The recent political drama, on top of the continued devastation wreaked by the COVID virus, has many of us holding our breath in a state of hypervigilance or steeling ourselves against the next assault on our values. While it is important to be aware of the events around us, if we lose ourselves in obsessive reactions or rage against those we blame, we render ourselves powerless to changing that dynamic in any meaningful way.
One of the most powerful things we can do is maintain our own equanimity so that we can continue to touch the spiritual ground of being that connects us to one another, even those whose behavior we abhor. Only then we can make conscious choices to channel our anger in healthy ways, to stand up at every turn against racism and injustice, to follow in the sacred footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There is no denying the truth of the many crises that threaten the global family, and how helpless we can feel at times to make a difference. Let us remember what Sri Swami Satchidananda and many other saints taught: that each of us has the power to give birth to peace and compassion in our own hearts. In that context, changing the world starts here and now.
In the quote below, Michael Mitra Lerner, Ph.D. clearly spells out the myriad challenges we face in our world. He ends with questions that challenge us to evaluate our priorities and consider what contribution we can make to bring more light into a world that appears to be darkening.
“The truth is we face a whole web of interacting global stressors—climate change, the refugee crisis, the technology revolution that threatens jobs and freedom, the rise of authoritarian governments around the world, the ever greater concentration of wealth, and the radical disjunction between our economic system and the natural world. This is the world we are living in, so the true question is how we can live lives of kindness and compassion, consciousness and wisdom, and joy and service in such dark times. To speak of the global polycrisis can make us feel paralyzed by the enormity of the challenge, but the truth is that the real work is at the personal and community level. The real solutions are emerging among people like us and communities like ours around the world. It’s up to us. No one is coming to rescue us. No government, no corporation, no NGO.”
Dr. Lerner’s words resonate fully with me. As spiritual aspirants, most of us are not called to retreat from the world to awaken the Light within. Along with our personal practice, we really embody that intention by actively engaging in the world and cultivating virtues like compassion, generosity, contentment, and non-violent communication.
We bring compassion into conversations when we listen deeply to another person and make a real effort to understand and respect their needs, instead of stubbornly defending our own. We can build bridges instead of barricades by approaching even those with whom we disagree with an open heart and an effort to build on the common ground we share, instead of focusing only on the differences.
At the same time, we must speak out against injustice when we hear of or witness it, and be a presence of peace in moments of conflict. We have hundreds of opportunities every day to be a little more considerate when we are driving, listening to, or working with others. Practicing kindness in these moments has a ripple effect, softening the hearts of those around us, and shining a light that will always dispel darkness.
About the Author:
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.