As March 2022 begins, it feels like our world is in a state of upheaval. The seasons are changing and many places in the world are lifting COVID restrictions, trying to transition back to a more “normal” way of life. But the seasons and the pandemic are overshadowed by the war waged by Putin on Ukraine and peoples all over the world are watching the tremendous suffering that war creates. With such tumultuous events and the resulting hyper-alertness that arises, it becomes even more important to stay anchored in a personal center of balance.
The pandemic had already gripped our attention and clarified how interconnected we all are, how we share the same planetary home and the same dangers from life-threatening infection. Now, the invasion of Ukraine has galvanized the world community even more fully as peoples around the world are protesting against what seems like an unnecessary war, grieving their losses, and many countries are uniting to impose sanctions on Russia. No doubt, neighboring countries are anxious about what this might mean for them, and many people with lesser means have no ability to ((escape the economic effects of such worldwide turmoil.
The first day of March also coincided with the Hindu celebration of Maha Sivaratri, which honors this Hindu deity. Traditionally, Lord Siva is viewed by Hindus as one of the three main deities, each as personifications of three activities: Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, the Destroyer. Yet, if we go deeper into the classical roots of nondual Shaivism, we learn that in Sanskrit, the name Siva means “Blessing, auspiciousness, Divine Consciousness.” In Siva’s form as “Hara,” he embodies the power by which veils of ignorance are removed.
Lord Siva represents the energy that purifies us of egoism, destroys the obstacles to our awakening, and exposes our essence-nature as Divine Consciousness and inner peace. Honoring Maha Sivaratri is a powerful way to re-commit ourselves to our spiritual growth. Yet the destruction of obstacles on the path often involves challenging ourselves—or being challenged by others and even life itself—in painful ways in order for us to face our selfish behavior and thinking.
Reflecting on all these forms of transition and unrest, reminds me of how important it is to stay rooted in the stable ground of our spiritual nature. In the same way that a boat that is well anchored can remain steady even in stormy waters, a regular spiritual practice can keep us linked to the unchanging sources of stability and peace within. Then, as stressful events take place or the news reflects the violence and suffering perpetrated by greedy minds and armored hearts, we can remain steadfast in our intention to be a presence of peace.
A regular meditation practice trains us to enter into a more skillful relationship with the myriad thoughts that arise and sometimes wreak havoc in the mind. By diving deeper within, we can learn to rest in the depths of the ocean, from which we can view turbulent thoughts as nothing more than waves on the surface. As we gain increasing nourishment from spending time dwelling in the inner cave of the heart, we learn to recognize that reactions to challenging people and situations are only human, yet as spiritual beings we can catalyze the ability to respond with wisdom rather than being propelled into habituated reactivity.
We can instead be guided by the inspiration found in the well-known serenity prayer. In my own words, we can maintain equanimity in the face of the distressing events in our world over which we have no control. We can reach beyond our comfort zone to give and serve those in most need. We can pause and reflect with clarity on what course of action would bring benefit and cause no harm.
The more established we become in this sense of inner stability, the less we will be thrown off balance by the injustice and suffering around us, and the more we can make conscious choices. And when others react with anger or fear, we can keep our composure, and be an example by responding mindfully with compassion in our hearts.
I don’t practice Aikido but I understand that this martial art instructs practitioners in how to receive the energy of an attacker without resistance, redirecting its force without harm. In the same way, we have the opportunity every day to practice equanimity in the face of the challenging circumstances that arise around us. Only by keeping our internal balance can we hope to serve in ways that make a difference, to stand up against injustice, meet hatred with compassion, and maintain clarity in the confusing chaos of world events.
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.