Yoga Philosophy

Righteous Indignation VS. Righteous Awareness

I get  alot of flack because many feel that I over simplify life. However, I live a very simple, uncomplicated, drama free life.  I am extraordinarily happy. Maybe this is where my simpleness comes from.

My life is simple because I realized I have three choices. Only two make me happy. The other just cause stress.

  1. Admit that there is nothing I can directly do about the situation, at this moment,and mentally or physically let it go. Peace.
  2. Take action. Peace
  3. Bitch and moan about it with righteous indignation and worry about it without any actionable solutions taken. Hell

When I bitch and moan, the energy of whatever is wrong stays in my life and I just bring more and more of that which I don’t want in because it is  in my awareness. When something is in your awareness, you see it everywhere. It is like when you buy a new car and all of a sudden you see that car every where. Before you bought it, you did not pay attention to it. Now that you have it, you pay attention to it. You draw more people and situations into your life that fit that energy. You are blocked from receiving the people and situations in your life that do not have that energy i.e other happy peaceful people and happy situations.

Righteous indignation is different from bringing awareness to a situation by stating the facts. Here is the difference.

Righteous Indignation:  I can’t believe what happened.  This is what happened.Those people are horrible. They hurt all those people. You shouldn’t hurt people like that. How awful those people are. That person is horrible and bad. I am mad. I am angry. Lets talk about how mad and angry I am.

Raising Awareness: Last night, at 8 PM this happened. As a result of this happening, this many people were harmed. This situation made this possible. This is what we can do to ensure that this situation is not possible.


Raising awareness is still actionable. Righteous indignation is not. Righteous indignation does nothing positive to change the situation.

The peace that comes right after that burst of anger is temporary. What comes next is the repercussions of it. More anger in the world. The bringing of more of that which is causing your anger into your awareness which brings in more anger and unrest. Maybe the hurt and pain inflicted on the object of your indignation.

Chris Kelly from the rap group Kris Kross killed himself in 2013. He could no longer take all the anger and opinion coming at him due to his career choices, his health issues and the way he lived his life. This is an extreme case. Of course. But it shows what happens when righteous indignation goes horribly wrong.

Kris Kross

I love the serenity prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Whomever wrote this knew that this was the key to serenity. This was the key to simple happiness. I have found this to be true in my life.


The Yoga Sutras tell us to be present. Anything that is not directly in our experience is not to be worried about. It essentially is saying the same thing as the serenity prayer. Essentially the yogic view on life is pretty simple too.

Yoga Sutras 1:33

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

Disregard toward the wicked means not giving wickedness your attention. Righteous indignation is way to much attention.

Just because something is simple does not mean that it is easy.  Righteous indignation allows us to simply flow into the emotion of anger which comes easy when we are on fire about an issue. Applying the tenets of the serenity prayer or being present with the anger instead of blowing up for most people, is not second nature. For the “mind stuff to retain its undisturbed calmness” we have to know when to lay down our cross and just be happy anyway.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail