When Yoga 4 Change teachers start teaching the topic of bullying to our students, many are apprehensive to participate fully. They are visibly uncomfortable when our teachers ask “Raise your hand if you have ever been bullied”. However, when our teacher clearly states that “Yes – I was bullied at 10!” (or whatever age they were bullied) suddenly being bullied is not so hard to discuss. When we frame the question as an inquiry, asking “Who has ever bullied themselves, or someone else?” we really see our students shift in their seat – closing off body language and not making eye contact with each other or the teacher. I encourage our teachers to use themselves as examples and share their experiences, i.e.: “Yes, sadly I have been a bully to someone in my life”. Then slowly, almost every one of our students raises their hands.

It is easy for us to turn the attention on someone else when we talk about a difficult topic, or we are in an uncomfortable situation. Feelings of inadequacy, suddenly being asked to be vulnerable, and not having an escape from the conversation sometimes forces us to lash out. Turning the focus off of me and onto someone else is my defense mechanism, and I have seen this in myself, and many students when we talk about bullying.

When I first started to talk about this with my students I only thought of this topic literally: between people, (Person A bullies Person B). I would ask questions relating to the physical body, and relate it to yoga. Where in the body does Person A feel their emotions before they lash out? Is it in their heart? Is it in their face? Where does Person B feel it in their body? Do they feel it in their stomach? In their legs? The best answer I heard was from a 4th grader. His teacher warned me that he was “a handful”. Nevertheless, when I asked him the above questions, he stunned me with his responses. He answered in a way I did not expect. He explained that right before he would taunt his classmates, his fists clench and get extra hot. He told me that he knew punching was wrong so instead, he would say the meanest thing he could. He also knew that if he got all his friends to continue to taunt his classmate, the classmate wouldn’t be able to fight back. This child had a full understanding about what physically occurred to his body before he lashed out, and he had the appreciation that words in fact, did hurt worse than sticks and stones – and their effects could last for years.

After talking to many groups of students, I realized that bullying can be applied in other ways that affect our students on a daily basis: specifically substance abuse and mental illness. Our students do not want to be controlled by voices in their heads, emotions in their bodies, or substances. They desperately want to feel normal and they want to be accepted. Having these extra things that separate them from others pushes them into everyone’s view. It disconnects them from the group. Once I realized that bullying does not have to be from the outside, it could be our own demons, I realized that I bully myself on a daily basis.

Lately I have found myself struggling with the “bullying thought” of not being good enough… worried about how to lead Yoga 4 Change, and concerned about not making the right choices and decisions. Being scared to hurt others’ feelings – while also trying to be a leader is sometimes not the easiest thing. I work with my friends, I deeply respect them (otherwise I wouldn’t want them on this team), and having to give them feedback has suddenly become my biggest problem because I am constantly bullying myself internally… “Will he want to still teach for us even after this suggestion?”, “Will she still like me after I give feedback?”. I want to believe that every leader has these doubts, and yet when I start to compare myself to others – I am the only that loses. I looked back at the last couple of months and realized that I allowed the need to be liked to affect relationships and Yoga 4 Change. I was too scared to give feedback, and in the end the only thing that suffered was the organization. I not only allowed my “bullying thoughts” to keep me up at night, I allowed it to run the way I lead, and in the end I feel disappointed in myself. If I had just stopped allowing my thoughts to control me, I could have handled some things differently. It is funny how life works itself out… I stood up to my “bullying thought” and in the end was interpreted as the bully. And I own that. I cannot control other’s views of me, or my life, or the way I lead. I can only continue to do my best for what I believe in, taking it one day at a time.

I am sure everyone has bullied themselves in some way or another: thinking badly about the way we look, how we smell, how we laugh, how we dress, and the list goes on. These thoughts (or judgments) are worse than sticks and stones, and have the possibility of affecting us for years to come. I challenge you to give yourself a break – stop bullying yourself. Maybe for a day, or an hour, or a minute. When you finally accept yourself for who you are, then you will extend that acceptance and compassion to those around you. That’s what I am working on – trying to stop constantly bullying myself – so I can finally accept who I am.

Have a great week!

Next up: Forgiveness

<3 Kathryn

1 Reply to "Bullying"

  • Hank
    February 21, 2016 (12:50 pm)

    Let’s face it, in America, bullying is supported and encouraged.
    So it’s a daily struggle we have in common here.
    A personal example:
    Several years ago, in my forties, I was watching my friends’ children play on a swing set in a big sandbox. Everyone was happy. The oldest boy came up to me and for no reason at all threw sand in my face. As I was clearing the sand from my eyes he did it again, laughing! I wanted to pound the brat. Filled with rage I staggered off in pain and half blind to his father who was nearby, my ‘friend’, to my astonishment, said he thought that was great! He supported his boy! He wanted him to be aggressive so he could be successful in this world. Lord knows how much damage that kid did before eventually suffering a concussion himself so severe even he came to realize he never wanted to hurt anyone again.
    He learned compassion the hard way.
    Jesus and Buddha both taught that compassion is not just a nice virtue, it is an essential tool in the path to enlightenment. If someone reacts to your love offering with hate, anger, violence, you will see from the perspective of a loving heart, that their reaction is only a reflection of their relationship with themselves. Your eyes will be open to see them for who they really are and with that wisdom teach them, even if seems harsh. How they react is completely on them.
    Your situation is the result of your own decisions.
    Kathryn, you are in a position of leadership because at some point, you decided to share what you love.
    That love was so powerful, the result is overwhelming you.
    Keep the faith, it’s all you need to keep growing, whatever may come.

    It sounds easy, ‘Love yourself.’, but, as you noted in your blog, the mind is a sneaky trickster always trying to deny, forget, rationalize fear or somehow, otherwise confuse you. So the mind needs to be trained.
    Here is my simple technique;
    Every day, or when you remember to, doesn’t matter when, during your yoga practice is a great place for this, sitting quietly with your cup of coffee for five minutes before you start your day works too; just love yourself. Love all of your self, particularly the imperfections. Leave nothing out. When you feel complete, make a mental note about how that feels. Try to carry it with you even though you’ll be swimming against the current.

    Because in America, we are competitive by nature, perhaps your trickster mind is already working away.
    Worried about winning a confrontation, being successful?
    Wondering which is stronger, love or hate, or anything else?
    Consider this example:
    Back in the day, the rulers of the World, the Roman Empire, the biggest bullies on Earth at the time, tried to crush the movement based on Love, started by one Nazarene, …and failed.

    Peace and Love

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