Be faster than your conditioning

Be faster than your conditioning

The lovely Pippa over at Yogamatters.com (check them out for all your yogic needs) has kindly asked me to contribute to their blog. Of course, I couldn’t resist the offer. Here’s the piece I wrote for them: 

“A couple of weeks ago, I found myself amidst hundreds of travellers that were stuck at Gatwick airport. One of the runways had been shut down and access to security had been blocked, thus we were squeezed into the departure hall like sardines in a tin. It had been a hot day, and there was virtually no air underneath the low ceiling. The 6ft bloke behind me was breathing down my neck, the lively Italian family to my left kept pushing their stroller (screaming toddler included) over my toes and the lady in front of me frantically fanned her face with her ticket, tutting and muttering as she was craning her neck to get a better view, elbowing those around her in the process.

I myself was returning from a teacher training immersion weekend with Mimi Kuo-Deemer, and was buzzing with inspiration and love – I had a lot of food for thought to take home with me. We had talked about the concept of Samskaras – the imprints or marks on our mind that are left by the experiences we have. They form our conditioning, i.e. they are part of what determines how we interact with others. Mimi had quoted Erich Schiffmann and his idea to be ‘faster than your conditioning’: when looking at other people, think sister or brother, instead of allowing your conditioning to judge or jump at conclusions. So as I was standing there, elbowed, pushed and shoved, I started looking around me and thought sister! sister! brother! sister! brother! and so forth. And amazingly – it worked. I was still hot and sweaty and felt slightly claustrophobic, but I was also able to see those around me with more compassion, understanding and less judgement. I struck up a conversation with the Italian family and politely asked Mr Sixfoot not to push from behind. My stress levels dropped, my breathing became deeper and more even, and my mood increased significantly.

I have been practicing being faster than my conditioning ever since, and so far, it has always worked. Seeing others as part of my own family has given me glimpses of what it’s like to truly understand that we are all one. I am naturally a smiley person, and it has gotten worse. The other day, I found myself tempted to call the barista in the coffee shop at the corner Sister – and really mean it. I am still surprised how this works, and how much compassion I can feel for a bunch of total strangers, without even trying.”

First published here