Meandering back onto topic now... I finished off my grad school "work week" last Friday with a meeting with JS, my research supervisor. JS really leads my research group because the professors are very busy and important and not so "hands on" with the students. So he reports to them, and I report to him. And he is GREAT. He's one of the reasons I'm still here. He comes from industry in Korea and is slightly high-strung and hardcore about deadlines and results, but he still is SO easy to work with, he never gets mad when one of us screws something up, and he threw a big barbeque on the beach one day for all the students in the group when my advisor was out of town. When he's giving me a lot of work to do, he spends half the meeting telling me ALL the stuff I need to get done and the other half of the meeting apologizing for it.
Anyway, that's JS. I went to his office on Friday feeling totally bummed out, because I had worked all week (including a 2am lab session) to get a certain set of data, but the very first step of the process had not gone so well. I had put in my "good faith" effort to get the data, but I was feeling pretty sure that the results would be useless. So I told JS everything, and he said, "Actually I think you have succeeded. I think we can use the data. Don't be sad. The data is always innocent."
Of course this made me feel better, and I was also totally struck by that sentence that he used: The data is always innocent. So cute. And so... true. So useful. In research, in yoga, in everything! Data is data. Information is information. It's not good or bad. It's "innocent." It's our interpretations that make it good or bad, right? Isn't that a line in Hamlet? "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." That could practically be a quote from the yoga sutras. It's such a central idea. I was so delighted to see it pop up in such an unexpected place.
I think that the bottom line here is that we can learn observation without judgement. And I think I MUST have mentioned this here already at some point, but for me, that lesson was the single biggest change that I saw in myself when I started yoga. I came into the practice so programmed to look at myself in a mirror and judge, oh, that was bad, that wasn't right, it should have been different, etc etc. But for some reason, the way that the yoga class is set up - so safe, so objective - helped me to drop that. I could look in the mirror and think, "oh, ok, I need to move my right hip forward, aha, that's better now" instead of thinking "my right hip's not far enough forward, OHmygod-I-totally-suck-at-this-I'm-so-embarrassed-I-fail-at-life." Just observe. See the data, listen to it, find out the next move. No knee-jerk emotional response, no judgment. (We misunderstand our world.) I remember that I recognized this change very quickly and I recognized some - though not NEARLY all - of the implications. This was what kept me coming back to the class. I didn't give a SHIT about doing "pretty" postures. I just wanted that mental clarity that came from seeing something as it was without constantly projecting onto it.
And if my personality has changed or developed at all in the last few years - which my close friends and family tell me that is has - this is the root of it all. Observation and innocence.