This is a quote I recently heard during a lecture by yoga therapist Mindy Eisenberg. When I heard it I realized it summed up my experience since I first started practicing yoga, and is one of the things that has kept me at it for 35 year. Being in community heals so much of the fundamental pain and suffering we experience as humans.
Our culture has always been a culture of isolation. Now with the pandemic, our isolation is amplified. Some of the struggles that occur when we are separated from community may not be so obvious. Maybe you are struggling to finish something because you just can’t find the inspiration to complete the project. You might be letting your self-care slip by the wayside, and you might be exercising less and eating more. Maybe you find you have less energy and zest for life. Community (or Sangha, which is Sanskrit for like-minded community) can increase prana, and this prana is the fuel that pulls us up and out of tamasic (lethargic) place.
Being inspired by others in your community can shift your perspective and lead to an uprising of joy. Experiencing joy from other peoples sucess is an amazing healing tonic. Our ability to enjoy that is a good sign of unity. Arriving at the non-dualistic experience which is attributed to a yoga practice is ironically often best understood by dualistic observation and engagement. Before we can go off to the forest or the mountains and live the life of a sattvic (harmonious) renunciate, we need to be able to look at all the mirrors our community holds up for us and see how we are reflected in the faces of our neighbors, friends and relations. In other words, we need to heal the spaces between "me" and "them" and in doing so we can begin to understand "me" and "them" is actually one and the same.
Zoom and other online platforms have become the medium for community gathering since the start of the pandemic. We really are able to transmit our concern, care and compassion for each other through zoom. I have experienced this. It may not be optimal, but it's what we have now. And it is also a matter of perspective. If we want to connect, we will connect, whether its over zoom, face to face or behind masks. So don't be concerned that connection to community wont happen over the internet, and try not to get stuck in the fact that it is not happening the way you want it to, or the way it was 2 years ago. We adapt because that is what we do - we are designed to adapt. If we look back at history, even let's say just 60-100 years ago, we can see how well humans can adapt and integrate the unthinkable into their lives.
Remember: we are a family; we are a team. We can move through this pandemic together. No, we NEED to move through this together as humans. The first step is to show up and come together. Then we can work towards our common goal. In the context of our yoga practice, part of the goal is to care for ourselves so we can care for others. When we care for others we become less separate from others. As that separation lessens, we are being healed. This takes us back to community being medicine.
Many people over the last few months have asked me how I managed to keep the doors to Yoga Loka open given the fact that many similar small businesses have closed. I attribute this to us being a strong community that recognizes we are a team working together. Parts of the team may be focused on healthy aging and maintaining a strong body, or balancing and quieting their minds, or lifting the vibration and healing energy of the universe. We instinctively know we cannot do what we are doing alone. Even if you have never see the other people in your asana or meditation class face to face because you started after the lockdowns, or you are coming to private sessions, you are part of the team, the family and the sangha. We are all serving each other by contributing positive energy and health to the whole, and by lessening our negative energy output which inevitably effects others.
The upcoming winter months are looking dismal, but don't give up! If you splinter off, you are without community. If you haven’t been for a while, come back! Sometimes we need to step away from the team to realize how much the community supports us. If you can’t afford to attend classes, let me know- we need as many people working towards a peaceful environment as possible! Don’t let finances keep you isolated. You are needed for the wholeness to happen. Your participation, in any community, is an essential ingredient in the healing balm this world needs so much.