It’s funny, isn’t it? While we're keeping ourselves apart from one another as never before, it’s also true that we have never been so very all in this together. It seems in this newly distant or separated world, connection is more important than ever. We humans are social creatures. Our need for togetherness is as fundamental to us as the need to move and to breathe. The ingenuity and creativity we’re showing as we reach out to connect during this crisis illustrates that drive. Let's keep it up folks! Stay in touch! Maybe one of the lingering effects of this virus will be a good one – we will all have been reminded of how much we love and need to be together.
The choice to practice social distancing is a lovely example of pure generosity. We are making a series of decisions, many that we may not like very much, to take care of people we do not or may not ever know. Each of us is choosing to make sacrifices for the greater good. For me, I am pausing the work I love to do. I am not seeing friends who light up my life. I am not seeing my parents or my two children who live in the city. Trivial, but still a blow, I am choosing not to go to my local pub to enjoy a craft beer. I am doing so not because I am afraid of contracting the virus. I am doing so because of the person who is in a high-risk demographic who may stay healthy because I didn’t touch as many door handles or parking meters or elevator buttons or whatever.
If you struggle with small choices such as “Do I want a salad or a sandwich for lunch?”, it is likely that you struggle even more with life's big decisions. Religious and spiritual disciplines teach that connecting with the desires of our hearts is key to understanding our “call” or “purpose in life” or even what makes us special and unique. Learning to tune into what we really want rather than what we think we should want helps us, in the end, to make the best choice of all - to be happy.
Self-study is part of yoga's moral foundation, yet many students feel like they don't have the time or energy to devote to more yoga. The good news is that self-study is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we expose ourselves to new ideas, the more we will notice these ideas in all areas of our lives. Being a perpetual student enriches our life experiences on and off the mat.
Why not resolve to let something go this New Year's rather than taking something on? Something that is weighing you down, making you feel cramped or holding you back from chasing your dreams? It’s very human to hold on tight to the familiar. Join me in being brave. Remember that it’s only when we relax and open our tight, fist-like grip, that we have space in our hand (or heart, or life … ) to receive the gifts that Life has to offer. I wish you a happy and perhaps lighter new year!
We are all filled with light. Light that we share with the world around us deliberately through acts of kindness. Light that we also share with the world simply by being who we are. While we will never know all the ways that our own small light brightens the day for someone else, we can each be absolutely certain that this is happening. We are all little lanterns shining like luminaries in the world.
Yoga had something new to teach me about practice – and it didn’t take long to do so. Almost before I knew what was happening, I realized that I was practicing yoga not to get better at doing yoga, but to get better at approaching life the way I was learning to approach yoga on my mat. When I practiced yoga, I was practicing a way of being. I kept practicing because I wanted that way of being to become a habit that supported me all day long.
UCLA just received a $20 million grant to open its Kindness Institute. The Institute is designed to study the effects of kindness across many disciplines. Daniel Fessler, the director of the new Institute, says that “science shows practicing kindness and compassion has direct emotional, psychological and medical effects.” A yoga mat is a great place to begin or to deepen a practice of kindness that is as good for you as it is for the world around you.
Yoga gives us the space to act like better people. We feel better in our bodies, so we’re pleasanter. We have the space (physically and mentally) to take a deep breath, so we’re calmer and more even-keeled. We’re less distracted so we’re able to be fully engaged and compassionate with whoever is right in front of us. We have some space from our feelings, so we’re less likely to react and more likely to respond mindfully. All in all, yoga helps act like the people we want to be.