When Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in front of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963 and declared his famous dream, he did not dream about tolerance. In fact, he fervently preached against tolerance (not in those exact words) because it is not enough. He preached EQUALITY. He preached that black people, white people, ALL people would be treated as equal. He didn’t encourage us to just deal with each other, but to accept and embrace one another.
So why am I writing about this when our focus this week is tolerance and resilience? Because it is just the tip of the iceberg. The yamas and the niyamas are the BEGINNING of the journey. These key concepts are the foundation of a great house being built throughout your life time. To tolerate all those around you is the bare minimum. You may scoff at that and mutter,” WTF,” and, “as if” (ala Clueless), but tolerance is the bare minimum. If I were to say to you that non-violence and non-stealing are the bare minimum, most people would agree. Those are Yamas. So. Is. Tolerance.
Tolerance, by definition, is a permissive attitude towards ones opinions, thoughts, etc. Giving permission for others to have their own views is a great start, but it is only a start. We must learn to not just tolerate each others opinions but hear them, heck- even CONSIDER them.
Our ultimate goal in yoga is to discover and secure the Self, which is a part of the collective consciousness that we all share. When we close out our practice with ‘namaste’ we are acknowledging that in the end we are all the same and we are all One. To tolerate each other is a stepping stone to accepting each other. Tolerance is a great start, but it is not the end of the practice. Notice when you disagree with someone. Notice when you dislike someone. Start your practice first with tolerating them. Be resilient in your tolerance, even when you think they are a total idiot. Over time, begin to see what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Maybe even consider your likenesses over your differences. You may find the leap from tolerance to acceptance, and finally equality and unity, is closer than you think.
To close, one of my favorite MLK quotes:
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.