I'm a Vata, which means I'm in my head – a lot. When things don't make sense, I grab a book and I throw on my spiritual tool belt and I pray, sing, dance or whatever else Spirit calls me to do. This past week, after the elections, as I laid in my hammock soaking up the sun, trying to hold space for the oversaturation of hate, confusion and chaos that was surrounding me, I reached for the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu text. For some who practice yoga in the west, it is a required text in teacher trainings and used as a guide in how us yoga teachers craft our classes and live our lives. A brief synopsis of this sacred ancient text – Arjuna is a warrior on the battlefield with Krishna as his charioteer. There's an epic war about to go down and it's up to Arjuna to go to war against his own cousins and uncles to protect and defend the sacred land. At first Arujna is like – no way Krishna, I can't go to bat with my own family, I'd rather they kill me. And throughout the story, Krishna is educating Arujuna as to why it's vital for him to follow his dharma (as a warrior to defeat his evil cousins).
Krishna drops gems like "devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action" and "Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind." And "the infinite joy of touching Brahman is easily attained by those who are free from the burden of evil and established within themselves. They see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self. With consciousness unified through meditation, they see everything with an equal eye."
And as I was re-reading parts of the book, my natural Vata nature began to make infinite connections across philosophies, practices and our current reality. Darshana, the Sanksrit word for philosophy, literally means seeing. Ayurveda is a philosophy which allows physicians to see patients in the same way Nature sees them. Yoga is a philosophy that allows individuals to see themselves in their Divine Nature. The sages who codified these practices were called "Seers" because of their ability to perceive reality clearly.
Yoga gives us a tool belt to be able to sit with our own shadows, our own darkness and allows us to have revelation after revelation for our growth and spiritual r-evolution. It gives us a constant reminder of our Divine Spirit, our interconnectedness, our karma and our dharma. It brings us back into our physical bodies, our breath and our greatest super power – love.
Ayurveda, "the sister science" of Yoga, is the art and science of reminding us that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm and that our natural state of being is one of harmony, of living in unison with the rhythm of Mama Earth. It reminds us that everything we need, we already have inside and if we let our internal clocks mimic Mama Earths clocks, we should be good. "Spiritual health is a dynamic balance between a strongly integrated individual personality and the cosmic personality of Nature, a balance that is possible only so long as a being remembers its debt to Mother Nature."
Here's what else Ayurveda teaches us – there are layers to prevent us from getting sick and the body with its infinite wisdom tries to warn us before shit hits the fan. But lucky for us, our immune system and its intricate system is controlled by a single boss – ahamkara. Ahamkara constantly reminds every one of your cells of its identity and allegiance to the glorious entity known as you. Ahamkara is like our own personal Arjuna. Living inside with her own personal army, ready to serve and keep you aligned, safe and healthy.
Healthy in Sanskrit is Svastha. Sva = self and Stha = established in Self. So, Svastha, or to be healthy, means to be established in the Self – mind, body, spirit. And what did the Gita tell us about being established in Self? It said that we "see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self."
So this is why I always find it disturbing when one of two things happen - one: the physical yoga practice ('asana' - which is a pathway to getting us to be able to sit in meditation to reach these higher levels of our spiritual consciousness) is sold solely as a workout, stripped from the spiritual aspect of it and two: when people fail to see how the spiritual IS political.
If I am to be established in Self, then how do I do this while completely ignoring the ills of the world and all the suffering that surrounds me? If I am to strive to see everything through an equal eye – through a continual practice of mediation – how do I not take what I learn in this individual practice with me with every breath I take? If I am practicing yoga, ayurveda and reading these spiritual texts and yet only applying them to my own individual life, then I am just feeding my ego and not pushing myself into the uncomfortable spaces to have the necessary dialogues needed so that we ALL are established in Self?
It's not a passive practice. It's an active one. Being a peaceful warrior, a warrior of light, a Spiritual Warrior does not mean that we pretend that people aren't suffering. It does not mean that we keep our eyes closed and avoid the uncomfortable conversations, confrontations and spaces. Everything about this practice teaches us the opposite. When we choose to not express what impacts us, when we choose to not listen to how and what deeply impacts others, when that expression is restricted, we lose our resonance and no longer vibrate in the chorus of creation. We become less alive, out of step and dissonant.
Ayurveda teaches us that the longer we stay dissonant and refuse to listen, the further we move from our alignment and eventually our bodies will force us to listen by shutting down. Remember that the balance is possible only so long as we remember our debt to Mother Nature. So the more we refuse to listen and pay this debt, the louder Mother Nature will scream to wake us up into taking action to get back in formation! I don't know if she can be any louder than she is right now.
The Spiritual IS Political and mama Earth is waiting for us.
Here are just a few ways to hold space for yourself and to show up for those most impacted by our violent political environment:
· If the election results have left you utterly shocked and you're just becoming aware of the many ways in which this country does not deem all of us equal or worthy, that's ok. Recognize where you are and understand this isn’t a competition of whose grief weighs more. Welcome and now begin to unpack your old way of thinking that no longer serves. You can start with "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. Begin to listen to the people who knew this was going to happen because it's our every day reality. There are many of Black & Brown women writers who have been describing our reality for a long time.
o Audre Lorde
o bell hooks.
o This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color
o Gloria Anzaldua
o Assata Shakur
o Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
o Michelle Alexander – the New Jim Crow
o And so many more
· INTERSECTIONALITY – learn what this means and why it is vital and important in understanding our lived realities.
· Join local organizations that are already doing the work to help dismantle systems, which literally kill and displace marginalized groups of people.
· Find ways you can offer any resources you have to ease others every day struggles.
· Have the difficult conversations with your loved ones – put that yoga practice to work!
· Connect and learn from people in real life – not just on social media. Log off and tune in, in person to the realities of not just your city, state and this country – but around the world and begin to see the larger picture.
· When it all feels overwhelming – go to yoga and go back to your breath. This being conscious thing is work. But it's worth it. Remember we are all a Gift of Divinity.
· Get Solar Panels! Shop local. Begin to think of ways you can live a minimalist lifestyle. Protect Mama Earth.
· Love harder. Love tenderly. Love fiercely.
· Come chop it up with me at the studio (let's chat) because I have way more ideas and words than I can fit on this blog post.