Yoga, Politics and the Womens March in DC
I don’t generally talk about politics on my blog, however, it’s hard to look the other way when the past few months and especially the last few days have been such a pivotal time not just in American history, but world history. And, as a yogini and artist, I do believe these are the times when we should do our practices regularly, but also stand up, speak out and come together.
BEING A VESSEL
As a yogi I remind myself daily, “you are not the doer, merely a vessel for the divine to work through you”. These words have always provided me with perspective, faith, humility and a gentle nudge to let go of whatever was sitting heavy in my heart. Yet, since November, it’s been hard to fully wrap my “mind” around how universal morality of truth, compassion, generosity and peace was being pushed aside for dishonesty, greed, selfishness and deep-seated aggressions. At times I’ve felt like I was losing my faith in humanity.
Then this weekend happened.
A coming together of millions, standing together in peace, love, compassion and kindness. A large part of humanity saying we don’t want to live in a dark world, where fear rules and immorality dominates. Can you believe 3.5- 4 million Americans rallying together, without a single arrest or outburst of violence? It’s phenomenal.
THE POWER OF THE YAMAS (universal morality)
As I’ve been reflecting on the past few days and what it all means, I see this outpouring of love as an example of yoga at it’s best. Patanjali, the father of the Yoga Sutras, explains that the very first limb that a yogi must learn are the Yamas that represent Universal Morality. Five basic characteristics that remind us that our fundamental human nature is that of compassion, generosity, honesty and peacefulness. Which, if tended to, purifies human nature and contributes to the health and happiness of society.
The yamas are broken down into these five characteristics:
AHIMSA – Compassion for all living things. The word ahimsa literally mean not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence as adopted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities too. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.
SATYA – Commitment to Truthfulness. Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.
ASTEYA – Non-stealing. Steya means “to steal”; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us. This also means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her. Non-stealing includes not only taking what belongs to another without permission, but also using something for a different purpose to that intended, or beyond the time permitted by its owner. The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time for inconsiderate behavior demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing
BRAHMACHARYA – Sense control. Brahmacharya is used mostly in the sense of abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya does not necessarily imply celibacy. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. Rather, it means responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy wisely and to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.
APARIGRAHA – Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth. Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or act greedy. We should only take what we have earned; if we take more, we are exploiting someone else. The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God and in himself to provide for his future. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants.
HOPE & LIGHT
We’ve definitely seen the opposite of these tenants being acted upon by tyrants that have wreaked havoc in large and small countries. But, we’ve also seen them put into action by visionary activists and leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Proving that deep shifts can take place when compassion, generosity, honesty and peacefulness are the instruments that people choose to break walls down with, rather than weapons that inflict pain, create divisions and ultimately cause destruction.
Whatever lies ahead, I know “the road will be long”, but I am hopeful and inspired knowing that the Womens March and other sister organizations are following suit of these great leaders and being a beacon of hope and light. Because as Dr. King so beautifully said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.
With lots of love,
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