A few weeks before the International Day of Peace, I posed a question to my Facebook friends: “How, where, or when do you find peace?” Since the official purpose of the worldwide observance is “global ceasefire,” I expected—and received—several thoughtful responses about striving for peace in the world, and they were appreciated.
You may have heard the word ahimsa, but weren’t quite sure what it meant. That was me. Then my yoga instructor talked about it one night before we started our class practice. Now, in the face of all the violence making the headlines and the havoc raised by folks drenched in hate, I’m trying to embrace ahimsa more than ever.
One of the main goals of a regular yoga practice is to be able to reach Samadhi, a state of deep concentration and meditation resulting in union with a greater reality … a greater universal consciousness. When we are in Savasana, we are working toward this state, feeling the benefits of our asana practice, resting our bodies in order to open up to our breath and release all of the tension and thoughts running through our minds — coming to a place of blissful nothingness.
When life gets busy, it’s easy to get out of balance – emotionally, physically and mentally – from trying to maintain equilibrium between the activities that fulfill us and the demands of life. Very rarely are we able to maintain the ‘great Tree Pose of balance,’ as our lives are in a constant state of change.
I have known for some time that negative or challenging energy is not part of me. At any given moment, I can choose to accept or reject something into my life, and I have often told my students that they do not have to accept old energy and thought patterns into their lives.
Yoga saved my life.
Pretty grand statement, I know. And perhaps other people say that, too. I guess depending on where you are in life or what you happen to be going through, there are a lot of things that can save your life. A good book could do it, a sign from the universe or maybe even a strong martini. But when I say that yoga saved my life, I mean it truly came into my life during one of the darkest moments I had ever experienced and gave me back my desire to really live — fully and entirely.
A few years back, I found myself completely paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack. This anxiety made me angry. It made me resentful. But most of all, it made me an entirely different person. I became a shell of what I used to be. A lot of people thought I’d stay that way. Full disclosure: I thought I’d stay that way too.
This has been an amazing month. There have been incredible gifts that have poured into me in surprising and glorious ways. There have also been challenges, upheavals and upsetting experiences. As I moved into meditation and contemplation on my experiences I had the thought, “There is a gift in everything.”
Now, that was not surprising, since I believe that everything that happens has a purpose. However, when thoughts come in like that, I pay attention. What I discovered is that I have been allowing little thoughts of concern to creep into my consciousness. I have a strong spiritual practice, but still I noticed that parts of my body felt constricted. That is always a powerful sign to pause.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
That statement has been moving through my mind for the past several weeks as I read comments on social media and hear so many people feeling helpless and disillusioned. It’s clear to me that we are living in a time of extreme opposites. There are people doing extraordinary work to bring peace and consciousness to the planet, while at the same time there are also people committed to war and violence.
The real question for me is “How do I want to respond and live?” I believe that we are either part of the problem or we are part of the solution. I also believe that our words have power and that what we put out in the universe eventually returns to us in some form.
So instead of being upset about the state of the world, I have decided to do something, and I would like you to join me.
I was thinking about hope this week and what it means to our lives. When I looked up the definition of hope, here is what came forward: The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; A person or thing in which expectations are centered; to look forward with desire and reasonable confidence.
The definition reminded me that hope can be attached to a feeling and therefore can be affected by emotion. “I hope things turn out okay.” “I hope that I will be understood.” “I hope my family will be okay.” It dawned on me that when I am hoping, I am looking into the future. There is a desire to be supported, but not an assuredness that everything will fall into place. Somehow there is a little kernel of doubt that things might not work out in a powerful way.