I’ve put out a version of this very similar letter three times over the last 2.5 years, and here's the fourth. Why? Because a) it’s been one of the most opened and responded to emails each time, and b) because these yoga teachings are needed at this moment in our country’s history.
Can we agree that there’s a lot of hurt in the world right now? I remember a month ago, I saw a series of posts about what was happening at our country’s southern borders. I couldn’t believe it. WE, as in the United States, were separating children from their parents? WE were stopping women still breastfeeding their babies and adding to the fear that already accompanied them as they sought asylum? WE are responsible for separating thousands and thousands of families because...well because of what really? What exactly was that accomplishing? I’m not interested in that debate right now, but I am interested in talking about the essence of yoga here, of what it means to practice humanity.
I know I’ll probably have some folks who read this and disagree, who may “unfollow,” but I hope you’ll read this anyway. I’ve been told that I feel so strongly that separating families is wrong because I still nurse my son. And, that may be true, but more than that? I see myself in every one of those pictures and videos of families seeking asylum, seeking something better. I see myself in the mother afraid of losing her child. I hear my baby in the cries of another for their parents. I see myself in wanting better for my life and that of my family, and doing whatever possible to make it happen.
That’s yoga. We recognize that there is zero difference in how our hearts beat, how our lungs breathe. We recognize that we are all one, that we are all connected. Fear is fear. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. We feel it the same. You and I are no better nor are we safe from it just because we might live in this country. This is called ahimsa, meaning non-violence or practicing peace. I get choked up whenever I talk about this in class. We can’t see hate nor can we spread hate unless it resides within us first. Everyone is a reflection of how we see ourselves. Once we can acknowledge our imperfections and celebrate our wondrous traits, then we can fully accept and see the good and honor the pain of others. From there, we are more capable of expressing love, of acceptance. In this sense, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity. Please remember this.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is a passage on how we maintain peace with everybody, and in turn how we maintain peace within.“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” Share joy with those who are happy, compassion for those who are unhappy/fearful/scared, celebrate the success of another without envy, and become indifferent to the wicked (not hateful).
So in a nation that seems divided, what do we do? Where do we start? Stay engaged. Know what’s happening in your world so you can positively affect it. Practice ahimsa towards yourself and others. Practice compassion to all those who are scared, fearful, running for a better life. Create change. Make the hard phone calls. Donate your time or your dollars. It can be hard, but as yogis it’s our responsibility to try, to show what it’s like to practice humanity. Love unites us. There’s more love than hate in the world. You guys teach me that every day.
P.S. We made a donation to Together Rising to help reunify families that have been separated. Yoga is about UNION. Yoga literally means “to yoke, to unite, to bring together.” How can you practice yoga today off of your mat? How can you bring people together? How can you continue to serve and lift others?
P.P.S. On a completely different note, we are welcoming a new teacher audition! This Thursday, please welcome Isaac to the teaching mat at 5:45 p.m. Isaac is a recent graduate of the Yoga Dear Teacher Training program, a studio member of the past two years, a longtime yogi, a comedian, psychologist, and all around great guy. His teaching style is full of warmth and imagery. We think you’ll love learning from him. Sign up here.