I have had a hard time sitting down this week to write. I want my blog to be positive and I haven’t been in a positive frame of mind due to a recent tragedy in our community. It’s a sad story: A young lady that practiced yoga where I teach went missing. It seems from the information so far that she was murdered by her fiancé who has since committed suicide. I went to the candle light vigil for her, which I find interesting, as I never thought I’d be the candle light vigil type. But I felt the need to take a stand on the side of non-violence. To me, taking a stand is an interesting thing because it shows me what I believe in, with conviction. What are you willing to stand up for?
I think things that I can not come to understand are what build the fire of my convictions. I can not wrap my head around violence. Because of that, I have been vegetarian for 16 years. It’s not so much that we eat animals, it’s how we treat them up until that point. Why is treating other living beings decently a fading rule of thumb? Supposedly, we have all these golden rules to live by like: “do unto others as you would have done to you”, or “love thy neighbor, as thyself”. In Ashtanga yoga we chant the Mangala mantra at the end of very practice “Svasti praja bhyah pari pala yantam nyayena margena mahim mahishaha go brahmanebhyaha shubham astu nityam lokha samastah sukhino bhavantu”,- May the well-being of all people be protected. By the powerful and mighty leaders be with law and justice. May all things that are sacred be protected, and may all beings everywhere be happy and free. (There are many different translations of this chant.) And there is Patanjali’s sutra 1.33 “Maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha dukha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam.” – By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calmness. If churches are being filled every Sunday and yoga studio’s every day of the week, then why is violence plaguing all nations, all religions, all communities?
The idea of violence as a way to resolve conflict seems exacerbating. How can the side that violence is committed against ever be free of the emotions of anger and sorrow? Violence just breeds more violence. It seems that violence can be a learned behavior. Which would then lead me to believe the opposite: that non-violence (Ahimsa) can be a learned behavior. I’m hoping that is the case. To use the only direct behavior that I can personally relate to, I’ll go back to my vegetarian life style as an example. I have known my fare share of vegetarians over the years and they are passionate people. Though sometimes, even they let their passion misguide them to the very behavior they despise, violence. They attack the other side with words and hostility. I find that people don’t realize that language can be where violence begins. I have always tried to take the path that actions speak louder then words. But, I try and remind myself that words can be as sharp as a knife. Words are a different weapon, but they can have the same result.
I live what I believe, and I don’t feel the need to defend it with attacks on those that disagree. I am being the change I wish to see in the world. I am doing my part. I am trying, in as many ways possible to stay as far removed as I can from violent acts to other beings. Being vegetarian is just one of those ways. Other ways I try is reading positive books, listening to positive music, treating my own body and mind with kindness and respect and welcoming as many people as I can into the yoga community, where there is a belief in a respect for life.
There is great story from Indian mythology that should be an inspiring representation of what we should all be doing. In the story called the Ramayana, there is a battle of good vs. evil. One of the characters is a monkey, named Hanuman, who devotes himself to Lord Rama. All of Hanuman’s actions are of service. Hanuman is humble, and wise. Hanuman is capable of many great things, however he can not access these powers until someone reminds him of his abilities. It is through these reminders that Hanuman is able to fulfill his Dharma, his path in life. Shouldn’t we all be reminding each other of all that we are capable of? Pointing out each others strength’s and talent’s, instead of the opposite? We should be each other’s cheerleaders!
Hanuman is usually depicted as a representation of devoted love. Art work show’s him ripping his chest wide open to show that inside his heart he keeps Sita and Rama. What do you keep inside your heart that you would stand up for? His service is to the divine masculine and feminine qualities of life. Hanuman is considered to be the messenger of the unconscious to the conscious. He symbolizes the waking up process of consciousness. Once you have expanded your awareness, it is not easy to contract it. You won’t be able to turn the other cheek as easily against the darkness once you have dispelled light on a situation. Awareness is our greatest asset.
Yoga is the practice of listening. If we were all better listeners, we would be able to hear other people’s points of view with our hearts open. It would give us a chance to work on our ability to discern what their message is. Good discernment is a skill. We should be helping one another along, with kind words, and kind actions. And if you can’t be kind, then be silent. Besides we can only listen, if we are not speaking. Yoga gives us a place to practice being kind, first and foremost to ourselves. As the change you wish to see in the world must start with you. Cheering one another on is like putting a log on each other’s fire. Stoking the flames, that will help each of us dispel the dark side of life.
There used to be this comic strip that had two super hero’s called the “Wonder Twins”. They were a brother and sister (masculine & feminine). When they would say “wonder twin powers activate”, and touch each other, they were able to change shape, and then fight crime. But they only had access to their powers if they were connected. It’s such a great idea: That there has to be union in order for something to have great strength against evil. Didn’t Batman have Robin and The Lone Ranger have Tonto? There are so many great examples in mythology and in history that it is better to be united.
The word “Yoga” means union, to come together. How are we coming together? Who is in your community? If we are a community of people that think alike, then if something bad happens against a member of our community, we will take a stand! The more of us who stand up against violence, the louder our voice will become. And the clearer the message. I am against violence. I live the way I wish the world to become. I can do this alone but I feel better when we are doing it together. Let’s remind each other…of all that we can do that will change the world. Let’s be a community that is against violence. Let’s be cheerleader’s for love, knowledge, and service. Let’s remember to always remind each other that we are united! That we are better as a whole, then we are apart.
In honor of a young lady, murdered at age 30 by the man she had wanted to marry.