“It is in action alone that you have claim, never at any time to the fruits of such action. Never let the fruits of action be your motive; never let your attachment be to inaction.” – The Bhagavad Gita
The potential of each moment
All of us are called to act, each and every day. We wake up and must act in order to get to work on time, to bring our children to school, and to feed our bodies. We act when we speak, when we are quiet, when we choose to engage, and when we walk away. What would it be like to act with an awareness that recognizes the potential for awakening inherent in each moment?
I will never forget being a child and watching a TV news program with my mother. The show interviewed prostitutes. When one of the women commented to the interviewer on how hard she worked, I laughed. I didn’t understand how a prostitute could “work hard”. This type of work was not valued in our culture. My mother looked at me and with a serious look on her face said to me “Emily, they do work hard. Those women work just as hard as anyone else.” From that moment on, I lost any disrespect I had held for prostitutes. My mother’s two simple sentences enlightened me to the fact that we are all human and we all deserve respect. She was able to bring to light one of my distorted beliefs, which had been unknown to me before she spoke.
Waking up the sleeping serpent
The practice of yoga is meant to wake up what is buried in the unconscious and bring it into consciousness. The well known, ancient image of a serpent sleeping at the base of the spine is a metaphor for the dormant energy coiled in the confines of the unconscious. When the snakes wakes up, she uncoils and rises up the spine. At this point, all that was hidden in the unconscious becomes conscious. This is the aim of traditional Hatha Yoga practice, to awaken and move the sleeping serpent, or kundalini, up the spine in order to reach the enlightened state, or Samadhi.
Although few of us will attain lasting Samadhi, all of us can increase our awareness and energy through yoga practice. When we open our breathing and stretch and engage our muscles, we free up energy that was stuck. Through looking at our minds and feeling in our bodies, we start a dialogue with the parts of ourselves that were unknown to us before. This includes past experiences, our lineage, belief patterns, intuition, and even unconditional love. We start to see that we are more than just our thoughts and naturally, question what is true. No longer is it easy to agree with cultural norms as the only way, when we glimpse the messy interior of the mind and the complex patterns of holding in the body. There is no “one way” when there are so many ways.
With this new awareness comes responsibility. Our sensitivity increases. The radical path of the yogi is one in which we recognize that the actions we take directly effect how we feel. When we take responsibility for our actions, we take responsibility for how we feel. After years of practice, I am intimate friends with the feeling of fear closing my heart, but also with the feeling of breathing into that fear and watching it lose its debilitating power. The act of breathing into fear frees up the energy I need to act. The feeling of the fear informs the action.
As you increase your awareness, another thing happens. Compassion increases. You might find yourself walk by someone on the street and feel their pain. Although painful, this is good! It is a sign that your heart is opening. With awakened heart, you feel more connected to others. You are more likely to take actions that benefit not just you, but all beings. This, in fact, is the final part of the practice. Action!
Feeling and noticing are incredibly valuable. They are what inform our actions. Your practice prepares you to act consciously. The next time you hear a racist statement, for example, rather than going along with the joke, you have the inner resources necessary to speak up. Speaking up will feel uncomfortable. You will make mistakes. People might get mad at you. Yet all of this is juice for your practice. You cultivate the courage to be with uncomfortable feelings and you recognize that when another suffers, we all suffer. You are willing to be vulnerable in the face of truth. One of the gifts of life is that you have the opportunity to try again and again and again. Like anything, with practice, speaking your truth gets easier. What is important is that you practice.
written by Emily Garrett