This brought me to the good healthy realization that there were plenty of situations left in the world over which I had no personal power… – Bill Wilson, “As Bill Sees It”
I’ve just returned from an intentionally slow walk down the hill, to the creek, and back. I paused to lean against a bridge railing and watch the creek ripple then swirl then ripple again. Bugs traveled along the railing’s highway, detouring to the underside when encountering my resting arms. Leaves dropped and danced their way to the water. I was silent.
Clearly I have no personal power over nature’s course, I observed. I felt relieved. Because I am just a small part of that process. I must accept that there is much beyond my control.
This morning, I really needed that slow and silent walk. Yesterday (Wednesday) there was a hostage situation at my former employer, Discovery Communications, in nearby Silver Spring, MD. I happened to be in Silver Spring at that time, giving a talk to a 12-step recovery group. The talk’s theme? Acceptance. Of all things.
I didn’t know exactly why I was stuck in unmoving traffic after the talk. Judging by the variety and number of law enforcement vehicles and officers along the roads, I guessed it was something quite threatening. And because Discovery is the only fairly controversial and very high-profile organization in downtown Silver Spring, I guessed it was there.
Where did my mind go? To the fact that I needed to be back downtown in 30 minutes for a business meeting with someone whose phone number I did not have. Yup. Completely self-centered! I was worried. At the same time, I was pretty darn patient in traffic, understanding that the magnitude of the situation would not warrant any fast movements or clever detours. I also considered the number of people inconvenienced and changing directions at that very moment. I listened to the radio awaiting the news, sat up straight and breathed.
I accepted the situation and therefore was able to feel peaceful in the moment, rather than disturbed by worry and lack of control over the situation.
Referring back to our opening quote from Bill Wilson, and the idea of acceptance, which in yoga is known as Samtosha…
Acceptance means letting go of expectations, plans, wishes and such for the sake of cultivating a peaceful mind – which we learn from Patanjali’s Sutras, is the goal of yoga. I inch toward acceptance using two tools. I write a gratitude list nightly; this helps me focus on the gifts in my life and let go more easily of the disappointments. In addition, I try to look at the BIG picture – if my little plans do not work out as I wish, perhaps it’s because conditions had to be right for someone else’s day to work out.
Wednesday, the day worked out differently than many imagined. In the Discovery situation, three people experienced how it feels to be held hostage. A company of about 1900 utilized their oft-practiced emergency drill procedures for a true emergency. Hundreds of drivers and travelers were delayed. And Discovery’s intruder was killed by police.
That night, we dedicated our Yoga In Action self-care practice to all of these people. We reflected on whether we can accept that there is much beyond our control. We explored whether we can accept that people who inflict pain are often in pain themselves. We brought in as much self-care as possible in an attempt to reduce pain – in ourselves and others.
Maybe this is a stretch, connecting hostage situations and yoga. But to me, any opportunity to share compassion and practice care is a chance to practice Yoga In Action.