Dear Friends and Family,
Wishing you and your loved ones all the very best for the New Year! What a previous turbulent year we have all experienced, and during just this first week of January 2021 the turbulence has continued. I had written here another New Year’s greeting, and was about to hit the “send” button when today’s historic, disgraceful and criminal attack on the Capitol showed up on my email alerts, and I (like most of you, no doubt) spent the rest of the day watching the news with horror and disgust. So I deleted my original text, which no longer seemed at all relevant, and am starting over as I struggle to digest the day’s events. Unfortunately, I cannot say that the storming of the Capitol by Trump’s desperate and unhinged followers completely surprised me given the recent similar attack on the Michigan legislature in April and the October kidnapping plot against that State’s Governor. Today’s events were additionally foreshadowed by the images of white supremacists marching in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017 bearing torches and like today Confederate flags, as well as Trump’s invitation to the violent Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the September Presidential debates. In recent years, images of mobs comprised of hateful, angry people have unfortunately become too commonplace in this country. Many of us have rightfully been concerned about the peaceful transition of Presidential power and the protection of the rule of law after experiencing four-plus years of the dangers of Trumpism, and with only two more weeks left before the Biden-Harris inauguration, the intensity of our concerns is increasing.
As yogis and spiritual seekers, how can we make sense of these turbulent times in which we are living? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer but I find myself asking that question quite often. In past newsletters, I have discussed the Yoga Sutras, an ancient text that has many relevant sections to this day, especially the yamas and niyamas (ethical and moral prescriptions on how to conduct our inner and outer lives). One of the most important Yoga Sutras principles is “ahimsa” which means non-harming to others and oneself; the prohibition from causing physical and psychological pain, and instead the active engaging in loving thoughts and actions; and the “absence of violence in physical, mental and emotional forms.” http://www.yogapedia.com Clearly, what I described in the previous paragraph are acts performed with the opposite intention of ahimsa. In 2021, five thousand years after the drafting of the Yoga Sutras, we still observe so much hatred and violence in our society, both political and non-political. In order to reduce such negativity, yogis examine our thoughts, words and actions as a daily practice, and understand that engaging in ahimsa is the ultimate societal and inner goal. When we understand that we can intellectually disagree with our political opponents without making them the enemy, we can engage in an elevated level of discourse which does no harm to others nor ourselves. As a society, we must learn to separate the disagreement of ideas from the demonizing of the proponent of those ideas. In a modern society that often seems to reward the bully, with his rage tweeting and other forms of violence, it may feel somewhat old-fashioned to engage in civilized discourse. But in taking the higher road, we raise ourselves up and demonstrate to others non-violent communication. What we each think, say and do not only affects us individually but also has a cumulative ripple effect as well. So our personal actions are important not just for our soul growth and personal evolution, but also because they help move society in one direction or another. We each have the choice as to which direction that will be – towards a more enlightened society or one that devolves into chaos and violence.
So how do the movement forms of yoga fit into this discussion? With our sustained practice of slow, mindful movement and breathing practices (pranayama), we learn to observe ourselves with honesty (satya), curiosity, and non-criticism. Our yoga and meditation practices help calm our nervous systems, and allow us to become less reactive and more reflective. With practice, we find those positive qualities surfacing more often in our lives outside of class, creating more expansiveness in the time in which we react to others, thus reducing the likelihood of a violent response in word or action. We are all on this path together, and I look forward to exploring these themes and more with you in 2021, but hoping as well that the disturbing actions we observed today in DC will not be repeated again.
Please see my schedule for all my offerings in January 2021, including new classes, descriptions and a change for the sign-up option for my Friday noon class (which will now be hosted on my personal Zoom account). Thank you for your support of my teachings!