These are trying times. Many in our community are struggling with anger, frustration, sadness, defeat and hopelessness. The practice of yoga allows the time to acknowledge — and really feel — these feelings. Where are they arising from? How does the physical body respond? What is their effect on the mind? Slow movement and breath are great ways to avoid storing this tension in the tissue for longer than necessary, to check old patterns, and keep the nervous system from short-wiring. In his workshop on Sunday at Bow Street, J. Brown admitted to questioning the relevance of yoga this past week, and I think we can all understand that sentiment. Why bother? There is so much work to be done, is this just a waste of time? But this is exactly why we practice.
In my last note, I explained the concept of vairagya — non-attachment or equanimity. This is important in the wake an election when for many of us, things did not go as we had hoped and believed they should. I truly believe the way forward is through connection, and that connection — meaningful conversation and understanding — requires that we maintain a level of calm. Flying off the handle and shouting beliefs at the "other" side may feel cathartic and provide relief in the short term, but from my experience it just makes both sides dig their heels in deeper. And from a yoga perspective, we have to remember that at the core, we're all the same.
maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam — yoga sutra 1.33
"The mind will remain undisturbed for those who can cultivate feelings of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for those who are struggling, and indifference to those who are"...less than virtuous. Or, as Richard Freeman says, "Keep everyone in your heart. Even the schmucks."
As Richard Freeman says, "Keep everyone in your heart. Even the schmucks."
This becomes easier when you're content in your own heart and mind — so personal practice and self-reflection are important. Don't underestimate the work you are doing. And try and remember that everyone — everyone — is doing the best with the tools they have. We may all be the same at the core, but across the country we have vastly different life experiences that have resulted in patterns of behavior (samskaras, in yoga) and coping that are just as different.
I certainly don't have answers or solutions right now. But if my morning practice can ground me, I'm less likely to have road rage on my commute. I'm more likely to smile and hold a door for a stranger. These things may seem insignificant, but they can set a day in a different direction. Practice can also help boost your immune system and give your nervous system a break — and we all need to be healthy to keep pushing forward. So stay with it!
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About this blog
This blog, together with the occasional newsletter, will be an active space to share thoughts about yoga on and off the mat. Please let me know what you like and what you'd like to see more of. And as always, thank you for the gift of teaching!