I heard this from a yoga student recently: ‘From now on, I’ve decided I give zero f*cks.’
And I got a little sad.
I wanted to give a f*ck in his place, if he’d let me. So I asked. He was cool. He said, ‘whatever.’
Of course he did.
So I told him: ‘With this f*ck you’ve let me give in your place,’ I said, ‘I’m going to give a f*ck for you.’
He laughed. He’s a good one. He even said thank you.
So we chatted. And here’s what we came up with.
We both give a lot of f*cks. We care about the well-being of our families and friends, the safety and potential of children, strangers who cross our path or don’t, the broadest possible understanding of community, even—meaning, the whole family of humans who inhabit the world with us. When we got down to it, we realized that we both really have quite a lot of f*cks to give. We care about universal access to quality healthcare complemented by a growing understanding of prevention and self-care habits. We care about rising sea levels and diminishing animal species. We care about literacy and spelling. We care about appropriate behavior, gender equality, safe sex and self-respect. Dogs, cats, potholes, litter, space: we care!
It’s just that, sometimes, it’s easier to put our heads in the sand in the midst of the deep caring. The caring becomes, occasionally, overwhelming.
This is when we started talking yoga. And not just the form of our virabhadrasana. (Though I do care that your low back is protected in the warrior pose. That your legs are strong. That you feel your spine extending.)
In particular, an idea posed in the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. In sutra 2.21, we learn tad artha eva drshyasyatma. Or, ‘the essential nature of that which is seen is exclusively for the sake of the seer.’ In plain speak, the world around us offers opportunities to feel pleasure and pain and in these experiences, we find ourselves.
If we were to stop giving a f*ck, what growth would we ever enjoy?
The good and the bad you see out there—the wealth and the homelessness, the irrepressible happiness of drunk college kids and the dismal despair of families grieving a shooting victim, all of it—exist for the purpose of our liberation.
Liberation is a big ask. But I think we all know how we gain from feeling deeply. It’s usually transformative. A big laugh, a big cry. Big anger, big falls. We resurface from these experiences with perspectives newly illumined by the emotion. If we’re willing.
And when we turn ourselves off, turn ourselves over and hide, we miss out. Which isn’t to say that we should try to see everything at once. But that we should be present in every moment to discern it for what it is. See it clearly. Feel it. And let everything kindle the fire of our discernment.
In this kind of attentiveness, we not only learn but we see how to love the world and all its inhabitants for these experiences.
Crazy? Try it for a week. Let me know what you think after asking yourself to focus clearly on the situations confronting you.