I have always been a competitive person. When I was younger, my competitive spirit manifested itself at school, because that was what I spent most of my time doing (and because I avoided competitive sports). But as I grew up, it began to extend to every part of my life. This becomes problematic when you realize that you can't do everything better than everyone else can, especially if you're not particularly athletic.
My addiction to competition has been fueled, recently, by what my husband calls "electronic 'attaboys." My car, a hybrid, congratulates me when I have get particularly good mileage: "Excellent!" it says, as I'm powering down. My husband got two free fitbits from work, and I've been wearing one the past two days; one of its displays is a flower that grows as you are more active during the day, and of course, I had to compare the length of my flower with my husband's flower. (There's probably something deeply and bizarrely Freudian in there that I am not going to explore.) It also says "walk me" and "climb on" and "cheers" whenever I pick it up. Because, you know, I need the motivation.
All of this goes away, though, when I'm doing yoga.*
When I first started practicing yoga--or more honestly, up until quite recently in my yoga practice--I refused to use blankets and blocks, thinking myself (I am ashamed to admit this) somehow "superior" for a more "authentic" practice.
But in my current class, my teacher requires us all to use props sometimes, in order to improve alignment, to rest some parts of the body in order to allow others to work more effectively in an asana, or just to improve our focus on the flow of prana or on the breath.
At first I resisted. I didn't need props. I could do this asana AllByMyselfThankyouverymuch.
Then, giving in, I felt my body shift. I felt new awareness in my muscles and my joints. I felt hips and shoulders opening. I was able to pay better attention to what I was experiencing. It was like focusing a beam of light on the part of the body that was moving, helping me to cultivate sattva, or (very loosely translated) harmony, not just a stretch. Ohhhhhhh, I thought. Now I understand.
How many times have we done this? Refused props, or support, because we want to do it ourselves? Because the competition, the doing it "better," is more important than the experience of doing it, whatever "it" is? Because we have this twisted idea that doing it without help is somehow more authentic than using our props? And how many times has that support actually helped us to see things differently, perhaps, if we were able to accept it, rather than trying to compete, or get ahead (which is, in case you are interested, the rajasic way of approaching things, rather than sattvic)?
On the other side of the question, perhaps it's time to support someone, rather than trying to beat them at a game you may both lose? Perhaps it's time to offer perspective, rather than one-upsmanship?
Sattva is a philosophical principle that also influences diet if you're into ayurvedic cooking. I give you this (mostly) sattvic, not entirely beautiful, dish, adapted quite liberally from The Vegan Stoner (which you really must go read, because their cartoons are as fabulous as their food, if you're not vegan). Props to you, friends.
*Except for the fact that I realized I was jealous of Mel's tripod headstand today, having only ever been able to do a headstand of my own against a wall.
1 c. falafel mix (which is on the one hand totally cheating, and on the other hand, just a prop)
1/2 c. water
1 c. (or so) hummus
1 c. plain greek (or soy) yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. salt (or to taste)
dash garlic powder (optional)
1 tomato, sliced
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix falafel mix with water, and spread evenly into a 9" pie plate. Bake 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the cucumber in half. Blend one half of it with the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Slice the other half thinly. Set aside the blended cucumber mix.
Remove and let cool a bit; spread with a thick layer of hummus, and layer the sliced cucumbers and tomato on top of the hummus. Pour blended cucumber mix over the top, and serve.