We are living in crazy times… As the shock of the EU referendum result reverberates throughout our society a clearer picture of the forces at play in our country, in Europe and on a worldwide scale is revealed. Much of what we see is not pretty… Yet it all needs to be acknowledged and addressed if we are to find a way through to true unity and peace.
Yoga and Unity
You may ask what all this has to do with yoga… well yoga means “to unite” or “to yoke”. Yoga is about the unification and harmonisation of the forces at play in our bodies, minds and spirits. By balancing our own forces, we are much more able to bring true positive change to the wider world, starting with ourselves and radiating outwards. In this day of instantaneous global communication, being in a balanced, harmonious state as we engage with others is even more crucial. Our conversations have the power to create yet more division and fear; yet they also have enormous potential to create tolerance, peace and creative solutions.
One of my favourite posts in the wake of Brexit was actually on LinkedIn. It is an email from the head of an international online content company to the team in Europe. Here is an excerpt:
[su_quote url=”https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/team-europe-vs-brexit-my-email-luca-benini?trk=eml-b2_content_ecosystem_digest-recommended_articles-55-null&midToken=AQHtlRI90OflpA&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=12fQKval7l57k1″]They might divide Europe but they will not divide the Olapic Europe team!
Let’s all agree to be an example of strength, togetherness and optimism in the face of challenges that this political, economic and social change will bring to our lives. Let’s all be aware of our attitude and make each day, each conversation, each email/text/tweet and social post an opportunity for radiating a strong message of unity and solidarity, love and optimism in spite of all the brick walls that life built overnight in our path. Let’s make this our opportunity, as individuals and as a team, to stand out from the wide-spread uncertainty and negativity and be agents of positive change.[/su_quote]
This is yoga at work in every day life. I don’t care if this guy has never done a down dog in his life … he is clearly managing his own mind and spirit energy well and thus is able to lift the spirits of his team. This is why we practice on the mat – so that we can meet the challenges that life inevitably brings us with courage, strength, optimism and love.
The Ego and the Shadow
But wait! Before you get on your “yoga of love” high horse beware!!! It is easy to demonise politicians and those on the far right, the greed, the violent acts, the racism, the ignorance and the intolerance. However, these forces are at play in our selves too… They are known as our shadow side. Our ego is the part of ourselves that is constantly thinking “me first” – it prevents us from seeing our planet and every being that lives on it as a unified whole. The ego serves an important purpose in protecting us, yet we do pay a price if we only view the world from it’s small minded point of view. Whenever we allow the ego to make our decisions and fail to acknowledge the whole, we feed our shadow side. We also have a kind of global shadow side resulting from our consumerism. The flip side of cheap flights, cheap food, cheap fashion, cheap labour is climate change catastrophes, modern slavery, global poverty, environmental destruction and war. Our consumer choices trample on the lives of millions of people, people we never have to face and look at in the eye. There is a part of each and every one of us who is a violent, ignorant, racist – shocking as this might sound. None of us are untarnished; we’ve all contributed to increases in death and poverty. We just have to eat some prawns, buy a mobile phone or drink non fair trade coffee. We must remember this before we judge others’ more obvious displays of violence, anger and intolerance.
Facing the Shadow
In facing the shadow, be it in the form of financial meltdown in the stock market or racist thugs beating up immigrants from Poland on our own streets, we put ourselves through the ultimate test of balancing our inner forces. Can we stay centred in ourselves and not contribute to a spiral of more violence and fear? Can we find tolerance, compassion and understanding? If not, can we at least stay neutral and avoid getting sucked in to feeling hatred and anger within ourselves? Can we be a force for true positive change that endeavours to integrate the whole – even the nasty, messed up part of the whole? Can we allow the small self (our ego) to take the back seat as the broadminded, best part of our self (our true spirit) stays calm and focussed in the eye of the storm? Can we remain open and receptive to solutions that may present themselves from the unlikeliest places, in unexpected ways? Can we hold a space for true global positive change with an alert yet serene warrior-like poise, when all around there is evidence of disarray and division?
What can we do?
The techniques of yoga were developed to help us deal with challenges as great as this. One of the most important yoga texts is set on a battlefield. In order to fight injustice with true integrity we must become clear in ourselves. This enables us to act from the best part of ourselves rather than our fearful and childish ego. May I suggest in the coming times that you create space in your mind either in moving or still meditative practice – this can be formal meditation, hatha yoga, painting, knitting, gardening, running, cooking. Find the space in your mind just to be present to smell, see, feel, hear and taste… to just be. Take time out in nature, make sure that you have breaks from the news and the Facebook feed. Although it is important to keep informed, do not get sucked into any spirals of negativity, fear and panic. Stay connected to your true nature, to your heart’s wisdom. We are a planet of loving souls who together possess great creativity and connectivity. Let us focus on and envision good outcomes for all of us – a fairer, more peaceful world for everyone.
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