This has been quite the week.
I have a tendency to resist things that are stated with that emphatic, 100% backing to it, maybe it’s my outsider nature… but there’s that side to the popular yoga culture, that side that’s pushing ‘yoga will save the world’ as though Yoga will get out of bed one morning and decide to stop glacial melt, cap carbon and methane emissions, and put an end to rape culture and police-state violence worldwide…
But now more than ever, probably, the world needs for us to do our practice. To do our practice seen through the lens of the Patañjali Yoga Sutra 1:2 “Yoga is the intentional resolution of self-limiting (self-referential) thoughts”, which, really, is another way of talking about love. Each time I circle back to a self having the experience, i.e. every time I narrate my experience to myself, ascribing it I-ness, or Me-ness, or Mine-ness: I put a wall between us. I limit the potential for any relationship to truly grow between us. As our bodyminds are the only way we are able to know World and know Culture, we have to start there. The ‘discipline’ practices of asana and meditation are the ways we can really tune into the various ways we relate with, experience, and understand our most foundational existence: living on the earth with gravity. And by feeling deeply into our own experience of existence we can begin, we can actively, and ideally most of the time, feel deeply into the experience everyone else has of existence. Because, I think, if pressed, most people would wish for everyone to feel at home and at ease in their bodies, at home and at ease on the earth. And probably the most important muscle we tone is our compassion. If our practice ins’t grounded in compassion, then what’s it for? Surely there are faster ways of getting the ass in the jeans.
It’s not for nothing that yoga and meditation are burgeoning, we can say what we wish about that, but I feel there is a deeper pull toward easing the fearful state of culture. As we are all enmeshed in relationship with the world, we are behooved by it to do our practice actively: to be with what we cultivate on our sticky mats and meditation cushions and bring it back into culture; to be wakeful in our roles as agents of culture; and rather than bemoan and then ultimately turn away from the rampant irreverence for human and non-human life alike, to face it, and do something about it.
Most likely yoga is not going to save the world, but the practice of it can bring us into a deeper relationship with it. So that we may do the work of being human all the more humanely.