In yoga classes I have been talking to students about building structures of support. In an asana (pose), we begin with where our body is touching the mat, the ground. In seated pose, or in standing poses. Where our body is touching the mat is where it begins.
We are building from the ground up. Wthout the feet being solidly planted, we cannot stand firmly. When we stand firmly, the rest of the body feels supported. We bring our awareness up and out from that grounding, that support.
This is only one thing yoga teaches us, and it is one of the most powerful practices we can do now. In March 2011 we – all human beings on the earth – were knocked off of our feet. Our planet, the earth, shook us at our foundation. It moved so intensely (even before Japan’s earthquake it had started), that the earthquake and tsunami was felt by us all around the planet.
We were shocked. Those closest have died, aftershocks are continuing, we are feeling it in Minnesota. I see it in my classes and on that mat – this impact. No one was left untouched.
People are experiencing helplessness, confusion, disorientation, shock. . . This is all the first stage of grieving. We want to deny change and fight it. Resisting change is painful, so we try to numb.
As we allow ourselves to experience our pain at the fullest, that experience is like a tidal wave, an emotional, psychic, tsunami.
Those of us who have had a practice of grounding, be it in martial arts, yoga, meditation practice. Or prayer and the practice & discipline of going to church. We have something – someone – many someones our community to turn to. . . Wherever we have been practicing planting our feet or our seat.
When something knocks us off our feet, it is time to wake up, look around – look what happened, start rebuilding – from the ground up. It begins for me at home. I stay home and reflect. Look at my house – it needs cleaning, I clear it. I realize where I have not been connecting in my community. From my home base where I gather my strength and rest, I reach out and say “I love you”.
From my foundation, my structure of support, I go to my job – the yoga studio – and teach others how to build their body foundation. Plant your feet so that you feel powerful. Don’t lean, have your feet be strong and flexible first.
From that foundation, and practice, you can reach out and help those who need it – right next door. Your neighbor, the person you meet. You are not helpless. You can be aware, take care of you, get strong, rooted and grow up from there. Go help, and recognize when your body and mouth needs a rest. There are many human beings. We are all connected. Trust that there is a plan to handle it all without you doing it all.
Whether you are alone, or with others, the most powerful practice you can do is listen. Listen to what you need to be well. Listen to your heart. Listen to your soul’s yearning. In meditation listen. When you are with others: listen. My spiritual guide, Ishwar Puri, gave me a simple way to remember this:
“The Mind always talks and never listens. The Soul always listens and never talks.”
Listen for the whispers of your soul, if you are ignoring that, you cannot listen to others. You will be in the practice of “not listening”
With that I leave you with Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Listening to Give Relief”
"Deep listening, compassionate listening is not listening with the purpose of analyzing or even uncovering what has happened in the past. You listen first of all in order to give the other person relief, a chance to speak out, to feel that someone finally understands him or her. Deep listening is the kind of listening that helps us to keep compassion alive while the other speaks, which may be for half an hour or forty-five minutes. During this time you have in mind only one idea, one desire: to listen in order to give the other person the chance to speak out and suffer less. This is your only purpose. Other things like analyzing, understanding the past, can be a by-product of this work. But first of all listen with compassion." Thich Nhat Hanh