When I asked Tiwari ~ what role yoga could play in contributing to social and community change his response was – “the crux of it is to treat others how you want to be treated” (a saying that I have heard since I was a wee person!)…
…And ultimately it is our responsibility to treat others how we want to be treated – to continue the journey of inner work, transferring it into life and relationships with others and our surroundings. The yama’s within the eight-limbed path are tools to support the natural laws…dharma–choosing to live and act in accordance with the natural order and way of life. Applying western context and language, we may refer to yama’s as ethics or morals to support life, a way of being – they are present in the philosophy to address potential disturbances caused by our conscience (one thing to note however, is the language of ‘ethics and morals’ can feel restrictive and yoga is not a strict structure to be imposed. Instead, it is a path to be curious about, to explore through practice with sincerity).
So where do the yama’s fit in with community development and social change?
When thinking about the present day struggles and pain associated with the ecological crisis, the break down of families and communities, economic and social injustices–I question how closely we are living to the natural laws and way of being (which is nothing new – many people are questioning this, so what are some possibilities to explore)?
Tiwari spoke of spending time with Ghandi and the experience of being in his presence. He said he automatically experienced change within, just through spending time with Ghandi – he was so pure in heart and mind, that it inspired and supported others (a whole country) to transform–aligning with the famous quote – Therefore – living our values, ethics, choices.
The yama’s within yoga philosophy that I speak of are…
Ahimsa ~ live compassionately with non-violence
Aparigraha ~ not asking for and taking more than you need
Brahmacaya ~ walking through life with the right attitude and energy
Satya ~ maintaining honesty and truthfulness
Asteya ~ not taking what is not freely given
I found myself thinking – how does yoga relate to community development and what arises is…the development and healing of individuals is so closely tied and intertwined with the health and transformation of a community. Yoga is simply one practice that people may choose to support their journey along with many other practices that may support the crux – “treat others as you want to be treated”.
A challenge I see facing the globe is self worth and love being at an all time low in conjunction the presence of apathy within the will of many people.
So how and where do we, people, begin to contribute to change with the overwhelming problems being faced on this planet? Michael and Judie Bopp within Recreating the World developed 16 principles (statement of fundamental truths) to support communities in change processes–principle number 10 is ‘Participation’, being “the active engagement of the minds, hearts and energy of people in the process of their own healing and development…nothing can be achieved in our life unless we engage in our own volition, (the exercise of human will)…a term [referring] to the capacity to focus, to choose, to adopt goals, to persevere and to complete what we set out to do” (p. 85). No only committing to and participating in one’s personal journey of healing but transferring that to their community and web of relationships.
Can we expand our capacity for inner work and reflection, inherently raising self awareness, to be change, supporting its transfer in relationship with others and community?
Hopefully it is already happening and expanding at an exponential pace! “We could say that the world is literally and metaphorically dying for us as a species to come to our senses, and now is the time. Now is the time for us to wake up to the fullness of our beauty, to get on with and amplify the work of healing ourselves, our societies, and the planet, building on everything worthy that has come before and that is flowering now” (Katbat-Zinn, 2005, p.16).
Listening to Tiwari speak on the Yoga-Sutras, within many of the books I have been immersed in and witnessing my practice of asana, pranayama, and meditation ~ yoga is a way of life ~ a practice where science, spirit and art intersect. This idea is not new to myself and I am sure not new to many of you, but I speak of it because it resonates–and I think hearing it again from an Elder who walks the wisdom and way of being, supports the resonance vibrate to deeper level, affirming commitment.
So wherever the commitment to growing and connection to spirit rests, can one’s way of being touch the lives and support change of those whose volition is waning and hope is dimmed?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.
Bopp, J., & Bopp, M. (2006). Recreating the world: A practical guide to building sustainable communities. Cochrane, AB: Four Worlds Press.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York: Hyperion.