Comparison is a tricky thing. It can serve us very well and it can also entrap and diminish us.
It can help us differentiate, conceptualize, categorize and evaluate. It can be a way to attune to the strengths, talents, skills and gifts that are seeking to emerge. We notice something we like or admire in another, feel a fire inside – a sort of soul recognition – and are inspired to act. Pulled by the possibility of developing or finding in ourselves what we recognized in the other. I still remember the sight of a woman friend balanced on roof rafters, hammer in hand. I was awed. It connected with something deep inside me, exploded limits, expanded my sense of possibility and inspired me to become a builder.
However, we can also use comparison, most likely unconsciously, to keep ourselves small, and stuck. The other day, as I lunched with a friend, listening intently to his tales over pasta, I became acutely aware of the way he was using comparison to box, belittle and limit – himself, his son and those he was comparing to. As he recounted the other’s heroic successes, he and his son were slyly slipped alongside and their paleness noted. The lessening wasn’t so much stated out loud, as descending like a fog, which deadened the space around us. The sense of safe, spacious possibility that we’d started the meal with, gave way to a closing that sucked the air out. Even the other became minimized – a thin, one dimensional hero, no room given for the depth of uncertainty, vulnerability or the stumbles of learning.
Now I’ve heard and made such comparisons many times before, but this was something new for me, a more attuned body/ energetic experience of the way we constrict and strangle possibility with simplified, dualistic comparisons, like successful/failure, worthy/unworthy, beautiful/ugly, and smart/stupid.
I know that we often notice in others what we are blind to in ourselves, so over the next couple of days I started scanning, looking for the subtle and the not so hidden ways, that I was constraining with comparison. How was I doing it? What determined whether it would liberate or squelch potential, and how could I change the limiting pattern? What happened to my sense of spaciousness, confidence, possibility and joy as I compared? What happened to my sense of the other?
I watched how even the simple experience of recognizing another’s beauty or achievement could sometimes leave me feeling small and bound. I noticed how sometimes, I’d ever so slightly tip the scale, so that the other became judged less-than and I took my place on the better-than rise. Both of us staying locked in connection and limited.
Then I experimented with –
1. I attuned myself to the constricting and connecting of comparison, as a body energy experience. How did I sense it in my body? And I noticed any thoughts that accompanied the sense.
2. Then, as I consciously exhaled, I imagined myself severing the connection that kept me and the other locked in a lose-lose bind.
3. And as they were released, I imagined the other expanding and blossoming, in their own unique way, to fullness of their potential.
4. I then imagined myself doing the same, in my own unique way.
Both of us free to fully be our different selves.
5. Sometimes I said to myself, “I release you to your unique greatness”.
The practice worked wonderfully, easily returning me to open, spaciousness, safety and possibility.
What are your thoughts on this? What works to help you return both yourself and the other to a bigness of being?