Hold it Lightly
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | December 24, 2022
I recently spent a weekend with my parents. I love them, but some of their social and political views are different than mine – so I hold it lightly. We don’t have to agree on everything.
I think my neighbor’s Christmas decorations are a bit over the top, but she seems to get joy from them – so I hold it lightly. It’s her house and she can decorate it however she likes.
A close friend is vegan and I’m not, another is paleo, and I’m not – so I hold it lightly. We are allowed to eat different things.
I find some of the music my son listens to insipid – so I hold it lightly (and request that he turns the volume down 😁).
We do not have to agree with everyone about everything – perhaps, most importantly, with the people that we most love and/or respect.
It took me many years to realize that. And I can’t think of a better way to get through the holidays with people you love (and/or are related to) who have different opinions. Patanjali says a key tool of self-realization is vairāgya, non-attachment. It’s the antidote to raga, attachment.
Sometimes you just gotta let that sh*t go.
It also took me many years to realize that it was okay to have opinions of my own, that I don’t need to hide my thoughts and feelings when others assert theirs to help them feel better or to like me – even if I disagree with them. That doesn’t mean that I’m interested or enjoy arguing with everyone all the time about everything and nothing.
As I became a more seasoned blogger, asserting my more seasoned opinions (mostly about yoga) I ruffled more feathers. But I also started to notice that many public people, with their public opinions, don’t care if you agree with them or not, or even if you like them or not – I’m thinking people like Joe Rogan, Stephen Colbert, Ben Shapiro, and Jordan Peterson. All men – because men tend to be acculturated not only to believe that their opinions matter and that they are entitled to share them – but also that someone disagreeing with them or even not liking them is nothing to worry about. Yes, there are several public women who also share their strong opinions, but they also get more haters.
So, it took me a long time to realize I am allowed to have an opinion, and I’m allowed to express it. And it’s okay if people disagree with me – even my family and friends. And if they don’t like me for my opinions, that’s actually okay too – even when it hurts.
I think it’s also important to differentiate something here – holding the innocuous opinions of the people in your life, or public people, lightly is different than standing up to nefarious opinions. Some opinions deserve a strong response. And it’s important to be clear about when you’re willing to stand up against opinions that are toxic or harmful. That’s not easy. But as Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, you have to take action in this world, inaction is not an option, keeping your mouth shut, even though it seems like you’re doing nothing, is actually often complicitous.
When it comes to discerning if and how to respond to opinions, for me, the questions are:
- Can I walk through life holding minor perceived differences and offenses lightly?
- Can I take responsibility for my own feelings and not project my hurts onto others who are not responsible for them?
- Can I appropriately change the subject, change the channel, walk away, let it go?
- Since some things need strong responses, and others need to be held lightly – how do I learn to draw the line?
We all must choose our battles wisely. We have limited time, energy, and bandwidth. I do not have time to argue on Facebook or Reddit all day and I’m not interested in using my time that way. I know where my lane is, and I prefer to spend my time focusing on those particular obstacles and road blocks on my own path.
About others’ opinions, many people will say “It’s fine as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” Of course, that’s the first principle of yoga – ahimsa, non-harming, and that’s a great litmus test. But there are another nine moral principles in the tradition that can help navigate our chosen battles as well. For example, is it truthful? Is it honest? Is it sustainable? Is it thoughtful? Is it clear or clean? etc. And then what do I have the bandwidth to stand up to? What is relevant and important to me?
At this time of year, I’m much more interested in having a sweet time with the people I care about than seeking a fleeting reward – the pointless adrenaline rush of winning an unimportant argument.
I hope that you enjoy this holiday season – and enjoy the peace and ease of holding stuff that doesn’t matter much lightly.