Recently, I attended a small local meditation gathering where the theme for the evening’s practice was seeing the good in others and ourselves. At first, this seemed like an easy concept to contemplate. After all, I don’t think of myself or others as being “bad”, maybe we make unskillful choices but we aren’t bad by nature. When I dig a little deeper into my thoughts, I’m not sure I always act from the place of believing in everyone’s basic goodness. What about my inner critic, and my judgements of people and their actions or beliefs?

This got me thinking about ways to practice seeing the good. Since I’m a yoga teacher and student, my first thought was “how do I practice this on the mat and in my teaching”? 

Most yoga classes focus on the physical body. Often yoga teachers are trained to look for where a student is lacking – correcting alignment and pointing out where the body is less flexibility or has weakness. To a certain degree that has its place. However, yoga is more than just the physical body. If emphasizing performance is overdone or not placed in a larger context and we spend all our time on the mat critiquing our poses, it actually prevents us from being in a true state of yoga. 

Yoga is a wide field of study and is defined in many ways. There are two definitions that I like the most. One comes from the Bhagavad Gita and the other is from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The Bhagavad Gita defines yoga as skillful action. Learning to see basic goodness is a skill. The definition of yoga in the Sutras is roughly translated as “ceasing the fluctuations of the mind”. If our mind is constantly judging ourselves and others, then it is not steady. Constantly focusing on external actions becomes one more way to keep the mind busy and miss out on resting in basic goodness.

When I reflect on what I hope my students gain from practicing yoga, reducing the busyness of the mind, and choosing skillful actions are two that come to mind. I also think it’s important to celebrate what we do right, and remember our basic goodness and the goodness of others.