Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016: Teacher or Terror?

by Gina Caputo, Founder & Director of the Colorado School of Yoga



2016 has been a beast. And though I know some really great things have happened this year, I can't think of a single person I know personally who doesn't think this year measured a little higher on the brutal scale than any other year they can remember.

from @jasonpollocktv on Instagram, Carrie Fisher added by me

  • Aleppo...
  • Brexit...
  • North Dakota Pipeline...
  • Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Terence Crutcher...
  • Dallas, Baton Rouge, Iowa...
  • David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Lemmy, Sharon Jones...
  • Ataturk Airport, Brussels, Nice, Baghdad, Munich, Orlando, Egypt Air 804, Berlin...
  • Zika, Nigerian Famine...
  • Hurricane Matthew, Italy Earthquakes...
  • Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder...
  • 2016 US Election...
  • Record hot temperatures...
  • And A WHOLE LOT MORE
And while I, like lots of people, derive some minute satisfaction out of vehemently cursing 4 numbers, I know deep down it is futile because once those 4 numbers pass, one new number in the sequence simply doesn't have the power to impact any of this unless WE decide to change.

One of the most challenging practices I've undertaken is to see the Teacher in all things, beings and experiences. When someone dies, I take a vow. When greed destroys, I take a vow. When fear kills, I take a vow. When difference divides, I take a vow. When ignorance abounds, I take a vow. When Nature responds, I take a vow.

But, damn, this is an exceedingly difficult practice because most of our egos have had many years of training to respond to everyone and everything with immediate judgement, a habit that originated for survival but that also generates the attachment and aversion that are ultimately the root causes of divisiveness, despair, depression and all forms of suffering.

This practice begs the question, in everything that has transpired this past year both in your microcosm and in the macrocosm, what are the inherent teachings?

I encourage you to take some time to ask yourself this question and see what arises. As you look at the bulleted list above, what possible teachings jump out at you?

The two things I keep returning to when I repeatedly ask myself about this past year are:
  1. Impermanence
  2. Interdependence
Impermanence

Once we understand the Greek philosopher Heraclitus' wise proclamation "Change is the only constant in life." we might begin to make more intentional and informed choices about how we think, feel, communicate and act in the time we have in this life. I remember reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead early in my yogic studies. I was young and green and excited about yoga and was horrified by a book that focuses on death?! Yoga is about life! Adorable. But I kept reading and in the end one of my main takeaways was that the more you acknowledge constant change and your own impending death, the more you might value each moment, each relationship and each opportunity, no matter what its "packaging" is. And perhaps we might also be more discerning about how, where and when we invest our energy and emotions, given that everything is subject to the only constant in Nature - change.

I love this quote by Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzburg:

"When we take the time to be quiet, to be still, we begin to see the web of conditions, which is the force of life itself, as it comes together to produce each moment. When we look deeply, we see constant change; we look into the face of impermanence, insubstantiality, lack of solidity. As the Buddha pointed out, given this truth, trying to control that which can never be controlled will not give us security or safety, will not give us final happiness. In fact, trying to control ever-changing and insubstantial phenomena is what gives rise to our sense of isolation and fragmentation. When we try to hold on to something that is crumbling or falling apart, and we see that not only is it crumbling but we are changing in just the same way, then there’s fear, terror, separation and a lot of suffering."

Interdependence


No matter how much we might like to deny it in the case of a really shitty person or event, we are all part of each other’s life and journey. Nothing in Nature exists free of relationship and the web of conditions that give rise to each thought, word and action, including the really heinous ones from the 2016 list.
 
Another great one from Sharon Salzburg:

"We look at a tree and see it not as a seemingly solitary, singular entity but as a set of relationships—of elements and forces and contingencies all connecting in constant motion: the seed that was planted, and the quality of the soil that received the seed; the quality of the air, and the sunlight, the moonlight, the wind. That is the tree. In the same way, each of us in every moment is a set of relationships."

And this is how I KNOW that the only way 2017 will be better, is not by simply flipping the calendar, but by participation in this web of conditions and relationships. 2017 is a time for empathy. This doesn't imply broad and blind acceptance but EFFORT to create the internal space you need to understand the root causes and inherent teachings and then act from a place of wisdom and compassion rather than from habituation and fear. You can take strong, impactful and even sharp action from either foundation. The outcome will be different. It is a time for us to live Gandhi's words we yogis love to quote "Be the change you wish to see in the world". And here I might add, we need to be the change in the world, not just on the Internet. 😎

I know that yoga alone won't heal the schisms. But I refuse to accept that it won't help. What motivates me and the other faculty and alumni teachers of this school is that yoga's 8 Limbed Path can provide the fundamental psychological, spiritual and physical tools to support your efforts to activate the changes you wish to see in the world. The work really kicks in when you step off the mat, off the cushion and out the door. Our great hope is that in taking refuge in the practice, the teachings and the community, you find clarity and truth by understanding impermanence through asana, sensation and breath and indivisibility through heightened awareness in communion with others.

I've always loved to remind myself, when life puts the squeeze on you, what comes out is what you're soaking in. So here's to working on our marinade together in 2017!



Don't ever hesitate to reach out: www.coloradoschoolofyoga.org