It was a crisp fall evening. The cold air brushed over our faces and we quickly found relief as we entered a nicely lit, warm room where about 100 people gathered anxiously awaiting for tonight’s speaker. At the top of the hour, he softly walked in. Dressed in simple sweater, blazer and long pants, he smiled slightly and took his seat. His name is Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Known as a social activist, Arun described himself as a “peace farmer, one who simply sows seeds of thoughts about peace”. He said, “My hope is simply that some of the seeds will grow and germinate.”
The opposite of peace is violence. “There are two types of violence”, Arun said. One is the obvious one: physical violence, usually provoked by anger and the need to seek revenge by inflicting physical pain on others. The second type of violence is passive, behaviors we oftentimes do unconsciously that disregard our interconnectedness with everything around us. Both types of violence feed on each other. Here are examples of the second type:
When we let negative thoughts fester in our minds and we feel victims of circumstances, we also tend to blame others. We disregard the interconnectedness of our thoughts and how we treat others. How could we practice loving kindness, starting with ourselves? Loving kindness is giving ourselves the chance to discover a more positive path out of a difficult situation.
Each of us have talents. When we use our talents to exclusively gain material or financial wealth, we miss the opportunity to use these talents towards a higher goal; thereby, extending the benefits to serve the community and others. Arun said, “We are mere trustees of the talents bestowed upon us”.
Yoga is a personal practice of loving kindness that starts with us. With so many external stimulants throughout the day, we humbly recognize that our minds could easily be saturated. This problem is compounded when we string along those thoughts, some negative, and create fully blown yet ungrounded stories in our heads.
The foundation for all the yoga poses is deep breathing that relaxes the central nervous system and also calms the mind. When the mind is calm, our thoughts are clearer and our words are gentler. We are kinder to ourselves and we find it easier to extend that kindness to others. We seek more positive outcomes because we see the interconnectedness of our thoughts, our actions and our relationships.
Yoga teaches us to let go. For every challenging pose (that really mentally simulates challenging episodes of life), there is a counter-pose to release tension and any mental attachments. The feeling of letting go moves us away from being self-centered to feeling part of a greater whole. When we think of ourselves as simply one of many players in this play called Life, we also think more holistically with other people in mind.
I shall close with a quote from Arun: “This world is what we have made of it. If it is ruthless today it is because we have made it ruthless by our attitudes. If we change ourselves we change the world.”
Reading this blog, what has resonated with you?