I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

and Equanimity toward the Wicked

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Humble Warrior

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33

By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress, joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are not virtuous, lucidity arises in the mind.

Like most, I am beyond troubled by the aggressive and hostile extremes of this election season. I am repulsed by Donald Trump. I hate how he looks: a fat, self-satisfied, narcissistic bully. I despise what he stands for: closed-minded racism, misogyny, bigotry. I fear what could happen if he were to be elected: a pendulum swing to the right with a reversal of our rights.

I have struggled with the righteous posturing, the lack of listening, and a disturbing move away from rational centrist humane compassion, frankly, by all of us. When my feelings of anger and revulsion are active and intense, I wonder how to reconcile this with my yoga practice. Is it yogic to hate Donald Trump?

One of the yoga sutras, 1.33, suggests that we cultivate equanimity when faced with nonvirtuous people and their wickedness. This is difficult. How do we deal with bullies, rapists, dictators, killers, kidnappers, terrorists … with equanimity? Torture them, go to war with them, destroy them? Tempting isn’t it? I understand that point of view. Certainly, we must take a stand for what is right. We must. But there must be something other than violence and divisiveness…if our world is going to survive.

Saddled with this dilemma, what to do with my rage and anxiety while being true to my desire to be a compassionate and peaceful human being, I started wondering how yoga could impact Donald Trump. (I do believe people can change.)

What would I do if Donald Trump walked into my yoga class?

I would welcome him. After all, anyone who comes to a yoga class has some curiosity and interest in becoming healthy. Whole.

We would have a brief seated centering. I don’t think he can sit still for very long. I’d have him center his head (it’s always tilted uncomfortably to his right) and rest his hands on his thighs, in stillness. (Those hands always pointing so aggressively!) I’m not sure he can tolerate closing his eyes, but I’d have him gaze softly and pay attention to his breath. Smooth out his dramatic sniffing. Breathe in. Pause. Breathe out. Pause. I’d like to think the pauses would show him how to pause before he speaks.

After a brief warm-up, we’d move into vigorous (for him) sun salutations. I think he needs to be really worn out, wrung out, by a very physical yoga practice. I’d get him breathing and sweating, so much that he couldn’t think about anything else other than surviving another sun sal.

I’d suggest that he dedicate his practice to someone he loves. (Does he love anyone?) We’d pause in Warrior 1. And bow down to Humble Warrior. Peaceful Warrior. Devotional Warrior. Breathe in. Pause. Breathe out. Pause. Surely the combination of meditating on a loved one and bowing down to them would have an impact?

Next, a heart-opening sequence. Donald has an overactive third chakra (thus, his ridiculous overconfidence). He needs to develop his sense of compassion. Cobra, Sphinx, and Locust.

Then Headstand. Yes. He needs to spend some time upside down. Feeling the confusion of not knowing what’s really up and what’s really down. Seeing a different perspective. Getting connected with his crown chakra. A little spirituality Donald?

And Shoulder Stand. Placing the chin in Jalandhara Bandha, to work on balancing his throat chakra. Pause before you speak. Breathe in. Pause. Breathe out. Pause.

Savasana. I’m pretty sure he’d be exhausted by now and ready to collapse in a heap.

For the closing meditation, I’d encourage him to think of the person he loves and imagine the dissolving of barriers. Dissolve the barrier between the outer body and the inner body. Dissolve the barrier between the physical body and the soul. Dissolve the barrier between his soul and his loved one’s soul. Dissolve the barriers between all souls. There is no barrier, no separation.

Finally, OM. Filling the space with universal sound. Feeling the reverberation until it dissolves.

Imagine if Donald Trump did yoga.

Breathe in. Pause. Breathe out. Pause. We are all one.

OM. Shanti. Peace.

 

Image Credit:  Humble Warrior by Mike Villegas

What Is Your Dharma?

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Sacred Purpose

“What if you don’t know your dharma?” I whispered. Urgently.

Without hesitation Jill answered that my dharma was to be a mom.

What?!

Consumed by my own self-centered ambition to achieve something great, or at least be superior at everything I do, I’ve always thought of being a mom as something I did while pursuing achievement of external goals.

But the truth of the matter is that there is one thing that feels profoundly meaningful and elicits intense, tight chest, lump in the throat emotion. My children.

I was sitting in a circle discussing the Baghavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with a group of yoga teachers. I had shared a strong emotional reaction I had to the Baghavad Gita and its poetic argument for non-attachment. Arjuna is stuck in a state of indecisive and pained inaction as he resists the war he is destined to fight. (Been there. Haven’t you?) He is terrified. Not wanting to kill or be killed. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Krishna counsels him to act. It is his dharma, his sacred purpose, to be a soldier and to fight. He must be the best soldier he can be. He should not be afraid of death, because our souls live on.

I understand loosening the attachment – the grip we have on our stuff. I don’t need all the stuff in my house, in my life. It is not what makes me happy. And there is always someone who has better stuff then me. But after that it gets hard. I care deeply for the ideas I have come to think of as important. Living mindfully, making the world a better place with what you do and how you live.

And when it comes to people, how can we not be attached? Especially to our children. What does it mean to be not attached?

With their birth was born a new and infinite sense of responsibility, fear, and love. Hovering over them as newborns when they slept, making sure I could still sense their breath. Now that they are 16 and 20, the anxiety has evolved.

Are you happy?

Do you feel loved?

Please. Please be safe.

Worrying, worrying, worrying that all my neuroses have rubbed off on my children. (How could they not?) Worrying that my daughter is too much like me, too obedient, too diligent. Is she having enough fun?

Worrying that my son is too much like me, too eager to please.  Will he be decisive and express himself, especially if he is angry or wants to pursue something different from what we have in mind for him?

Worrying that in both cases we’ve controlled their interests and pursuits so tightly that they have lost track of what they feel and want, overshadowed by the need to please Mom and Dad.

But most of all, I am afraid. Afraid of losing them. Please. Please be safe.

If you believe that we are a soul, not a body, and that we continue on in some capacity even after this body dies, then, perhaps, you can lessen your grip on the people you love. Reduce the fear that they will die or that you will die.

But what if you’re not sure?

What does non-attachment mean when it comes to being a mom?

I think it means pausing. Considering whether you are putting your self first or putting them first.

A friend, with still young children, shared how she wakes up very very early so she can have time alone. (I know it well.) Every now and then, a child tiptoes downstairs to be with her. (I know it well.) Shit! There goes my alone time. (I know it well.) Do you send the child back to bed: It’s too early! Go back to bed! Go watch TV! Yes, I’ve done that. Or: Do you welcome the child to join you? Hello Sweetheart! You’re up early! What a wonderful surprise! I love you! What shall we do with our special time together? I have not done that as much as I should have. And when those young children get older, they will stop reaching out to you and you will have as much alone time as you want. (I know it well.)

I think it means being joyful and loving at their presence. Happy to see them.

I think it means helping them be them, not what you want them to be.

I think it means letting go of worrying about whether you are a good mom. I mean, really, how narcissistic is that?

You can’t change what’s already happened in the past and the impact it’s had. After all, it’s made them who they are.

It’s not about regretting the past or worrying about the future. It’s about being present in the present moment for them right here right now. And letting go. Letting them be them.

Photo Credit:  Photo by Cindy Knoke at cindyknoke.com.  Thank you Cindy for your beautiful photos!

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