Where yoga begins

What a mad month of September it has been so far! It has felt like an obstacle course to me, and I’m not yet through it. I have been trying to send this newsletter out since Saturday, and crazy interruptions – not least of which has been no access to WiFi – have kept me stalled. 

Thankfully, I have my practice to remind me to breathe and smile. The past couple of weeks the smile has often been forced, but smiling has the effect of immediately relaxing my innocent body and making me realise how absurd it is to get frustrated at little things that much of the world would call “luxury problems”.

Despite stupid frustrations and horrendous events occurring every day around the world, life goes on flourishing everywhere in new and unexpected ways. Life is a continuum, with no beginning and no end; our biggest problem is confusing our individual life with life itself, forgetting how much we rely on other life forms, which makes it much easier for us so casually to abuse them.

We mostly overlook our interconnected nature, forgetting that we’re part of the continuum formed with all other life forms. Believing we are this limited little life and staying so strongly attached to it keeps us sad and afraid of the momentous changes happening all around us. Yet, deep down inside, we all know there will be a time when humans no longer walk this earth. And the Earth will heal itself just fine without us, thank you!

Realising that we are an indistinguishable part of the whole of nature can help us to understand that life itself never ends, even if an individual expression of it seems to. Practicing letting go of our troublesome attachment to our small self and our little lives will lessen our fear of change. And, paradoxically, we would take better care of others and the planet as a result; by recognising that we are all one, we would truly care if all life survived or not, and not just our own selfish version of life.

So, if we believe on the one hand that we are ‘One with the Universe’, yet we also behave destructively towards others or towards nature itself, we continue to deceive ourselves. This is where the suffering of all beings begins. Practice seeing the life that’s all around you as an extension of yourself, and as a metaphor for your own strength and endless capacity for renewal. Let go of old ways, let go of old ideas, and allow yourself to be in the flow of life in whatever form life takes according to what is possible in the moment, as conditions allow. When the conditions are right for beings and circumstances to arise they will do so; when the conditions are no longer right, the manifestation can no longer arise. It’s as simple as that.

Last Sunday I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Conscious March for Peace in Brussels organised by Emergences with Matthieu Ricard and the inspirational Satish Kumar. Hundreds of us quietly meandered from Bozar to the Parc d’Egmont in glorious sunshine.

Matthieu Ricard spoke about transforming ourselves in order to better transform the world (« La transformation de soi pour mieux transformer le monde. »). He also told us about a head of state who said (about the state of the planet): “Five years ago we were on the precipice and now we have made a big step forward.” (« Il y a 5 ans on était au précipice et maintenant on a fait un grand pas en avant. ») It’s funny in a not-so-funny kinda way.

All speakers implored us to take action but not give in to despair!

I felt we were following in the solidly-trodden footsteps of my dearest teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, without whom I don’t think this collective conversation would be the same. Educator and environmentalist Satish Kumar reminded us that when we appreciate something we take care of it effortlessly.

Let’s take time each day to appreciate the world that sustains us, so that caring for it will come naturally. This Friday, September 20th, there is a major Climate March which will unfold in cities around the world. Although I’m leaving the next day for a month, I feel I must add my voice and energy to this demand for change in policy and attitude towards our only home.

Let me know if you will be there – I would love to meet up for a hug and a chat while we strive for something better together. As Pema Chödron says, the bodhisattva path means taking whatever arises as the way to awakening: you don’t wait around till the weather is better!

Connect yourself regularly to the flow of all life, to all living beings; reach out and participate in the flow of energy that is always around us and the fears of loss, separation, and ending will diminish.

This is where Yoga begins.

With much love and light,