Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Why Yoga?" and the Boston Marathon Bombings (Yoga Book Club Schiffmann #3)

When tragedy strikes and we are saturated with visions of horror through every media possible, what choices to we have to respond?

For many, it doesn’t take a large-scale tragedy like the Boston Marathon bombing to make us feel completely helpless. The walls we have built to protect us from disaster, large or small, are strong and have been reinforced over our entire lifetime. While these walls may feel like protection, they actually increase suffering – a uniquely human experience that quickens death and decay in our mind, body and soul.

Chapter 3 in Schiffmann’s book “Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness” couldn’t have come at a better time for me. The Boston Marathon bombing sent me into panic mode. I’m from a little town outside of Boston and the possibility that a dearly beloved friend was injured – or worse – felt more real than ever. For all my yoga training and practice, for a moment, I felt extremely helpless. “Why yoga?” Schiffmann asks – and I felt in that moment he was looking directly at me. Thank goodness he answered his own question, because I was starting to wonder myself.

The practice of yoga teaches us how to relax, to become fearless, to “let go of any belief structure that limits your awareness and causes your experience of growth to be painful. You must let go of that which until now has been a protective coating or shield – and bloom" he writes.

Life is change. And the more we resist that change and cling to stability, the more suffering we invite into our lives. While in no way am I – or any true yoga practice – promotes that yoga relieves all pain or negates the need to grieve.  Yoga can, however, reduce or eliminate suffering, which is the byproduct of prolonged grief resulting in the inability to continue life.

The more we turn away from painful events, the more we feed fear and suffering rather than instill courage and bring love to the world. Indeed, it is our job to bring love. If we close down or turn away, so does an opportunity to let love enter into the world through us. We feed into suffering if we don’t let go of fear and embrace change.

Yoga is the practice of moving into stillness so that we can experience the goodness that is our true nature. Literally speaking, yoga brings balance, strength and flexibility not only of body but also of mind and spirit. We begin to see the world in a whole new way, we become enlightened.

“As you begin to see all things in a new way, you’ll find that you and the world are different than you thought they were – and magnificently better. You’ll sense that there is, indeed, authentic cause for hope and joy and optimistic outlook. The more realistic you are, you discover, the more optimistic you become. We are not victims doomed to death and suffering and short-lived transient joys, but beings alive in a creative universe, uniquely specific expressions of a creative, eternal, universal Consciousness.” Amen to that.

It is our duty, therefore to practice yoga. To build the courage necessary to remove the walls and to act kindly and compassionately even in the face of horrific events. If we don’t, we feed suffering and block the possibility that love will enter the world through us. Once that love is able to shine forth, it exponentially expands like a ripple in a pond far beyond our wildest dreams.

So in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, and in honor of those who are experiencing physical and emotional pain as a result of this horrible event, step outside of yourself. It is a fact that an act of kindness in your community will have positive effect for those in Boston and well beyond.

When tragedy strikes next, be it large or small, you can respond with love and kindness and you will make a difference.

Practice Suggestions from the Book:

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