~ peace, tranquility, rest, calm, bliss ~
I have always appreciated the concept of shanti, the Sanskrit word for peace. Shanti shows me that there is more to peace than simply refraining from violence. It is about an active engagment with ourselves and the world around us. Gently, this concept of Shanti is a reminder to do the things that allow you to breathe a little more deeply, smile broadly, lift your heart in humble confidence, and use gratitude to spread support to others. From these little practices can come a deep and profound sense of resolution.
What I want to do this week is try and unite yoga philosophies and the teaching of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras with the wider world beyond yoga. As a nurse, I find it fascinating that the word sutra is derived from the same root as the medicinal word suture meaning to connect or hold together. Yoga and yoga philosophy are not simply about being on a yoga mat in child’s pose, or about looking incredible in “ninja pants” as my partner calls them, and are not only for dedicated yogis. In buddhist philosophy, the lotus flower symbolizes purity of mind and spirit. The mud that the lotus flower roots in are seen as attachment and desire which produce suffering, and the blossom is seen as freedom from attachment and desire or freedom from suffering.
Before I became a certified yoga instructor in 2009, I was just a human being with life experiences, emotional turmoil, ups and downs, successes and failures who lacked the tools to unpack the lessons, healing, wisdom, growth and potential buried within. What yoga really does is teach an individual how to experience their own existence with love and truth. There is also a widely held social misunderstanding that yoga tries to have a religious connection, a conflict with Christianity, and that practicing yoga is a sin because, as one lady told me, “you open your body up to the devil”.
In practicing yoga on the grass, in my living room, in studios, in bed, on the side of the highway, and while giving a presentation, I can confidently declare that yoga can be practiced anywhere, at any time, and with nothing but the sound of your own breath. When you close your eyes and bring your self awareness to the breath there is a mind-body-spirit connection that happens instantly. From this place healing can begin.
The reason I wanted to talk about Shanti is because throughout my nearly ten year yoga journey, I have been developing my own personal practice. It has helped me make some difficult decisions, it has helped me develop my voice and confidence, it has helped me maintain a low level of overall stress, it has allowed me to practice a more thoughtful inner voice and has helped me notice when my own thoughts are negative and critical and be able to cultivate a more positive mind set. Ultimately, yoga is tool belt.
Those tools are:
- self awareness
- physical flexibility, balance, strength, stamina
- nonverbal communication
- spiritual connection
In our busy technological lives many people may interact with computer screens more often than they do with people. The problem is that as individuals we seem to have forgotten that there is always someone with us. Yoga reminds us to take a few moments to go inward and tend to whatever it is we need. Yoga helps us gather our power back from the many places we have lost it throughout the days, weeks, months, even years leading up to this moment.
At this moment in universal history, our existence is the equivalent of a deep inhale, a pause, and a deep exhale, that is all. So, I think that school children, teachers, nurses, doctors, policemen and women, mothers, fathers, babies, bus drivers, taxi drivers, waiters and waitresses, janitors, and all people no matter what their role in society is could benefit from cultivation of a connection with themselves in this way.
At some point, I would like to try and create a way for all people to be able to broaden their understanding consciousness, spirituality, existence, the universe, and what it means to be more self-aware in the ways that are generous, loving, and helpful to society. Self care is not selfish. It is brave, because the voice inside begins to whisper “I matter”. If we allow this voice to say we matter, then we must decide to live as though this is true.
Shanti all ~