The range of ideas and thoughts on what needs to change is as diverse as our nation. I certainly know where I fall on that spectrum, but that is not what I want to blog about today. Today, I want to address two concepts that are intrinsically tied together: the question of how we create change and the action of being the change you wish to see in the world.
Times like these require us to do some soul searching. I have to sit back and ask myself, are my day to day actions a beacon of peace or a tacit acceptance of violence? The food I eat, the words I say, the media I choose to ingest, the activities that i spend my time on - do they contribute more joy or more suffering to this world? I'm happy to say that I'm really contented with most of the answers I find upon reflecting. However, there are still places, things, actions that I can change or take to align even more fully with this intention of promoting peace.
Yoga, via the Bhagavad Gita, provides us with an amazing model for understanding our human nature which provides us a framework for making sustainable and healthy change in our lives. There are three Gunas, or energies which influence all that is in our tangible world: Rajas, Tamas and Sattva. Part of our mission as yogis is to see past the mere physical forms we encounter in our lives to the underlying energies present and understanding the Gunas is key here. When we can recognize the differing energies as they come to play in our lives, we become better equipped to act and react.
It's so easy to get caught in that energy of wanting to try and do as much as possible RIGHT NOW! That fire, that passion, that intensity, that drive is referred to in yoga as RAJAS. Rajas represents desire, greed, ambition, and a thirst for worldly enjoyment. It's the part of us that wants, often at any cost - be it our health, or our ethics.
Then there's TAMAS. Tamas is that voice inside us right now that feels powerless, "What can I do?", it may meekly ask. Tamas is dull, heavy, gloomy, lethargic. Tamas can be characterized as lazy or destructive. It's the part of us that just can't see a way to take action. The part of us that can't get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed and open the front door.
Lastly there is SATTVA. Sattva is identified as a calm, peaceful, balanced energy. This is our goal state! People who have cultivated Sattva in their lives are balanced, calm and compassionate.
We are each built of a distinct combination of these energies and other things affect the balance of these energies within us, from the foods we eat to the season we're in. What we are really on a quest for is that Sattvic state, where we are contented and calm while we live our values and act according to our higher sense of compassion, humanity and divinity.
It can be pretty hard to connect with Sattva, in the face of such senseless, dark tragedy. We tend more easily towards extremes. Part of me wants to cry and shut myself in for a few days, another part of me wants to scream, to fly off to to Sacramento or Washington and start making demands for our government to take action. But what I had to do this weekend, ended up being the best tonic for my heavy heart.
I spent time with joyous, beautiful, vibrant children. In addition to teaching yoga, I also teach dance to children, and this weekend, some of my little students participated in a holiday recital. Yes, it was a long day, sometimes chaotic, but every adult from teachers to parents to volunteers, seemed compelled by a deeper energy this weekend. It was our mission to support, to love, to comfort, to cheer for those little kids, mostly unaware of the tragedy that had passed the day before. I took the time to praise them, to tell them i love them, to give them hugs and high fives. It was powerful medicine. In the past, a day like this would have sent me racing back and forth between the extremes of rajas and tamas, feeling fired up and let down. But on Saturday, I found Sattva in the middle of it all.
My hope is, that every interaction I have as a teacher, and as a human being - regardless of whether I'm interacting with a child or an adult - let's the other person know that they are important, that they are a part of my community and that they are cared for and supported. I am one person, and I can't reach everyone, but can I infuse those who I do reach with even more kindness and compassion? That is my goal.
So, hold one another tightly. Look people in the eye. Do some little kindness. Let the peace and the healing begin with your actions. As Gandhi taught, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Your yoga practice can take many forms: asana, meditation, pranayama, or offering service, known as Karma yoga. RIght now is a really powerful time to practice some karma yoga. Go out there and share it. In the words of Burt Bacarach, "What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It's the only thing, that there's just too little of."