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January 2017 - Yoga and Moving On

Dear Yoga Friends,

Hope you are doing well in 2017 so far! Why am I so challenged to move on from 2016 with hope? Yes, there were many losses—beloved political leaders, musicians, artists, entertainers—the list goes on. Locally we had the recent Oakland warehouse fire, one of the deadliest building fires in the country in fifty years. Looming in my conscious is the catastrophic global setback of the recent presidential election. Now more than ever our society needs deep-thinking, sensitive, selfless, and unifying leadership. From where will that spring? As a parent, I cannot help being concerned about my teenage children, on the brink of adulthood in a world reeling with change and instability.

Excessive wallowing in such thoughts does little good. How can I become part of the solution? I am of course compelled to ask, what does yoga have to say about this? I paged through the yoga sutras to explore their relevance. How challenging it can be to integrate their exquisite message into daily life, but how helpful, even if we glimpse a spark of meaning. There is much on how to avoid pain and suffering.

I am reminded that the root cause of my discomfort is the inappropriately close identification of myself with the "world of phenomena". Is there a way for me to care deeply about right and wrong, have compassion, be involved, but at the same time, not carry a lot of baggage around from one day to the next? The practice of yoga offers us an opportunity to approach each day with fresh possibility.

I was particularly struck by Sutra II.17 (translation from B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali):

The cause of pain is the association or identification of the seer (atma) with the seen (prakrti) and the remedy lies in their dissociation.

B.K.S. Iyengar writes in his commentary: "A wise person notices that inner harmony is disturbed when the mind lets itself be lured into indiscriminately sampling the world of phenomena." Particularly insightful in this age of information and instant communication.

Can you dissociate yourself from the events going on around you? What exactly does this mean, and should you seek to do this? Surely this can't mean you shouldn't care about the many important things going on and everything you are responsible for. For me, mulling this paradox in conjunction with my morning yoga practice felt like a positive step.

Wishing you a fabulous new year, with all its glorious possibilities!



Chad Balch