Some of my yoga classes last week were extraordinarily busy and some were strangely quiet. Many regular participants are going through different stages of grieving -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. "How are you doing?" has ignited real conversations post-election. This is the fertile time for positive changes if we take the long and broad view. My last week's teaching focused on endurance and resilience. I talked about how to cultivate the ability to control what we can and let go of what we cannot control. No matter where we are or what we do, as long as we live, there is the body and there is the breath. We can exert some amount of control over them through skillful practice and self-discipline.
One of my favorite quotes from the beloved Buddhist monk and teacher, Ajahn Chah is "If it isn't good, let it die. If it doesn't die, make it good." It captures the two pronged approach to building safety and endurance -- make the best of what you have and let go of the rest. Emil Dorian wrote in the Quality of Witness: A Romanian Diary that "strong people alone know how to organize their suffering as to bear only the most necessary pain". Self-control is the skill of making the body a safe home for the heart and mind to rest. Surrendering is the skill of making the heart and mind a safe home for the body to rest. Only when we feel safe in our body, heart, and mind can we move forward with life and be the agent of change as the life circumstances change.
Studies have shown that "older adults who cannot disengage from unattainable goals, but experience the onset of functional disability, show a steep increase in depressive symptoms over time." Given the current political climate I'm vigilant of the hard-liners and committed to keeping them in their line. No amount of polite conversations is going to change the mind of fundamentalists. But most of us aren't extremists. We're suffering, feeling isolated and scared. I'm determined to cultivate safety to overcome our shared bitterness through reconciliation and engagement of attainable goals. This is yoga in everyday life -- human engagement at all levels. There is no other life besides it.