One teacher who has influenced me greatly is Baron Baptiste. I’ve completed his Level 1 and Level 2 teacher trainings, attended his master classes when he has visited Seattle, and recently assisted him for his Seattle “Personal Revolution Weekend.”

Like anyone who rises into the limelight, Baron receives both praise and criticism.  The adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” fits Baron perfectly—literally and figuratively.  Baron’s first Book Journey into Power has a photo of him bare-chested, wearing a bandana, and hunched in a fierce bakasana, or crow, pose.  Based on that, not to mention the name of the yoga system he developed, Power Vinyasa Yoga, you might assume Baron is all about the other adage: “No pain, no gain.”

Like all of us, Baron has a softer side. Baron’s vinyasa sequence, taught in the traditional way, makes beautiful sense in my body. Mostly though, his philosophical teachings resonate with me—they’re simple and matter-of-fact, and truly speak to our human nature.

I have been deeply moved by Baron’s teachings through studying with him, as well by reading his two books (the other is 40 Days to Personal Revolution).  One teaching that has stayed with me in particular is “making things good.”

In every situation, we have a choice: we can make things bad, or we can make things good.  Yes, this is common sense, but when we’re really honest with ourselves, which way do we tend to lean?

It’s easy to make things bad. When things don’t go our way, they become bad. When people don’t behave the way we want them to, they become bad. When we fail, we become bad.

Baron challenges his students to make things good.  For me, this practice had significant impact mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I have found that it takes as much energy to make someone or something good as it does to make them bad.  When we make a situation or someone bad, we are trying to elevate ourselves or just feel better.  Ultimately though, making things bad makes us feel worse, whether we’re conscious of it or not.  When we make things good, we are in our integrity, and ultimately we feel good.

Making things good doesn’t mean glossing over a bad situation, ignoring injustices, or denying something that isn’t working.  When we make things good, we look at the bigger picture. We try to understand, for example, the root cause of someone’s behavior. When we see injustices, we try to do something about it—on some level—rather than just complain.  When we make mistakes or fail at our endeavors, we don’t beat ourselves up, but rather try to learn from them so we become more skillful the next time.

Making things good is a practice. For me, if I feel anger, disappointment, or frustration, I automatically want to place blame.  My practice is to stop this natural response, and really sit with my feelings.  Why do I feel angry, disappointed, frustrated, or hurt.  What is the source, what is the cause of the way I am feeling? Are my feelings even rational?  Then, I try to find understanding, which leads to making things good.

When we truly try to understand someone or a situation, then we can see the positive or begin to investigate ways to help transform it from a negative into a positive.  Making things good is a process.  We must be patient and results are often not instant.

The beauty is that when we practice making things good, how we feel is instant. We feel good when we consciously try to find understanding, which helps us to respond to any given situation with thoughtfulness and integrity.