This week I have been overhearing conversations about how mad, sad or scared people are about the current events of our world. Besides prayer, I wonder if there are productive things we can do as yogis to help the health of our world. Like self-inquiry: Where do we see ourselves as separate? Where do WE draw lines? There are infinite numbers of fences built and lines drawn to create this feeling of separation. One of the first attractions to yoga, for me, was the basic tenet that there is no separation, we are all one.
Of course, the obvious separations are political parties, religion, countries, races, gender and sexual preferences. What about the more subtle forms of separation or prejudices?
In the book Benign Bigotry, the author speaks of the danger of subtle prejudices.
"While overt prejudice is now much less prevalent than in decades past, subtle prejudice – prejudice that is inconspicuous, indirect, and often unconscious – continues to pervade our society. Laws do not protect against subtle prejudice and, because of its covert nature, it is difficult to observe and frequently goes undetected by both perpetrator and victim."
While sport teams can create alliances, they can also create feelings of separation. Silly as it seems, ask Steve Bartman how alone and separated he felt from the whole city of Chicago after the infamous Cub game in 2003. I can’t help but wonder how many “groups” start out with the intention of creating alliances and feelings of unity and end up drawing lines of exclusivity?
How often do we judge people on how they look? Do we avoid people or even groups of people based on certain personalities? It might be helpful to discern our own prejudices by looking at our preferences. What kind of person do we desire to be around? Answering this question may help determine who are we averse to.
Once we determine where we might need to open our minds, the next step of inquiry might be to trace the prejudice to the source. Is it rooted in feelings of superiority, inferiority, fear or even a conditioned pattern which may have been learned long ago or carried down from generations?A famous chant of yoga is Lokah, Samasthah, Sukhino, Bhavantu. It means Peace for all beings. On the surface, most people can wrap their minds and hearts around this concept. But if we have the courage to look more closely, where are we resistant to this concept of inclusivity? “OF COURSE…peace for all beings, well except maybe for …”
Even though yoga is practiced in many forms the world over, the principles of balance, interdependence and oneness form the foundation of all yogic forms. Ram Dass quoted one of the most used meanings of Namaste.
“I honor the place in you
where the entire Universe resides.
I honor the place
of love, of light, of truth, of peace.
I honor the place within you where
if you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
there is only one of us.”
As yogis, I think we can contribute to the current state of our world every time we say “Namaste.”