We live in uncertain times, or so it seems, we are constantly bombarded with news of political, economic, social and environmental instability, to look at all this can be truly depressing if not horrifying. How we can deal with seemingly huge issues seems overwhelming, we can feel powerless.
I would not seek to diminish the existence of these, but I would suggest that humanity has always faced uncertainty in the world, this is perhaps a central feature of life. In many of the texts surrounding Yoga, the key feature is someone who encounters these challenging aspects of life and via these is drawn towards Yoga, through this arising of Yoga, balance is restored.
When we look at the philosophical and theoretical knowledge of Yoga, we see that a couple of key themes arise over time.
That all that can be observed and recognised in life, is non static, Yoga terms this as Shakti (even the word implies shaking, movement), it is not fixed in one form. While the observing awareness, Shiva, sits steady, experiencing all this.
And it also recognizes this observable life as being in a continual cycle of charge, of constant beginnings, periods of apparent stability and then dissolution or an ending of that form that it appears as.
Like all theories, these can be put to the test to see if they play out like this in life.
Of course as human beings we have apparently got choice, which determines how we engage with this process of lifes unfolding around, within and as us.
Yoga, tantra and Ayurveda gives multiple suggestions about the type of lifestyle and choices that will lead to a lengthening of our life cycle, a smoothing out of this process, so it occurs in a gentler fashion, in harmony with the unfolding life itself, instead of acceleration towards the point of dissolution.
Its easy to understand how choices regarding all aspects of our life, from diet and exercise to career and place of inhabitation play a key role in our health. However, even though this seems fairly common sense, in the west, these concepts are only now becoming widely appreciated.
We can recognise that these suggestions are as much for society as they are for the individual, many treatises in Vedic culture were there for the health, harmony and wellbeing of society,the natural world and all forms of life within it.
So even via your regular yoga practice, you are beginning to introduce something, some transformation into how you are, and subsequently the world around you. A lot of this is intuitive, knowledge arising from your direct experience. Through the presence of your awareness and discernment, you see the effects of choices, what works, what doesn’t. What a certain type of food leads to, how you feel from an hour less or more of sleep etc. The compassion and empathy that also arises, encourages the application of change based on these insights. This is learning directly yourself, via the clarity that a hatha yoga practice creates.
This doesn’t end with yourself, this evolution of awareness filters into everything, how we interact with the world around us and others.
Mark Whitwell frequently remarks that Yoga is the greatest form of activism, it’s easy to understand that when someone introduces yoga into their life, old inherited patterns and tendencies drop away, a new way of living occurs, new responses, new solutions appear. This happening on a major scale is a tantalising prospect. During one of my recent workshops, Louise, a Yoga teacher herself, commented how in the modern world, especially the USA, the large amount of Yoga practitioners are probably already adding to the stability and cohesion of society, culture and more, on a level that is perhaps immense, but certainly immeasurable.
Another teacher of mine, oft quoted Ghandi
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”