Saturday, December 29, 2018

Blessings in 2019

We are shifting into a new month, like we do every 30 days or so, and shifting into a new year, marking another circling of the sun.  For many it's time for new calendars, planners, life changes, resolutions, all marking the passage of another year.  I've never been one who pays much attention to New Year's rituals or making New Year's resolutions.  I've always thought it to be simply another day, another turn of the same calendar, and that renewal is a potential held in each moment–if we are paying attention, and truly desire a change.

For some reason this seems to be shifting for me.  Perhaps it's because I'm getting older, and my half-century mark is creeping undeniably closer!  However I feel the reason is more closely related to the state the world in recent times.  I understand, in the historical context of things, we live in a society which is safer and more secure than any throughout history, and yet anxiety and fear are felt intensely everywhere.  I also know the air and water quality in our country is better in many places than it was 100 years ago, but the danger of us depleting resources our ancestors took for granted is a real concern for scientists and ecologists today. Humans (in this country especially) are living longer and with more physical comfort and security than ever in the past.  And yet, if we don't temper our mastery of the physical world with the wisdom of contentment and connection, our endless desire will be our downfall.

From my perspective, the root of all the dissonance, divisiveness, hateful speech, nationalism, resource hoarding, lying, scandals, and profiteering is that we humans are hard-wired for self-preservation.  We are designed to look after ourselves and those closest to us.  There was a day when that was necessary for the survival of the species.  That day is over.  Greed, oppression, dishonesty, genocide, cover-ups, and resource hoarding are simply unevolved behaviors, if you ask me.  We have developed highly intelligent brains, with the capacity for foresight, hindsight, and most importantly neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to learn and change.  We can use this ability to develop our capacity to expand the circle of our social bonds beyond our family and friends.  We know diversity is better for life!  Our innate human ability to feel the pain of another is, I believe, the only thing that will save this world, and all her inhabitants.  We must learn to feel ourselves and each other properly!  Science has shown that if we have a first hand account of the pain inflicted on another, we are more likely to stop said inflicting.  History has shown our ability to help each other in times of crisis, disregarding differences in politics, sexual orientation, social status, or religious beliefs.  The more we can connect with the real human suffering of this world, the more likely we will act to change it.

What does this have to do with yoga?  As a teacher of yoga for 22 years now, I'm continually contemplating how to refine my craft to bring the most good into the world.  I've shifted from exclusively strong, expressive, and rigorous practices to include more soft, static, contemplative, and reflective practices.  My use of language has shifted from one of presenting "one size fits all" instructions to extending invitations when teaching alignment in poses.  I am creating more space and presenting tools for people to feel the reality of their bodies (anatomically) and respond to THAT, rather than to some idealized formula of movement specifics.  I'm trying to empower students to do what feels integrated, rather than what looks impressive.  I vow to continue in this way–as I am clear that the paradigm I want to put forth in the world is one of sensitivity, compassion, connection, and respect for others' experiences.  I don't want my relationships with others to be dependent upon common preferences and opinions, but rather the shared human experience in all it's infinite flavors.  I'm interested in relating to experience rather than expectation. 

I've not taught any New Year's Eve classes in some years.  I am presenting a special offering at Imago Yoga Lab on New Year's Eve, 5-6:30pm!  I'm also making a few New Year's resolutions this year.  I'm resolving to renounce more in my life going forward.  In the interest of doing my part to be of help in this world, I'm renouncing the urges that may cause me to spend resources carelessly.  I'm renouncing support for businesses that put profit way over people.  I'm renouncing the knee-jerk tendency to pacify garden variety human discomfort with mindless consumption of whatever sort.   I'm renouncing my own tendencies to see "other" and to be influenced by fear.  I'm simply simplifying.  Relinquishing, bit by bit, the narrow path of selfishness, and widening, bit by bit, the circles of love I feel for those around me and beyond.  I'm also continuing to teach in ways that reflect an open-hearted, all embracing practice which invites one to be diligent, have integrity, be honest, be humble, and to work for the benefit of all beings.  I hope to see you on New Year's for class!  Then I'll be in bed by 10pm, God willing!  Happy Just Another Day everyone!  May we all do better for one another, and may all beings be at peace.  Om shanti.