When retreating is the best way forward
Mercifully, a strong spiritual practice in crazy times offers a lot of clarity and a sense of purpose. I love the French expression “reculer pour mieux sauter” (step back to jump better), which nicely sums up the idea that we function best with a bit of perspective. When we step back, retreat and unplug for a while (minutes, hours, days…) we can reconnect with our essential self, our deepest desires, and aspirations for life. Retreating consciously allows us to find the inner calm that gets drowned out by the constant impulses of contemporary life.
We are undoubtedly responsible for our perception of reality and so need to take care to know where the mind is leading us, especially because our biology responds instantly to the emotions we feel as a result of our thinking, and research shows that the brain actually rewires itself according to whether we are thinking negative or positive thoughts – what the ancient sages called vasana in Sanskrit. If we aren’t vigilant as to the nature of our thinking, we create unconscious patterns of behaviour (or samskara) that end up firmly in the driver’s seat, with us in the back seat blithely unaware of the journey.
Around the world, we see crises and upheavals, and it’s easy to get caught up in the anxiety, fear, and anger that tinges nearly every major social issue. For a very long time, the majority of people have placed their own power – along with their capacity for taking action and making much-needed changes – in the hands of others. Clearly, waiting childishly for salvation/the messiah/the government, believing in trickle-down economics and jobs being “offered” and “created” by some more powerful authority outside of ourselves has led us into deep crisis.
There’s hope in people, not in society, not in systems, but in you and me.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
If you had the stomach to listen to Donald Trump’s Inaugural speech, you might have viscerally felt the negativity and divisiveness in his words. This is a good example of what results from not being aware of the impact of our thoughts, and of focusing on what we don’t want or on what is not working, without balancing it with what we want to see.
The yoga tradition offers us the practice of Sankalpa, which is an affirmation of our latent potential in any moment or situation. A classic example of a Sankalpa that some of you might remember from our classes together is: “I am getting better every day, in every way”. Louise Hay famously healed herself of cancer using such deeply resonant affirmations, which can help to recreate our biology when our feelings align with our thoughts. Over the years, I have frequently used “I am safe; It’s only change”, and somehow it seems even more relevant these days!
When we quietly and consistently recognise and reinforce our own centre in the midst of the madness and chaos of the unconscious society around us, we can also recognise our innate power to decide how we think and feel. We cannot be made to feel anxious or angry by something outside of us any more than we can catch a cold simply by associating with people who are ill. Our beliefs are either making us stronger or more vulnerable. There is nothing “out there” that will rescue us, nor is there something “out there” which can harm us.
The new moon in Aquarius coming up early this Saturday morning will mark the transition from the chaos and upheavals of the year of the Monkey to the much-needed transformations which will be highlighted throughout the upcoming year of the Rooster. We can see better now what needs to change and we are now finding the will to do it!
Take some time each day to retreat from everything that is constantly changing around you. Empower yourself with your own inherent strength, and adjust your perspective consciously to fuel whatever action you need to take.
Wishing you much love and light, and every success along the way!