All things are neutral in the world unless they are integrated into your life, body, and/or mind in a way that creates harm. This is why self-awareness and self-control are key when navigating through life.
Sugar, for example, has the potential to become hazardous to your health if not consumed responsibly, which is why today, sugar has become demonized due to its over-overconsumption. The sweetener, which used to be such an influential and desired commodity in the world that there was a human slave trade put into place to facilitate its consumption, is now (with research) turning out to not be so sweet for human health.
While a slave trade that created misery and injustice for millions of people was not enough to make cane sugar consumption, and the creation and export of its byproducts like rum, an issue for hundreds of years, recent research linking the substance to deteriorated health outcomes for those who overuse it (although simply consuming sugar at healthy levels has no adverse negative impacts on its consumers) is shifting cultural viewpoints and sentiments.
This is not surprising, however, since anything can be abused, promoted, or vilified with a lack of knowledge, self-awareness, and self-control. Anything can become socially accepted or demonized depending on the current trends in economic, social, or cultural thinking.
Whether it is a breathing exercise, the amount of water that you drink, peanuts, carrots, eggs, or even exercise routine, everything is neutral in the world until it is applied to individual bodies and minds and creates an effect of some kind. The outcome of these effects is what determines the “goodness” or “badness” of anything, which is why only knowledge, understanding, self-control, and self-awareness will impact whether anything from your eating habits, to your relationships, to your sleeping patterns, to your mobile phone can shift from creating positive outcomes in your life to creating misery or ill health.
To give another example, years ago, herbs like Cannabis and other naturally psychoactive substances were also on the socially demonized list before modern research and changing social views made both desirable commodities that have now been shown, with conscious consumption and responsible use, to create beneficial effects and changes in human bodies and minds. The same is true for fats, which at some point in history was heavily denounced as being the biggest problem facing the health of everyday Americans.
As you navigate through life, it can be tempting to adopt opinions, judgments, preferences, likes, and fears about the world based on socio-cultural trends. But please remember that Yoga is about self-mastery and self-knowledge. While you always want to ensure that you stay informed on current scientific knowledge (being willing to discard old information when it becomes obsolete or disproven), please also remember that only you are responsible for your mind, yourself, and your journey.
It is always best to adopt a neutral, balanced, well-informed (but non-attached) view of the things in the world outside of yourself. Strive to become so attuned to your understanding of yourself that you can correctly perceive what is right for you as you navigate through life, and love yourself so profusely that you avoid what does not serve you due to natural aversion as opposed to engaging in anything based on sheer social or cultural influence alone. This inward focus will support you with avoiding calamity and debauchery of all kinds (from the social to the environmental and everything in between).
Remember that once the mind-stuff and false perceptions/overidentification in the world have been dissolved through a Yoga practice that results in Union with the True Self, “[t]he Seer [Self] abides by Its own Nature” (Sutra 3). Strive to know, and be, your True and greatest Self above all else in the world so that no distortions of changing perceptions and trends will disturb your inner peace (or create unintended harm in the world).
Thank you for reading.
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