Note: I wrote this blog on marathon Monday, hours before the Boston bombings. Our prayers go out to all those affected by this and by all violence. You are in our hearts and intentions.
In the classical path of yoga as laid out by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras 5,000 years ago, step 1 is not go into a yoga studio and start learning downward dog. Learning the physical aspects of Yoga comes 3rd, after following the Yamas and Niyamas. The 5 Yamas (moral restraints) and the 5 Niyamas (moral observances) provide a structure for alleviating suffering off the mat. It’s a moral code to live by. Sort of like the 10 commandments.
When we don’t follow the Yamas or Niyamas, our life gets out of balance and we suffer. For example, if you don’t follow Asteya, or non-stealing, most likely you will get something stolen from you. Good ole karma takes care of that. Satya, or truthfulness, is another example. Tell a lie, and most likely you’ll get lied to. These are two important Yamas – watch how they affect your life.
Something we are all being affected by right now is violence. From the global conflicts brewing in North Korea, to daily national headlines of gun violence, and even at the local level with the recent events happening at the Page here in Portsmouth, violence is fighting for its existence. At the same time, more people are practicing yoga, more people are working towards peace, more people are helping each other to live fuller lives. I am not a pessimist by any means. I believe we are where we are supposed to be, and getting better every day. I am hopeful for the future and the world is perfect just the way it is.
However, why this rash increase in violence as of late? Why do we want to fight with each other? Is it some innate human quality that makes us want to kill each other? Or has our environment led us to increased violence? Is it being over exposed and numbed by the constant media slew of bad news and violent TV and movies? Or is it our public sport heroes beating each other up in bench clearing brawls and in the latest UFC 158? Or has the latest and greatest Call of Duty video game led us down this path?
So, as yogis, what can we do to help this? Step one – get on the mat and practice. Step 2 – get off the mat and practice. Practice the Yamas and the Niyamas. Practice what Ahimsa, or non-violence, means to you. Be nonviolent towards yourself. Listen to your body. Put nurturing things in your body. Put kind thoughts in your head. Be respectful and be yourself. Then, be peaceful towards others. Give the power to the peaceful.
These are the obvious things. Now how far will you take it? What does it take to eliminate violence from our lives and world? Imagine all the people, living life in peace.
Some yogis don’t eat meat. I’m not a vegan. So, my ahimsa for this will be to give thanks for the food entering my body. I’ve got some pesky groundhogs eating up my septic system. I’ve got to find a peaceful way to get rid of them.
Now the debate continues… Sports. Oh How I love football and the Dallas Cowboys. Football is violent. Does that mean we stop watching? I’ve been really bothered by the fighting and bench clearing fights in baseball. Come on guys. Wrestling has been banned from the Olympics. Is this our society practicing ahimsa and taking steps towards a nonviolent world?
There are less gray areas. Gun reform is an obvious step towards peace. Stop supporting things that are blatantly violent and harmful. Give power to the peaceful. Bring a friend to yoga. Smile alot. Let the person by that is tailgating you. Stop texting and driving. Send out your intentions to those affected by violence.
I’ll be ending my classes with Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
It means peace for all human kind, peace for all living and non-living beings, peace for the universe, peace for each and every thing in this whole cosmic manifestation.
Peace, Peace, Peace.