“Maman, everything is covered in snow!” my daughter said as she woke me up Monday morning. Seeing the first snow is always an exciting time in our house. Looking at our backyard with her I recalled the coziness, comfort and peace I usually feel in that moment. Not so this year. As in so many other ways, life feels different, uncomfortable, and profoundly unsettled since the US election results. I was very much aware of an underlying sense of sadness, fear and concern that I, like many, have been carrying around for months, and which has only deepened over the past several weeks. It’s a new reality, this lurking feeling that the near future is NOT warm and cozy, and quite likely, at least in the short term, everything is NOT going to be OK. We feel we are poised on the battlefield, being called on to stand up as warriors for the most essential truth we know - the dignity of the human spirit.
And, like so many, I’ve been trying to figure out how to navigate these muddy waters of uncertainty and collective vulnerability and restore light back into my being. I know that as we move into this unknown future this is more important than ever. I’ve been searching for that elusive sense of comfort, not necessarily to put a band-aid over my profound discomfort, but to bolster my ability to be with it for the long haul, to find the courage and stamina to keep going and not retreat, and to reignite my hope out of all this vulnerability, despair and division we can come together to create a new, sublime reality.
I believe yoga practice is at its best and most relevant when it plays a dual role:
1. Giving us a place to meet, see, feel and thoroughly BE WITH reality (both internal and external), AS IT IS.
2. Providing us the critical space and perspective needed to feel our independence and our ability to choose how we want to respond to #1.
In other words, in yoga we are with what is, while also being just separate enough to act from a place of truth (i.e. love, empathy, compassion, unity) rather than division (i.e. anger, fear, worry).
Here are a few ways I've been using yoga practices and principles to find comfort amidst the discomfort, and perhaps you can too:
- In fulfilling my dharma of taking care of my family and running the business of daily life. It helps me to serve the people I love. And, it allows me to express caring and kindness in small ways to those in my immediate environment. I’ve found myself being extra nice to the cashier at the supermarket who looks like she’s having a rough day and saying hello to the janitor in the airport who might usually go unappreciated.
- In the daily routine of practices. My mat and my cushion are a refuge. I’ve been using practice to calm the waves of fear, anger, sadness, disappointment and grief as they arise, to come back into the clarity of my intellect.
- Doing what I do, teaching yoga and supporting new teachers, has felt incredibly therapeutic and useful to me and hopefully to my students. A big part of this is that I get to be with my tribe, a community of likeminded individuals like all of you reading this who (even though you might not know it) are supporting me greatly just by being there as students and colleagues. All of us need to give ourselves time with uplifting company in the form of community and the wisdom of sacred texts.
- In remembering (yet again) that while I may not have control over the events in my outer world, or in feelings that arise, I have full dominion over my response. Even when I don't accept this as true, or feel this choice, it still is. It is empowering (and crucial) to remember that I can use my practices and my willpower to decide how I want to be.
It’s in moments of practice, teaching, and contemplating larger truths that I feel a renewed sense of determination and urgency for the work I do, knowing it is more vital than ever. Going inward, dealing with our collective and individual shadows, getting a bit of quietude, calming the nervous system. All this renews our strength and stamina.
These are some thoughts from where I sit now. I will be here, I will keep going and finding ways to be helpful and loving in my daily life, while staying aware and alert to what concrete actions I can take to move into our new and unknown reality in the highest possible way. It is time to put our inner resources into action, time to hold the vision of goodness, light and peace more strongly than ever.
HELPFUL READINGS TO MOVE FORWARD:
Here are some of the most useful articles that have come across my news feed in the past few days:
The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story by Charles Eisenstein
Do Not Lose Heart: We Were Made for These Times by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Start Close In by Parker Palmer
I haven't thoroughly reviewed all of these yet, but they come from a teacher I love and trust, so I am confident they are worthy of passing on. The descriptions are hers:
The Shambhala warrior with Joanna Macy, an elegant spokeswoman for the higher wisdom in us.
How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind A helpful portrait of the other side of our " Cultural Divide” ( long - you can skim)
Bringing Empathy into our Politics A politically oriented, savvy bid to the educated elite for the efficacy of moving into Unity at all costs using the word empathy instead of Love --to avoid allergic reactions to the word love.
The End Of the Old Paradigm A “spiritual teacher" who stands strongly in the higher wisdom teachings using a kind of