Yoga and the Art of Gaining More Freedom through Love

Tribute in lights, September 11, 2019, view from midtown manhattan

Tribute in lights, September 11, 2019, view from midtown manhattan

This past month, as sadly we have been doing for the last 18 years, we commemorated the events of 9/11 once again. It’s always been a time for me to pause and take refuge in this teaching from the Buddha:

Hatred is never ended by hatred - but by love alone is hatred healed. This is an eternal rule.
-Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha)

So easy of course to say, but so difficult to put into practice. Perhaps that’s why the song All We Need Is Love became popular, as it serves as a constant mantra to help us remember that indeed we need more love in the world to help it heal the many sufferings.

 I’ve been thinking a lot about how to increase my own capacity for being able to meet hatred with more love. I think it has a lot to do with cultivating more compassion, first for my own self, then outwardly towards others. Thich Nhat Hanhs’ words inspired me:

 Even when you see a lot of violence, discrimination, hatred and craving, if you are equipped with understanding and compassion, you don’t suffer.

 We certainly do see a lot of violence, hatred and craving in the world – especially in this current political climate – and yes it makes me mad. But if yoga and meditation and various contemplative teachings can have any value for us, it’s that they can help us to rise above our base needs – food, clothing, shelter – and give us more room to hold more understanding and compassion.

 And this thought gave me pause to consider, as well:

 If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.
Jack Kornfield (b.1945), American Buddhist Teacher

 I face a lot of challenges in my own life running Keoni Movement Arts, a nonprofit organization that I founded. Sometimes it’s a very lonely place, as I face multiple decisions and struggle to come up with answers to questions that I am making my best educated guesses on. But through the struggles, I have learned that these moments are great opportunities to have a bit more compassion for myself. What I am doing is not easy. And anyone who has been in my shoes, faces similar challenges and experiences similar feelings. I may feel lonely, but I know that I am not alone and my feelings are universal.

 One of Pema Chodron’s core teachings that I love remembering from time to time is that essentially the discomforts of life, the difficult moments, can be the very ingredients we need in order to grow spiritually and to cultivate more compassion. Ultimately, we are trying to move in the direction of a greater capacity to love, and – no less important – an ability to receive love. One of Jesus’ teachings was this:

 The most sacred places of all on Earth is where an ancient hatred becomes a present love.

 Aaahh, for those of us fortunate enough to create space in our lives to step back and witness past hatreds with less anger, what a place that is to be. It’s from that place that we can witness that people are only doing acts of hate because of feelings of fear and insecurity deep within their core. Perhaps we can’t always reconcile past conflicts with the parties involved, but perhaps we can at least send some love in that direction. As Jesus also said, “forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing.”

 Thomas Merton, a 20th Century Theologian and Writer, said it best in imagining what it would be like to look into another’s soul:

 Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.

What’s the hardest yoga position of all? Perhaps the one where we witness the interconnectedness of all beings, and bow down deeply to each other’s divinity.

 May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you increase your capacity for meeting hatred with love, …
For the benefit of All Beings everywhere.

 Aloha with Metta,
Paul Keoni