“What is an ethical value you hold?”
The first time I was asked this, I was in a college communications ethics course, and it was our professor’s effort to introduce us to each other and to the concept of ethics. After seeing a mix of blank or nerve-wracked (that would be me) looks, our professor gently prodded us. “Just one word- you know, fairness, trustworthiness, respect.”
I vaguely remember stumbling over something about caring for others, wishing then that I had a definitive list of my personal ethical values. I spent a lot of time soul-searching, figuring out what ideals were important and meaningful to me, which were shaped by experience and which I hoped to attain.
I soon established a rambling list- far too long for this article- but something was missing; I had defined the values, but that lacked pragmatic intentionality.
There was no practice.
Though it may seem trite, it occurred to me that the one way to practice my values was private meditation on the mat, which would springboard my conscious and consistent practicing of them in the “real world.”
My first defined value, compassion, was my most difficult to practice alone. That meant that I had to be compassionate toward myself, when it is sometimes easier to love on other people than to love on me, especially when my hips won’t open for a perfect pigeon pose or when my heels still don’t touch the ground in downward dog. However, as cliché as it sounds, the more time I meditated on compassion toward my own spirit and body, the more compassionate I was to friends, family and total strangers.
When I determined that I held honesty as a value, I became more honest in my own body. Did I really feel up to that pose today, or was that just ego getting in the way? Could I push myself farther this morning than yesterday? And, as I was more honest on the mat, I was noticeably more forthright and honest with others about how I was feeling, and in turn expected the same from them.
The same held true for respect, accountability, integrity, autonomy and responsibility. As I became more resolute in my beliefs, my desire to practice in all aspects of life grew. I became a better yogi through the process-more in-tune with the sensations inside and outside of myself- but more importantly, I became a better person. And that is what the yogic life is about.