Yoga Friends, this month we experienced collectively so much pain and sorrow as major events swirled around us. From the mass shooting at The Pulse Night Club in Orlando, to the Supreme Court ruling (or lack thereof) over immigration, to "Brexit," no matter what your personal views on each of these situations is, like the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge which connects Brooklyn and Manhattan, we all got to realize yet again just how interconnected we are by the little and big bridges we form with others in our lives. What can we as yoga and meditation practitioners do to make some sense of it all?
During times like these, I go back to the teachings of the Buddha for guidance. Especially during times like these, it is important to remember his words from the Dhammapada:
Hatred never ceases with hatred,
but by love alone is hatred healed.
This is an ancient truth.
Many do not realize that we here must die.
For those who remember
According to a google search, in Mahayana Buddhism, a Bodhisattva a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings. Though that is quite a lofty goal to strive for, I believe that each of us possess the compassion to want to alleviate the suffering we witness around us. Often, though, we are at a loss for what to do. I think we can start by coming to our yoga mats and our meditation cushions with the intention not to harm our own selves, but rather to be as loving and kind to ourselves as we possibly can, especially when we fail.
I for one am not perfect, and I have come to see that it is especially important that I be loving, kind, and compassionate to myself when I make a mistake. I also believe that this act of self-kindness actually helps the entire world in some small way.
The lotus blossom is symbolic in yoga. Padmasana, or Lotus Position, is the posture one assumes when practicing meditation. In the posture, one sits rooted to the Earth while shifting one's attention to the Divine.
The lotus is also a symbolic in Buddhism. John Powers writes in his Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism:
A lotus is born in the muck and mud at the bottom of a swamp, but when it emerges on the surface of the water and opens its petals, a beautiful flower appears, unstained by the mud from which it arose. Similarly, the compassion and wisdom of buddhas arise from the muck of the ordinary world, which is characterized by fighting, hatred, distrust, anxiety, and other negative emotions. These emotions tend to cause people to become self-centered and lead to suffering and harmful emotions. But just as the world is the locus of destructive emotions, it is also the place in which we can become buddhas, perfected beings who have awakened from the sleep of ignorance and who perceive reality as it is, with absolute clarity and with profound compassion for suffering living beings.
For me this statement reminds me to stay connected to the earth, and to all the beings that inhabit it. It reminds me to stay connected to my inner, negative emotions. All the horror and sadness -- all the muck of the world -- we witness around us and inside of us might just be the very ingredients we need to spur us onward by awakening our compassion and thus moving us closer to enlightenment. It is possible for each of us through our various contemplative practices to blossom further to becoming beautiful beings that can somehow be helpful to those around us. We have that capacity, and I believe that innate drive.
When yucky, mucky things happen to us, we have a tendency to want to run away. Fortunately seated meditation is a tool we can use to hold the mucky energy and transform it into something beautiful.
Earlier this month, the Hōkūleʻa, a canoe from my native Hawaii, arrived in New York Harbor. It's been over 2 years since it left Hawaii and the crews have paddled it across the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans being guided simply by the stars, wind, currents, birds and other navigational tools provided by nature. The have created bridges with First Nations People all around the world. The voyage's mission is Mālama Honua or "caring for our Island Earth." As yoga practitioners, the reminder for us is that we are all interconnected and it is our collective responsibility to care for Mother Earth. Harm done in one part of the world is felt globally.
My wishes for the planet right now are:
May we all cultivate more love and kindness within ourselves.
May we all remember that we are interconnected.
May we shift from every man, ethnicity for himself to every individual for the collective.
May we all stay connected to the muck of the world, and transform it into something beautiful.
With Aloha and Metta,