A jar of peanut butter is labelled 'suitable for vegetarians and vegans' and this becomes a topic of discussion for my sister and I. Nearly all our conversations return to the topic we love the most; Yoga, and this was no exception.
This label opened up a whole burning issue we have with the way we (as in the majority of the Western world) live right now; firstly, being 'vegan' means that it's naturally suitable for vegetarians anyway, so why label it as both? Secondly, peanut butter is also suitable for omnivores, so why not label that?!
Labels limit and define. They consciously exclude a certain group or idea. Labels do not unite; they separate.
And we humans have an extreme addiction to applying limitations and labels to everything. Most frequently to ourselves. But also to others.
Separation is the opposite of union ('yoga'literally means 'to unite/yoke').
Calling ourselves 'vegan', 'yogi', 'fat', 'thin', 'ambitious' etc.; each puts us in a box that comes with a heap of imagined associated rules and ideas that we feel the need to abide by. And each label is defined by varying opinions; all of which have no doubt been defined by social media, popularity and mass acceptance.
And with these labels, comes masses of judgement.
An example: someone calls themselves 'vegan'; depending on the opinions involved, judgment almost always follows. Someone may judge a vegan person if their bag looks like leather, if they choose to eat vegan substitutes like vegan cheese or facon or they may question whether killing a plant is equal to killing an animal. This label seeks to define someone and reduce their lifestyle choice but it gives no indication of why they choose to eat or live the way they want. It excludes so much information, that to call someone 'vegan' seems completely irrelevant. But this label 'being vegan' has defined them and opened them to the judgement of others.
Another example: we have a friend who is voluptuous. She calls herself 'fat'. Some people think she uses the word in a derogatory tone and assume she must hate her appearance in order to label herself 'fat'. They'll say 'you're not fat; you're lovably cuddly' (or alike!). But, to her, the word hasn't been dirtied with self-hatred and judgment. She feels that it's a beautiful positive word to describe herself as fleshy. So why should others tell her that this label is wrong? And why should some choose to use the label against her; flipping its meaning on its head and using it as insult?
Because of this and many more examples, we aren't so sure that labels are a good thing.
It's been a hot topic of late and issues like gender neutrality and dropping the labels have been widely debated. We know people who refuse to call themselves vegetarian, vegan or omnivores; they say they simply eat mindfully and according to their body's needs at each moment.
Labels get used during class aswell; we often hear 'I'm just not flexible' or 'I'm too large to do a headstand'. So, before we've even set out on the journey of yogasana, we have people in the mindset that they 'can't' do something.
Thoughts are things. So saying 'can't' will transpire to be true.
The issue here, is that we need to become aware of the labels we choose to attach to ourselves, to others and to situations. Be mindful and ask yourself to go deeper.
Be kind to yourself and others by choosing not to assume what their labels mean. And do the same for yourself.
Let any restrictive labels go. In fact, if you can bear it, try to lose all your labels! Dissect the meaning behind them and choose them heart-fully rather than from the mind.
Most things in life simply can not be defined by labels. All the important things can't; the feeling stirred when watching the sun rise over ocean, a lover's kiss, savasana (corpse pose). No label can define these emotions, these scenes.
How you look, how you feel, who you are; no one word or label can sum these up.
When we attempt to label something, we reduce it. We subtract from it's total magnificence. Yes; we appreciate that words must be used to describe something. But Yoga asks us to question everything; and in doing so, you begin to recognise that there is no separation. There is no definition. This reductionist attitude doesn't benefit us. Any one of us.
Really, everyone's life purpose is to be the biggest, bestest, most authentic version of yourself possible. To embrace every moment for what it is; now. Perfect. Never to be repeated.
So, don't fall into the trap of labelling something incorrectly. Don't reduce yourself with incorrect definitions or smaller notions, so that you fit into someone else's box.
Assess and re-assess every single label you use.
And let us create more; more love, more understanding, more introspection and more abundance. In losing the labels, we drop the pressure, we embrace more.
So that even looking at a peanut butter pot gets you thinking outside of the (small) box and into the bigger, more beautiful world.
Just a thought. But give it a try. Re-assess the labels. And open up to bigger possibilities.