This year's winter solstice marked the darkest day in over 500 years. For many of us, this feels like an accurate representation to what we're
both in our outer and inner worlds. There is a sense of darkness that feels insurmountable and unshakeable. I have spoken with many people who feel overwhelmed by our current political and social climate and feel immobilized by their feelings of sadness and grief. And yet others I have spoken to have been mobilized by their anger and struggling with where to direct that energy.
It feels like many of us are looking for tools and frameworks of how to work with what we're feeling. For me, I have turned to my yoga community and its teachings to help me bridge the gap of action with intention. And yet as I’ve started to watch what is unfolding in the community I've seen a lot of interesting dialogue around "being positive," "focusing only only on love" and I have seen many teachers and students alike coming down on one another for negativity or the righteous anger they are expressing. I have to say say, as student of yoga and human being I am troubled by this.
I do believe that anger has a place in our current experience and I do believe that yoga has tools available to us. We can look no further than the great story of the Bhagavad Gita where Arjuna struggles with what right action looks like and what it means for his current situation. Guided by Krishna he comes to realize that what right action looks like is killing many of the evil members of his family. While this story is not meant to be taken literally, it provides a meaningful allegory that right action doesn't always look like love and peace. Sometimes it means making hard decisions, taking strong action and being bold with what we do. Krishna is not teaching Arjuna to be passive and to allow those who are doing wrong to continue to do so, he spurs him to take action.
Through this story, I believe we have an opportunity to look at right action and how that can begin to manifest in our lives. Because I do sincerely believe that action is necessary in this case. No amount of stepping back and preaching love and peace is going to change the many events unfolding in our current world. So what we need now are tools. Here are some tools to help you find your path of right action:
A daily meditation practice is key to self-care and self-reflection at this time. Knowing our inner landscape can help us better navigate our outer world. If you don't currently have a daily practice, the new year can be a perfect time to start. Begin small, it need only be 5 minutes a day. Ideally make this a habit by doing the practice the same time each day. I try to do my practice every morning when I first wake up, before I've looked at my phone or powered on my computer. Starting with a quieter mind can be very helpful. Also, don't be discouraged if the mind is full. If thoughts are there, that is part of the practice, notice them and let them go. The practice becomes about not getting attached to the fact thoughts are arising, not so much keeping them from arising.
Recognize & Acknowledge Your Anger
As we start to know our inner environment better through meditation we can start to become ore aware of our emotional environment and the driving forces behind the emotions we are experiencing. Civil Rights legend Ruby Sales said in a talk recently "...love is not antithetical to being outraged. Let’s be very clear about that. And love is not antithetical to anger. There are two kinds of anger. There’s redemptive anger, and there’s non-redemptive anger. And so redemptive anger is the anger that says that — that moves you to transformation and human up-building. Non-redemptive anger is the anger that white supremacy roots itself in. So we have to make a distinction. So people think that anger, in itself, is a bad emotion, and it’s where you begin your conversation."
To me this is key, we can hold both love and anger and anger can be a powerful tool toward action and change. What we have to be aware of is where our anger is coming from and how we are directing it. If you find yourself falling into non-redemptive anger which can show up as lashing out, negativity without action, stagnation and seething discontent, it is time to sit with your anger. This is an opportunity to unpack your anger and find all of the layers underneath as to why you are feeling what you are feeling. Allow love to be there too and you may find that your anger transforms and pushes you toward action.
Asana practice can help give us an avenue for our worry, stress and fear. It is much better to release this energy from our bodies than to keep it within. Stay committed to your physical practice to keep your body clear of the extra stress hormones that may direct us down the path of fear instead of the path of right action.
Seek Out Your Community
Now is not the time to be alone. Right action in community is essential. Seek out spaces where action that you resonate with is taking place. Recognize that all action is right action and it needn't be that you seek out a political platform and start pressing things in a certain direction. It may be that you volunteer at your local soup kitchen or give gifts to homeless children in your area. Actions that we take that counter-act the negativity and evil we see in the world are all right action. Don't judge the actions that you are taking as not good enough or not right. Let your love and your anger guide you toward what feels right. You will know your path when you find it.
Give Yourself a Break
Turn off social media. Turn off the news. This is essential to your health and well being. Enough said.
I hope this framework helps guide you into the coming year to set intentions of action and
Yoga teacher, sound healer and explorer of the inner landscape. Join me!