We Texans take great pride in our homeland. This February completely challenged our ability to adapt to severe climate circumstances. Many of us are still reeling from physical damages. More importantly, many of our emotional needs are no longer being met. We may be feeling a disturbing sense of anxiety or despair. Can anything in yoga possibly help us deal with this mess?
When life gets tough, I find Chapters 1 and 2 from the 2,000 plus year old Yoga Sutras to provide much wisdom. You may find many parallels between the Book of Yoga Sutras to the Holy Bible’s Book of Proverbs and Book of Wisdom. I invite you to take a deeper dive with me in Yoga Sutras 2.1, 2.7, 2.9, and 2.11. What I promise you in return is a clearer perspective and a deeper understanding of your own role in this mess. Here we go:
Chapter II of the Yoga Sutras: Practice (Sadhanapadah)
Yoga Sutra 2.1 says “The practice of yoga must reduce both physical and mental impurities. It must develop our capacity for self-examination (svadhyaya) and help us to understand that, in the final analysis, we are not the masters of everything we do.”
What, you may ask, does this have anything to do with our tortuous 2 weeks (and then some) in the big almighty Texas snow storm of 2021? In effect, we must accept that we are passengers on our journey. How we perceive the journey depends on many factors. This is what Yoga Sutra 2.1 tries to teach us when it describes our physical and mental impurities as distractors to happiness. We are human so of course we possess impurities. However, it is the journey of self-evaluation that helps us to mature and find contentment in what “is”.
From your travels, you may meet natives who appear to have nothing (who live in poverty) but nonetheless seem to be joyful. Could it be that, if we are not introduced to luxury, we never learn to feel deprived of luxury? How much more difficult then, when we taste luxury and then lose what we have learned to love and expect? This surely happened to the majority of us Texans during the Great Winter Storm of 2021. Wow! Water, heat, electricity. Aren’t these basics that every one of us deserves to possess? We work hard to pay for these basic services, right? Hmm.
So, let’s see what Yoga 2.7 has to say about that.
Yoga Sutra 2.7 says “Excessive attachment is based on the assumption that it will contribute to everlasting happiness”.
When we expect to have “basic” needs satisfied 24/7, the “basic” needs no longer bring us delusional happiness. So, we need more. But, when we confront sudden loss of water and power and heat, our perception changes. These “basics” become wonderful gifts that we greatly miss! To be warm by flipping a switch on a wall is simply and utterly wonderful; To take a warm shower and not smell like the family dog for the 4th day in a row! Yesterday, I ventured out of Lakeway. I was able to witness my sister’s condo in Southwest Austin where the majority of owner tenants suffered burst sprinkler heads, busted pipes, loss of heat, loss of power, and of course loss of water. You then see El Cielo Apartments right here in Lakeway suffer devastating flooding of entire condos, especially where the renters’ apartments are on the first floor. Suddenly, our family and our neighbors are homeless, with no time to prepare anything. My step-son, his wife, and two little girls were literally flying out the door as the sprinkler head in their condo sent a deluge of water into their master bedroom and exploded into the rest of the house. Days later, they find 3 inches of water throughout the condo. And the misery continues.
So, let’s see if Yoga 2.9 can get us out of this mess.
Yoga Sutra 2.9 says “Insecurity is the inborn feeling of anxiety for what is to come. It affects both the ignorant and the wise”.
Guess not. It is interesting however, that the passage subtly refers that not all insecurity is warranted. Insecurity, furthermore, does not discriminate. How many Texans are wondering when and if their dwellings will be “normal” again? The lucky ones who suffered only temporarily may still be wondering, with dread, will (or when will) this happen to us again?
Can yoga do anything at all to lessen the pain from these and other dreadful circumstances? The answer is a resounding yes, but it may not seem obvious. Be patient. Yoga Sutra 2.11 provides slow and patient wisdom.
Yoga Sutra 2.11 says “Advance towards a state of reflection to reduce their impact and prevent them from taking over”.
Yoga Sutra 2.11 is a challenging sutra. What does a disaster with all of its inconveniences and unprepared expenses teach us? I am going to take a leap of faith on this one.
We learn that the basic services in our lives depend upon dedicated, hard working individuals, with the same frustrations and challenges that we face. We learn that we as individuals are part of a greater “We”. We learn of the generosity of local restaurants, including Craig O’s, Lone Star Barbeque, Buenos Aires Cafe, and others, that were also beset with challenges, and how they cooked up dishes to help others with no access to food. We learn just how uncomfortable living in our paradise becomes with the loss of basic services. My mind skips back to Port Aransas after Hurricane Harvey. Without electricity, a cool beach community infested with heat, mosquitos, and lack of power becomes the opposite of paradise. How many homeowners went homeless or lived in misery for months and months. It all begins to sound overwhelming. And yet, the opportunity to make another individual, regardless of race or political party, happy, is a gift. Gifts come in all sorts of packages.
And so, the next time you are on your mat, I ask you to go “inside yourself”. I ask you to reflect on the absolutely amazing ability you possess to breathe and take up space on this planet. I ask you to assume no need or want for anything, including food or water, at the present moment. I ask you to be present long enough to prevent doubts, worries, the past, and the unknown future, from taking over and interfering with your peace. I ask you to breathe in life. I ask you to share the act of breathing with your fellow virtual yoga friend. I ask you to smile. When you are on your mat in my class, I am breathing and smiling with you.
I ask you to return again to your mat tomorrow.