in Freaky Friday, the only way to not allow one’s close relationships to get disrupted, and to develop a progressive outlook may be an act of selfless love.

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