In Our Differences We Are The Same

When I was young, I thought I was unique. I thought no one saw the world quite like I did. It’s true that everyone is unique - you are the only you that ever was. But feeling different on a basic, primitive level isolates you - makes you feel like you don’t fit in - perhaps that you never will. The feeling of being unique has a necessary counterpart - the recognition that, on a basic level, we’re all the same. Our natural tendency is to highlight the differences between us. A closer look shows, though, that we all breathe and live with impermanence. We all experience the same rainbow of emotions and desire for joy. We all long for connection with other human beings. Just as wild animals, there are characteristics to our species that we all possess. It turns out we’re really very similar. Yoga sports the tools to help you see that we are all one.

When you get to the nitty gritty of yoga, stripping yourself down past your characteristics, you see that you’re a vessel through which prana passes. Breath enters and leaves each of us; and we all share this prana. It sustains us. Without it, we would cease to exist - every one of us. In asana, you begin to understand that your body is constantly changing and therefore has no permanent characteristics. Strength builds. Tightness loosens. Then strength wanes through aging or taking time off. You surprise yourself by being able to do something you couldn’t do before and you realize you have no limits. Impermanence is a fact of life. We all live it.

No matter our placement in life, we all experience pain, contentment, fear, sadness, joy and happiness. The rainbow of feelings is the same for all of us, whether you’re rich or poor, tall or short, no matter the continent on which you live, no matter your job or marital status. We all struggle to survive in the environment in which we live. Someone may have it worse than you (of course!), but you still experience feelings - the same feelings - as him. We all strive for joy. The desire for joy is shared by all living beings. Everything we do is in the pursuit of joy. For those of us who do it, yoga is included in the actions we take to find joy.

We all want connection. Social work researcher and author Brene Brown explains that we’re hard wired for connection. All human beings are born with this desire to belong. It’s inarguable. It’s a characteristic of homo sapiens. We all share it. When you meditate, you detach from your thoughts and let go of identifying with them. That is, you understand that you are not your thoughts. Therefore, if your thoughts differ from someone else’s, that doesn’t mean that you are different from them. I may be thinking I’m not as happy as you; and so we’re different. If I can sit quietly and realize I don’t know which one of us is happier, I detach from that thought and I shrink that difference into nothing.

Countless yogis and meditators have come away with the realization that we are all one. This is how we connect - through boiling down to the real stuff of who we are and realizing that we’re the same. The details of our experiences are not the same, but the feelings and desire for joy and connection are. Notice that when you breathe in, you take in prana that is shared with everyone around you. Notice your fears and triumphs around impermanence. Notice that your thoughts are not you and you are not your thoughts. Celebrate the human condition and delight in being one of many.