The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Haters Gonna Hate November 7, 2016

“Our world is wounded, fractured, broken and burning. We are products of this place and it is our job to heal the world through the healing of our selves.” ~ Chani Nicholas

The difficulty of maintaining peace of mind during this world’s current upsets is obvious. On the eve of the U.S. Presidential Election, I am preparing for a week (or potentially, a much longer span) of holding sacred, peaceful, neutral space for the staff and students of the yoga studio where I teach and manage…the neighbors I pass on the streets…those sharing bus rides with me…social media friends…and many more beings.

How? By clinging to, relying on and willingly using tools that have saved my ass during times of suffering, frustration and discomfort. These practical resources include prayers, yoga and meditation practices, breathing techniques, spiritual teachings and quotes, recovery meetings, talk therapy and more.

I recently saw a meme: “Prayer does not change the world. Prayer changes us, so we can change the world.” Peace begins with me. And perhaps you.

Here, I share readings, tools and experiences that are helping me immensely these days…

* * *

“We put our hope in the awareness and in the promise that there will come a time when greed and injustice will be gone from the earth. We hope for a world completely repaired, all the inhabitants of this planet turning to each other in reconciliation, realizing that no one shall be excluded from the security of life.” ~ Jewish High Holy Day prayer

“May all of creation form a single bond with a balanced heart. May this occur soon in our lifetime.” ~ Jewish High Holy Day prayer

 

* * *

“OM Sahana Vavatu. Sahanau Bhunaktu. Saha Viriyam Karavavahai. Tejas Vinavadhita Mastu Mavid. Visha Vahai Hi. OM Shanti Shanti Shanti. (May we be protected together, be nourished together, work together with great energy. May our study together be enlightening. May there be no hatred between us.)” ~ Sanskrit Chant

Some people love to hate. They use hatred of the Other to validate their own worthiness – when, the only thing that truly validates worthiness is LOVE. Therefore, people who love to hate are actually deficient in love.

People who love to hate fear that, if the Other receives love, there won’t be any left for them. If the Other is validated, they go unheard. If the Other wins, they will lose their security. Haters believe they must blame, alienate and separate from the Other so they can receive praise, acceptance and inclusion.

Some hateful people believe – at their deepest and often most wounded core – that they are not worthy of praise, acceptance, inclusion and love. They do not understand that they are in dire need of positive validation; so instead, they pursue allies in their hatred – fellow haters, bullies, gangs, cliques and activists that validate their negative beliefs of Others, and, that reinforce their negative image of self.

People that love to hate are looking for love in all the wrong places. They cannot recognize true love when they see it.

Until…we choose to love them despite their hatred.

Why do I know so much about haters? Because I’ve been one. And I’m guessing, so have you. What yanks me out of hatred faster than anything? Remembering that we are all human.

“Meditation on the principle of compassion is a means of erasing our own hatred, cruelty, and fear, and replacing these traits with love, kindness, and a deeper understanding for others. Those who meditate on compassion rise above the primitive urge of self-preservation, and thus their reactions toward others are not motivated by fear.” ~ Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

* * *

“By cultivating friendship with those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, cheerfulness toward the virtuous, and indifference toward the non-virtuous, the mind retains undisturbed calmness.” ~ Yoga Sutra 1.33

I have forgiven the man that raped me, the men that mugged me, the people who abandoned me, and those who betrayed me. Not overnight. No, no, no. Not overnight. Over years and years of commitment to healing my wounds, I have grown to see my perpetrators as suffering beings who deserve compassion, and, their harmful acts as separate. Consequently, over time and with dedication – and after grieving with support – I became able to let go of the traumas. What do I gain? Liberation. Peace of mind. A healed heart. My whole self.

“These four keys should always be…in your pocket. If you use the right key with the right person you will retain your peace. Nothing in the world can upset you then. Remember, our goal is to keep a serene mind. From the very beginning of Patanjali’s Sutras we are reminded of that.” ~ Swami Satchidananda

* * *

“Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah. (Yoga clears disturbances of the mind.)” ~ Yoga Sutra 1.2

This promise is the 2nd sentence in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – four long chapters about yoga’s eight-limbed design for living. Because it all comes down to this: the more I know about yoga, the deeper my practice becomes, and, the more inner peace I enjoy.
August in DC was a burning hot month. Hot temperatures. Hot tempers. Heated debates. Desperate actions.

As unrest continued to build, conflicts continued and November approached (you know what I’m talking about), DC only burned hotter.

Still – you can keep your cool as the heat rises and arises. Practice Sitali Pranayama (the yogic cooling breath) and Naadi Suddhi (alternate nostril breathing). Attend Restorative and Slow Flow classes instead of intensely heated or extremely powerful classes. For your own good – and, for the good of those around you – you can keep the peace. You can increase the peace. You can teach peace. You can breathe, embody, sweat peace.

“If my body is made primarily of water and animated by the breath, is it possible to call the water in the body ‘mine’ and the air outside of my lungs ‘the world?’ …and so it becomes hard to talk about a body practice as separate from a world practice. I move my body and I’m moving a corner of the world.
“Yoga occurs when our inner work manifests in the world around us.
“The world of mind and body, in the nondual tradition of yoga, is inseparable from the larger world… The interconnected reality we call ‘yoga’ orients us toward a mode of perception that sees reality as an interconnected web in which our own small story line is only a part and certain not the most prominent.” ~ Michael Stone

* * *

“Namaste.”

Translated literally from the Sanskrit, “Namaste” is a simple greeting meaning “Salutations to you.” It is not offered to a certain kind of being, nor to a certain part of each being. It is offered to the whole of every being.

Even haters.

“Namaste” cannot mean that one life matters more than another at any time – it means that all lives matter equally at all times. “Namaste” cannot mean that elevation and separation are the keys to justice – when historically, they have been the keys to conflict. “Namaste” cannot mean that out of guilt or pity, we move to “be of service” to those we see as having less than us – it must mean that we see ourselves as equals with those different from us in any way, and, stand together in a solidarity of humanness.

“Namaste” means that compassion is an equal opportunity offering.

It also means that I stop writing about “those haters” and start admitting that I’ve loved to hate.

We cannot truly come together until we can salute the whole of each being and all beings as a whole.

“Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just ‘forgotten that we belong to each other.’ Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen. With kinship as the goal, other essential things fall into place; without it, no justice, no peace. I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice – we would be celebrating it.
“Kinship – not serving the other, but being one with the other. 
“Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of the circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the  poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakkuk writes, ‘The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and it will not disappoint…and if it delays, wait for it.'” ~ Father Gregory Boyle

WAIT. FOR. IT.

Haters gonna hate until our love erases their reasons.

Thanks for reading.
Namaste. OM Shanti. Peace.

Advertisements
 

Namaste: A Journey From Resentment To Relief April 21, 2013

Namaste.

I honor you. All of you.

The good and the bad.
The light and the dark.
The divine and the human.

NashvilleClouds2Flipped(June2011)I honor every part of you.

The parts that doubt.
The parts that feel certain.
The parts that don’t know.

The parts that leave.
The parts that stay.
The parts that hide.

I honor the whole you.

The you that stumbles.
The you that falls.
The you that rises…and falls again.

The you that gracefully balances.
The you that is rooted.
The you that is buoyant.

I honor you.

The you that is hurting.
The you that harms.
The you that grows.

The you that loves.
The you that can’t.
The you that will.

I bow to you. I bow to you. I bow to YOU.

*  *  *

My first yoga teacher used to tell us, “I’m just an old junkie, passing on what helped me change. Sat Nam.”

With a strong Kundalini practice and immersion in American Sikh communities for the first 10 years of my yoga journey, “Sat Nam” became an everyday greeting. Whether I said it silently or out loud, I reverently offered this prayer to my friends, to my co-workers, to strangers. “Sat Nam: I honor your truth.”

As with the Native American, Yoruban, Jewish and other spiritual perspectives that started shaping my view of myself and others in the early 90s, I embraced the inclusive nature of “Sat Nam.” When someone pressed their palms into prayer position at their heart, and said, “I honor your truth,” I felt genuine and total acceptance.

When I started practicing Vinyasa style yoga in about 2001, I heard a new greeting. Teachers would end class saying, “Namaste: the light in me bows to the light in you.” Or, “Namaste: the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Or, “Namaste: I bow to all that is good and light and divine in you.”

Ick.

Sorry, but that was my first reaction! “Ick.” What about the imperfect, the dark, the messily human parts of me? If you know even a little of my story (and you might guess some of it, based on my respect for NashvilleCloudsLines(June2011)and admiration of my first yoga teacher), you know that those very non-good, non-light and non-divine parts ruled my world for a good long time. I also grew to understand, accept, appreciate and deeply love those parts after yoga came into my life in the 90s, and I started growing toward a healthier balance.

Yoga continued to be a huge part of my life; and I started to feel defensive at the end of classes, when teachers pressed their palms into prayer mudra at their heart and – with all the best intentions – bowed to the light in me. Sadly, I grew to resent this highfalutin’ “Namaste.”

*  *  *

After 15 years of yoga practice, I decided to become an instructor. I chose the residential Integral Yoga Teacher Training at Satchidananda Ashram in Virginia. At the IYTT, we ended classes (and meetings, texts and e-mails!) with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” I didn’t notice at the time, but am now realizing that I did not hear one single “Namaste” during the four weeks. As the days passed, our immersion in the Yoga Sutras and the Eight Limbs nourished my craving for a sustainable inner peace – and, my yearning to share yoga’s tools for cultivating that peace. I became very comfortable ending classes with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti: Peace, Peace, Peace.”

Then came the dilemma. Teaching at studios in DC, I would end sessions with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,” and some students would bow and answer “Namaste.” Ack! Did these students think that I didn’t appreciate their light? Mama mia. Quickly, I had to let go of that worry and continue to believe in my choice to simply wish my students peace.

*  *  *

Over recent years, I started hearing different definitions of “Namaste.”

In 2011, I attended a yoga workshop with Max Strom. He both greeted us with and explained “Namaste.” “I bow to you,” he said, firmly. “That’s all it means. If you go to India, you will be greeted the same way by everyone, whether saying good morning at a temple, or, buying a drink at a tea shop.”

In 2012, one of our summer camp teaching assistants was from Nepal. He told me that in his Hindu culture, “Namaste” (or “Namaskar”) is a basic greeting. As common as “Hello,” and as meaningful as “I honor you.”

Earlier this spring, 2013, at the Shiva Navaratri ceremony I attended, the Hindu priests would periodically invite devotees to take some “Namaskaram.” I saw people doing prostrations, offering themselves in deep bows and lowering themselves to the ground. With this visual illustration, I finally understood that Namaskar is the most humble way to show respect, honor, gratitude. (It also redefined my own practice and teaching of Surya Namaskaram, or, Sun Salutations.)

Quite recently, I noticed a residual jolt of resentment when someone offered a bow to the divine in me. I’ll admit it – I needed academic validation that “Namaste” is inclusive of our entire being. I asked a Sanskrit expert for the literal translation. His response: namas = I bow/ honor/salute; te = NashvilleCloudsThunderhead(June2011)to you. “I bow to you.” “I honor you.” “Salutations to you.” It is a reverential expression of greeting and/or thanks. Used as hello, goodbye, and thank you.

What a relief!  No matter what other teachers say, I can finally focus on the true meaning of the greeting when I hear it.  I can feel the essence of unqualified acceptance.

*  *  *

I’ve chosen to continue closing my classes with my IY-influenced “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…Peace, Peace, Peace.” But for the month of April, I have been experimenting. Replacing “OM Shanti” with “Namaste.” And I have to admit, it still feels very uncomfortable. Because I know students have heard other teachers share their adapted definitions of the greeting. And I don’t want them to think that I only honor the good, the light, the divine. I want them to know that I deeply bow to every single part.

From this, the above poem evolved.

I will always remember and yearn for the humility of my first yoga teacher. That old junkie, just sharing what changed him. So whether I offer “Namaste,” “Sat Nam,” “OM Shanti,” “Yo, wha’s up?” “Hi!” or even a silent smile, I offer my greeting with 100% honor for the whole of you.

*  *  *

I still wonder: What influenced the new “Namaste?” Where did the good/light/divine skew come from? Why would millions of yogis – in the studios and the trainings and the magazines and the videos – want to stray so far from the real thing?

Well…that’s another can of worms, for a different writer to tackle!

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.