This year has been quite a ride. And it seems this ride isn’t over. A once-a-century pandemic coupled with political and social upheaval leaves many with complicated situations, stress, worry, and grief. As a yoga community, we find ourselves challenged like any other. Strains on time, money, and bandwidth affect our ability to practice. These strains lead us to question like anyone would, the meaning of our commitments and intentions. They may have us looking at making changes to adjust to the normal we find ourselves in.
In a way, this is always true. We struggle with ourselves throughout “good” and “bad” times. We find our minds in opposition to our best-laid plans. We pivot and change but still, we often are drawn towards changing our direction hoping that we will find what we are looking for. And then we begin again and again seeking our final destination that never comes.
I mention this now because there is much wisdom in the yoga traditions. No matter what flavor of practice we look at there is a common theme. Sit and stay still, just be and let ourselves experience the wonder of presence. Understand that we can be effective agents of change and enlightenment, but to do this we first need to understand ourselves and our capabilities.
As humans, we have been given the ability to experience the wonder and power of joining our perception with true reality. This is the practice of self-inquiry. Understanding ourselves by allowing ourselves to see the origin of our thoughts and desires. This practice is available to everyone and can be done anywhere. If we are willing to become fully present, whether it is in asana, meditation, or walking the dog, we have the ability to gain the understanding necessary to weather any storm.
This is the practice we participate in and teach to others. It heals us and guides us because it removes the struggle that drains our energy and confuses our minds and bodies. The clarity of practice allows us to know what to do because we are less attached to the outcome and more concerned with our inward orientation. This is the message of the Gita, the Tao, and countless other teachings. We simply need to trust and be present. When we do, we find the direction and clarity we so deeply desire.
Of course, this doesn’t dispel all of our day-to-day worries. The practice of presence infuses our experience with the knowledge of the whole. It gives us a backdrop of understanding and trust that supports us to be our best selves. Useful, compassionate, and clear yogis who work towards the enlightenment of ourselves and society by fulfilling our personal missions while helping others to do the same.
The insight from our self-inquiry practice is the place where all decision making must be rooted. The teachings tell us that grounded in this knowledge we can proceed to take action that is in line with all of nature. In this way we are swimming downstream, contributing to the flow of nature instead of opposing it and causing trouble for ourselves and others.
So this year let us reaffirm our commitment to this practice we all so dearly love. Why else would we be here? During these challenging times let us not forget that we are yogis, committed to expanded awareness for ourselves, our families, our clients, and our communities. Faith and surrender to the process of just-being always win the day.
It’s ok to be happy, open, and joyous. It’s ok to be sad, grieving, and frustrated. What is most important is that we are present for all of it.
By committing to our practice we are committing to fully experiencing the world we live in. When we do this we contribute to the collective enlightenment of everyone.
May this New Year bring you the peace and love that is your birthright,
Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanti
Director and Lead Teacher, Breathing Deeply