Like many Americans, my heart is breaking for the events of the past few days.  The shootings of black men, of police officers, the hateful outcries, the heartbreak of the victims’ families… it’s all been so much to bear.

I had an interesting experience in dealing with all of these emotions on Thursday after filming this episode.

As I mention in the video, the inspiration for this week’s focus is coming from this week’s soundtrack artist Lycanthrope, specifically their track “Self Worth”.  The lyrics were really moving to me.  They’re basically a string of phrases that I believe in very strongly — happiness comes from inside, we’re responsible for our own lives and successes, and also that we need to be sure we’re right within ourselves in order to live well in the rest of the world.  It’s some pretty heavy music (which you should go check out on their Bandcamp RIGHT NOW!) but the message to that track in particular was really uplifting.

Anyways, Thursday I went into my afternoon class sick with a heavy heart over the events of the previous 48 hours.  I thought, since we were working on the primary Ashtanga series, and most of my students were pretty familiar with the shapes, I would read excerpts of Thich Naht Hahn’s “Inside the Now: Meditations on Time”.  I hadn’t told stories or read during classes in a while, and students have always commented they enjoy when I do, so I figured it would be a good time to bring it back and liven up the room.

This turned out to be a huge mistake.

Every poem and excerpt I chose seemed to be focused on violence and waiting and struggle.  It was torture for me to read, and I felt so much worse by the time class was over.  I can’t imagine how my class felt.  Probably not as bad as I was projecting, I’m sure, but it definitely wasn’t the cheeriest hour I’ve spent in their company.  Thankfully I was able to let it go, and received a few statements of thanks for the softer environment of class.

When I went into my evening class I was prepared to choose some more light-hearted excerpts and a brighter perspective for reading, but I was in for a pretty big surprise.

My community center classes are pretty consistent in numbers and attendees.  I work with mostly the same group of people every week and I’m rather familiar with their practices and their bodies.  Thursday night, however, I watched a large group of newcomers walk into the room, many of them clearly very unfamiliar with setting up a mat and unsure of what was to come.

So I set the book down.  I announced to the group the same pain in my heart, but then I thanked them all for being there so that we could share the time, energy, and practice of compassion and self-love.  And over the next hour, rather than digging a trench in the sadness in my own head-space, I invested in my teaching and connecting with others.  I focused on providing the best guidance and instruction I was capable of giving to that room, and together we created a space of positivity, connection, and self-care through self-awareness.  I got right with my duty as a teacher without getting into the fluff of reciting poetry.

After all, it’s not that we should look in the mirror and never out the window.  There’s a beautiful world out there.  Especially our own backyards – our closer community, where we can continue to build up connection and keep each other in balance.

So yes, we need to be responsible for our selves.  We need to be sure we’re right within ourselves, but that doesn’t make us separate from others.  Separatism is a fallacy.  We’re all connected.  We all share the same desire and capacity for joy and belonging.  So, in times such as these when we may feel that joy and belonging are lacking, that love is being forgotten in the midst of hate and blame, maybe we can focus more on remembering how much good there is.  How much happiness and connection and good work we can create when we work together.  Teachers and students, minorities and allies, citizens and governments.

Enjoy spending this time with your practice, perhaps getting into your body and out of your head for a while.  Then go lean out the window (or, you know, walk out the door) and share some joy and connection with someone else after you find it within yourself.  Because we all need a little more of that – there never seems to be enough.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-

April