I remember in one of my first yoga teacher trainings, my teacher said that the most important part of being a teacher was to see the good in your students first. Believe me when I tell you I have the greatest students in the world! But, let me tell you how hard seeing the good can be. As teachers, we are looking to teach something and the way we have been wired is we look at what someone is doing wrong in order to correct it and teach them the right way. But, this is not seeing the good first. This is seeing the wrong, the negative.
Unfortunately, the tendency to focus on what is “good” doesn’t come naturally to us. Have you ever found yourself stuck on a criticism someone said about you, but not a compliment you were given? Or, constantly fixating on your mistakes but not on your good qualities or achievements? The reason for this is negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones. Psychologists refer to this as the negativity bias. It powerfully effects our behavior making it difficult for us to see the good first because we are more inclined to focus on what is or could go wrong rather than what is or could go right. But, more importantly, it can make it difficult for us to nurture our strengths, focus on what’s going well and remember the positive aspects of ourselves and others that we appreciate. Being the most advanced species in the universe, why would our human brain do this??
It comes down to evolution. Imagine two of our pre-historic ancestors out hunting for food. In their hunt they find a cave. One of them says we should go into that cave because there could be something great to eat in there. The other says no, we don’t know what’s in there, there could be a big animal that could kill us. The first one says, don’t be such a coward, we need food, I’m going in. Our positive happy, go lucky ancestor enters the cave, wakes up the lion and gets eaten. The other negative and fearful ancestor goes back home and procreates handing down all those genes over the years of survival of the fittest. They may be the fittest, but they are certainly the most negative as well. So, now we are literally hard-wired through natural selection to focus on what could go wrong and what is negative rather than what could go right and what is positive and good. It’s why we can have all these great things happening in our life, but we focus on the one bad thing that happens. So, it’s hard to see the good first about others as well as ourselves. We have a natural tendency to denigrate ourselves rather than build ourselves up.
We come to this practice of yoga, with its ability to quiet the mind and create clarity and focus. This gives us the opportunity to focus our attention on something that makes us happy, that elicits a positive feeling rather than a negative. As you settle into your practice, you may find yourself breathing more fully and easily. As well as enhancing the positive feelings yoga offers, this allows the positivity to seep deeper into the layers of your body, below the physical layer and into the deeper layers of consciousness. When you do this, you are training your brain to experience, appreciate and nurture the positive experiences, to experience and appreciate the good in others and the good that is in your life, and maybe even create a little more. Since you create your own reality, you make your world a better place each time you acknowledge the good in your circumstances and in others. As you draw attention to the positive aspects of the world around you, your ability to see the good grows. This is a skill we all need to nourish!
Hope to see you on your mat this week in any of our in-studio or online classes where we nurture and nourish ourselves so our ability to see the good grows.
As always, thank you for reading my musings. Namaste, Leslie