Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.
“To live in a way that our own life would enhance the lives of others is a radical concept, as it gets to the very root of how happiness comes about. If we want to be happy, we do what we can to bring others happiness, not suffering. Yogis by nature are radical; not content to live superficial lives, but instead they enjoy diving into root causes.”
Sharon Gannon, November 2007
Every year on this date I struggle with some of the nationalist lingo that emerges. I want to honor the sober calls for reverence and peace and freedom from suffering, and yet, as so often happens when anything becomes "us" versus "them," I want to do so only in a way that acknowledges the suffering of all beings, not just the ones who were born under a certain flag or speak the language I speak or look a little like me.
[Always a little afraid I'll get tarred and feathered for saying that.]
The First Noble Truth reminds us that life is suffering. We who are people in bodies that ache and break and breathe and heal know this, by virtue of being alive long enough to gain a few physical or emotional scars. This universality applies to everyone, no matter which nation you call home or to whom you pray.
[That's one big part that's often forgotten. This upsets me.]
This having-suffered becomes the root of our ability to feel empathy, to find compassion for one another, and to reckon with our own choices and the implications of those choices in the lives of others. Because, you know, since we are all interconnected, your suffering is mine, and mine is yours, just as your joy is mine, and mine is yours. Right?
[That said, please read this. For realz. The whole thing.]
Why not make this anniversary an annual opportunity to check in with the way we walk and talk and eat and speak and breathe and move through the world, to find ways to inject more kindness and tenderness and mindfulness and gratitude into every step, every word, every meal, every day?
In other words: let it breed compassion.
("True compassion is a profound skill, one that has much more in common with fierceness than softness. Compassion arises when you allow someone else’s pain into your own heart without a personal agenda. This is what so many of us are terrified of doing, and understandably so. To view our 'enemy' as part of the human family rather than a scourge to be obliterated means we have to take on their pain as our own and most of us are already full up on that score. Nonetheless, we must do it anyway. It requires fearlessness and a sense of genuine power, and is not, as a few characterized it, some kind of lefty do-good politically correct emasculating bullshit." — Susan Piver)
I can only offer that simple prayer:
lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life
contribute in some way to that happiness
and to that freedom for all.
This is the mantra of Jivamukti Yoga, chanted in almost every class. By giving voice to it, we set the intention to create a world that is harmonious and peaceful. We dedicate our yoga practice to seeing this reality manifest. This mantra inspires us to perform actions that benefit all beings, human and non-human alike.
When we practice yoga asana, we practice taking the seat of others. We practice being the moon, the warrior, the dog, the cow, the cobra, and the trees. We take their form and connect with their essence. With time and practice, we begin to develop empathy for all beings and realize that we are not different from each other after all. We learn that all beings share the desire for happiness and freedom.Yes.