Compassion; com pati: to suffer with

If I am to speak of mindfulness, a commonly used term these days in the western world, it’s important to have an idea of how it is defined.  With mindfulness applied to many diverse disciplines, different definitions continue to arise, yet they seem to maintain a common thread – awareness of the present moment with acceptance.  From a classical Buddhist tradition, sati (mindfulness) is cultivated as a tool for observing the mind and how it can create suffering moment to moment…mindfulness is a practice that develops insight and wisdom to support the alleviation of suffering.  So how is this relevant to yoga and/or community development, since most often it is a practice used in a clinical setting?  I’m in the beginning stages of make the links – so bare with me through these blogs!

I believe human beings are vast and expansive by nature, existing within a realm of consciousness, often limited by the mind that can create a sense of separate self.  If we look at the dominant global economic and political systems, their existence is based upon the pillar of separateness, as compared to relational systems of collaboration. For example, we are functioning within our economic sphere due to our dominant relationship with the Earth, one of polarity that values profit over a sustainable existence in life for all creatures.  For many years, it seems the human race has been working towards a model of isolation.

So what if we were to consider this – what if we were to engage with our vastness, our true nature – one that is in synchronicity with the Earth system, a conscious, sustainable, symbiotic system – is it possible to no longer be disturbed by our opposites?

If I think of challenges within collectives of people, groups or community, root causes are often due to a perspective of separateness – oppression, power relations, domination, conflict etc.   Is the universal model of separateness not being defined and lived out by individuals in relationship to community?  Therefore, is it not each person’s responsibility (participant or facilitator, political decision maker or family member) to begin to identify with one another from human to human experience?  How can people be supported to engage with that vulnerable place of being human – a dynamic system of intimate and subtle interactions between mind, body, and spirit?

This is where mindfulness and yoga comes into being!  How do you think these two practices could play a role in community development and social change? Would be really curious to hear any thoughts…

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