The Trap of Self-Righteousness

Did you ever notice that as soon as you are sure about something, any critical thinking or discernment to the contrary no longer exists?  Once that sense of permanence becomes foreground, it is much easier to fall into a self-righteous stance.  Where then, is the opportunity for growth or innovation?

I say this because I have fallen into this trap and hope, through practice, to find and hold the space for unexpected breakthroughs so that I may continue to grow.

Practicing yoga has been a portal into the depths of possibility, a platform for inquiry, a place to discover and gather the tools necessary to shift with changes as they occur.  The notion of impermanence gives rise to this conversation that is often camouflaged by the illusion that there is a correct, unchanging answer that is right for everyone.  Listen to political conversations between different parties (if they’re still even happening) and you can hear heels digging into dirt to hold their ground.  I’ve been there, digging in.

Even in the yoga world there are those who hold to absolute truths.  This practice is, in some ways, a 5,000 year-old game of Whisper Down the Lane.  We know what we know because of our teachers and guides.  How do they know what they know?  And, because we tend to hear and see things as informed by our own experiences, how do we maintain the integrity of the teachings as we pass them on?  Even if we are successful in transmitting what we think is the truth, we cannot possibly control how another person hears, integrates or passes it on.


If we are students of yoga, and not just asana, how do we reconcile karma and honor the fact that we all view the world through the lenses we created through possibly lifetimes of words, thoughts & actions.  How do we recognize our own places in this practice while honoring others’ whose ideas may differ from ours and replace judgment with curiosity?


When I look at the path that brought me to my opinions, I can see that it is not a straight line; it is a winding road with lessons as landmarks.  I’m so grateful for my teachers who remind me to notice when I become rigid so I can begin again by holding the space for myself.


I was talking with a friend & colleague about doing handstand; after 16 years, I am still struggling with handstand.  My rationalization has been that yoga is not about doing the big poses and that by not being able to do it, I remain humble and focused on the Yoga (as soon as I said this it sounded self-righteous).   My friend, who is proficient in handstand among the myriad teachings & practices, said that for her, it was more about overcoming limitations and feeling the infinite power and possibilities of which we are capable.   Sounds about right!

I needed to hold onto my reasoning more for ego than for the larger learning waiting for me.  As my teaching & practice have evolved, I can see many similar “opinions” that sprang from my ego and have since melted into the larger pool of spirit once my experiences changed.   Things that I tend to hold onto keep me tethered to one spot, while life is soaring in all directions.  There is freedom in letting go, and this includes releasing rigidity of thought.  Some learning arrives in hindsight and others while wallowing.  One day I may float into handstand unassisted and my thoughts will most definitely shift with the feeling of overcoming my own limitations.  I might even feel elated!  If it never happens, there will always be boundaries to break on and off the mat; in body, mind and spirit; there is no hierarchy in our pursuits to ascend.

I am not without my strong opinions; many are the results of careful deliberations and life experiences and some are brewing in the same pot as my politics.  My hope is to keep opening my heart and mind to those with whom I share a different view.  My demon of self-righteousness may rear its ugly head occasionally, but I have it in my sights, ready to dissolve it by remaining vigilant toward more expansive truths.


Love & Peace from the Path ~






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *