Separateness, intolerance, and why we practice

Since last week’s violence in Charleston, I’ve seen a lot of headlines about this moment being a time for “healing” – not only the hearts of those who lost friends and loved ones at Emanuel AME, but also the deep wounds of intolerance that our culture still hasn’t overcome.

 

Here at Practice Indie, we’ve been talking lately about the obstacles of the mind described by Patanjali in Yoga Sutra 1.30. One of the obstacles is false perception, which includes ascribing to the belief that we are all somehow separate – that what happens to YOU over there doesn’t affect ME over here, or that MY particular race/ethnicity/class/gender identity/sexual orientation/what-have-you is superior to YOURS. Falsely perceiving separateness also means seeing yourself as separate from your Self, or the essential goodness that yoga tells us is within every person.

 

(Just a note – this week’s Sutra is actually 1.31, which gets into the obstacles’ consequences, which include mental and physical pain, unsteadiness of the body, sadness and frustration, and irregular breath. These are related to this discussion, but given recent events, we wanted to keep our focus on false perception.)

 

If you think about it, the false perception of separateness actually serves as the source of suffering. This suffering could be the result of hateful acts like the one carried out against nine innocent people last Wednesday, on a larger scale in war, or on a personal level with the negative thoughts we entertain about ourselves and people in our lives.

 

If you’ve spent much time in a yoga studio, chances are you’ve heard a teacher mention that “yoga” is the Sanskrit word for “union.” In fact, the ultimate goal of practicing isn’t to nail that handstand or show your Instagram followers how bendy you are (both totally legit reasons to get on the mat!). Yoga is really about becoming united in mind, body, and spirit in order to experience the connectedness that EVERYONE shares. Of course, it’s called “practice” because we forget that connectedness over and over again. J Each practice acts as a gentle reminder of that connectedness, which is why you might notice feeling a little lighter, kinder, and more patient with others after class.

 

I’ve certainly experienced every emotion from rage to grief to frustration over what happened in Charleston, and I can’t even begin to imagine what those families and that community must be going through. But instead of just feeling powerless, I’m trying to reflect on where in my life I might be falsely perceiving separateness. I may say I’m 100% for peace, but if I’m not being peaceful in my own little world, I’m part of the problem.

 

That means acknowledging where I’m wounded, and where my triggers are. That means forgiving. That means getting on the mat and working my shit out.

 

I think Jim Morrison was spot-on when he said,

There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.

It’s pretty empowering to remember that our individual actions are what ultimately add up to the bigger picture. It’s up to us to create a more peaceful world, and practicing yoga is one way to start the revolution inside.

 

Namaste!

written by our beautiful guest blogger, Lauren Roberts!

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