Friday, November 29, 2019

Unshakable Belief: A Prerequisite For Change


I've been attending a general sociology class at the University.  And I tell you, nothing is more depressing than taking a microscopic view at all of our social, political, economical and environmental issues. But we cannot change that which we can't see. So here I am taking a good look.

I am fascinated by humans, and our behavior.  And I am increasingly curious to understand how we got to where we are now.

To say the least, we (and I mean mostly we the people of the U.S.) are out of balance from gender issues, to politics, education, prisons, healthcare and the environment in which our life depends on. This week in class we took a look at climate change. I say "take a look" because to call it anything more would be a stretch. The professor tries his best to engage the class in discussion - but he is easily defeated by students, 18-20 year olds, unabashedly engaged with their phones, still with the request to put all screens away. Is this not another reflection of the loss of attention, respect and discipline that is being asked of us? Distraction is at our fingertips. It is now even easier to avoid the pain and discomfort of difficult times, and to our demise, the urgency of it.

The issue of climate change depresses me not just because of how real it is today, and because of the inevitable catastrophes that are already happening and are sure to come in my lifetime.  It depresses me on a soul level because what is happening to planet Earth - whatever fate that might be, whether it's another episode of extinction of all life and eventual regeneration of life due to extreme temperatures, or if she'll allow us to stay and survive technologically dependent, who knows - it is a direct reflection of the cumulation of the underbelly and shadow of humanity. If I choose not to look away - from the protected cushion of privilege - it darkens my soul, and leaves me hopeless.

This video brings tears to my eyes. Sure, there is ebb and flow, and the Earth has her rhythm and cycles that persist regardless of human (and other animal) life. And perhaps we who are alive on the planet are perfectly positioned along Earth's timeline in a rapid transition, a global shift of counterbalance. And, it is clear that we humans have done some serious damage. If we were to have to pay the debt that we owe, we'd pay for eternity. But the Earth, like a forgiving mother, continues to give and give unconditionally; and at times pushed to her edge by her unruly children has no choice but to raise her voice. 


The shrinking of arctic ice aside, this video brings tears to my eyes, as it simulates a pulse and rhythm of breath, no different than our own. Reminding me of how inseparable we are from each other and the planet. As ethereal and utopian it might sound, it is true that we all share the same breath, we are all breathing the same air. Every individual action and thought has consequence whether good or bad.

Which begs the question, how can we believe that our actions are insignificant and inconsequential? How can we not see that excessive pumping of blood from the Earth and burning it wildly does not create heat? How can we not see that cutting and clearing the Amazon rainforest (20% of Earth's oxygen supply) only to be replaced with methane producing livestock does not have a detrimental affect regardless if science can show us how or why? And so much more. The environmental damage done only scratches the surface of our problems.

Perhaps we know this, but are so deeply embedded in a different rhythm, a chaotic free-for-all kind of rhythm, dissonant from the Earth's and destined for destruction that there it is nearly impossible to realign.

However, there is a different story being written and narrated by those who understand and believe that their choices are significant and when added up, can create systemic change. This is known as the the 'butterfly effect'; that a "very small change in initial conditions can create a significantly different outcome". And by those who are bringing forth the science and information, and pushing through resistance. And by those who commune with nature, giving back to the Earth in ways that show honor and reverence. And by those who are elevating consciousness to the degree that choosing another way, beyond the self-interest, and in the interest of sustaining life and living in harmony with each other and the Earth, is but the only choice.

More and more people are waking up and making small yet significant changes. The more that we can do individually, the more collective change can occur.

I know, it seems unfathomable and quite utopian. If you are skeptical that there is even a small chance that we can turn the sinking ship around, think about this. The 'tipping point' is a sociological theory which says that the tipping point is "a point in time when a group - or many group members - rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice".  Researchers on the subject, say that "just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society".   You may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceHe goes on to explain some of the key roles that certain people play in setting in motion a tipping point situation.  There are a million examples of how this has already played out, in political campaigns, in advertising and especially social movements, like the 60's liberation, and more the recent MeToo movement.

So why not now with climate change?  Surely at least 10% of U.S. population believe that climate change is real.  Notice the word, unshakable, in the above tipping point definition. I wonder if every action, every choice and thought must reflect that unshakable belief in order for a tipping point to occur.  If so, we as individuals need to make some difficult decisions. Which might mean trading convenience for integrity; comfort for moral; cravings for satisfaction; and most of all money and profit and cheap goods for basic human needs and simplicity. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tales from the Heart Cave

As I mentioned before in my last post, the heart cave is an inward journey into heart and soul, where dharma lives.  It turns out that the "heart cave" is not always a physical place; it is barely an allocation of time and space. 

I carry within me the heart cave everywhere I go. 

And thank god, because this is not a time for renunciation. It is not a time to sit for hours in contemplation - at least for me right now. This is a time for balance of action and inaction; balance of Self and other; healing trauma and being in service; retreating and integrating; individualism and the collective. Yes to the rituals of practice, yes to love and light, yes to healing! AND yes to taking action every single day. How each and every one of us chooses to live daily, makes a lifetime; makes a culture, a society. Unless you are completely content with life - this is how we can create change personally and collectively.

Simultaneously we heal and show up for work. Because if we wait until the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect job, the perfect weight or perfect partner - it will be too late. And besides perfection is completely subjective. As the saying goes, "all is perfectly imperfect".

I am mostly an idealist; and believe that Love and Light will prevail and save us all - someday.
And we need more than that right now. 

~

Part of my intention for taking a break from teaching public classes is to open up mental space and allow me to explore, in more depth, my relationship with yoga. I was suffering from burn out big time. I was dragging myself to teach; uninspired and unmotivated. I was ready to throw in the towel and move on to something else. A break was needed to sort this out. 

When I was on retreat with my teacher Seane Corn in June, I had the joy and privilege to sit eye to eye with her and ask for advice. I asked if she had ever suffered from burn out in her 25 years of teaching and what did she do about it. I was surprised to hear that she never had. But she did offer me some very helpful advice; "take a break." It's that simple. And she shared that practicing and teaching with intention, ritual and prayer has kept her connected and inspired all these years. Okay, got it. I can do that. 

But there is more. I want to be more challenged. I want to have more of an impact. I want to be in service to a cause that can create change for those who need it the most. This has been eating at me for at least a couple years now, if not more.  I am still exploring this; and learning and researching not only the skills required to do so, but also what's in my heart that wants to come forth. At the same time learning to accept that, right now, I am doing enough and doing my best. 

This period of burn out was also saying to me, it's time to either change or quit. Now that I've had some time to reflect, to quit teaching is clearly not the answer. The beautiful thing that happened during this burn out phase is that I became completely unattached to teaching, to the results of it, to the expectations that I have for myself and any perceived expectations from others. It is so liberating! I feel like I can move forward now with less tension, less fear; and with less hesitation to allow what is in my heart to come through. 

I have also wondered if what I was experiencing was really actual burn out or resistance to necessary growth. I believe it's both. Being on the edge or precipice of change, there is almost always tension. Tension manifests in a myriad of ways and is also known as RESISTANCE. For me, it has shown up in my left hip and leg, in my neck, and the moments just before heading to class, throwing a tantrum in my mind; and when I am simultaneously aware of the injustices happening in our country and the world, while I am in my insulated bubble of contentment. 

The burning question remains, "what do I do?!" 

The work always begins within.

Often when we take a good look in the mirror, it can be very enlightening and a good wake up call. I realized I had been slacking in my own practices of yoga on and off the mat. Duh! Of course, this is going to show up when I teach. And how can I ask others to be present with their bodies, to breathe, to reflect their yoga practice off the mat in their relationship with work, family, partners, the Earth basically every choice we make, if I am not not fully doing it myself? Okay, got it. 

First, I need to commit to the choice I made to stay with yoga and evolve. Which means going into the tension, feeling it, and listening to what it has to teach me. Only then will I be able to transform it. That means, showing up on my mat more often. Another huge a-ha moment, which is more of a reminder than anything (thanks again to Seane Corn and her book that just came out, Revolution of the Soul) is that, the yoga really works! I'm reminded that there is so much more happening on the mat than I realize as a teacher - and yes, teaching yoga can be enough, if we allow the yoga to do the work. 

Knowing what I know about yoga and its precepts, yamas and niyamas, its a really good place to start to take action in everyday living. When the amazon rainforest was ablaze this summer from wildfires caused by slash and burn practices to make room for cattle grazing (20% of global trade of beef), I cried. I felt the devestation in my body. I decided to significantly reduce my consumption of meat. Now, I source from local growers and farmers only. Which is more expensive and difficult if not impossible, when eating out. So, that means less consumption. This is only one example of a choice I can make that is aligned with my beliefs and my feelings in my body, and that may have a ripple effect. 

I know there is so much more I can do and am continuing to do, to live in alignment with truth, love, compassion, and respect for the Earth and for each other; and ultimately living in alignment with my heart.