Column: Yoga From My Experience by Cynthia Gran
“Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us.
And the world will live as one.”
Imagine, John Lennon
Mir. Pokoj. Kapayapaan. Shalom. Frieden. Shanti. Pace. Salaam. Sülh. Heiwa. Paix. Tinchlik. Peace by any other name is still as sweet! It’s as sweet as feeling carefree and as gratifying as a joyful occasion with friends. Mother Teresa said, “Peace begins with a smile.”
During this late autumn season I’ve been compelled to write about peace. I’m not a diplomat and I don’t have a magic bullet for world peace. I only know that every day I must work toward more peace in my inner life and my outer life. If I’m not careful, sometimes I pour too much of the wrong energy into activities and create strong emotions and useless suffering. So every day I work on myself, I practice yoga asanas and meditation, and I intentionally cultivate my relationships.
“I transform the garbage in myself
So that you do not have to suffer.”
Inter-relationship, Thich Nhat Hanh
The Engaged Buddhism movement encourages meditators to bring the fruits of their personal practice out into the world for the benefit of others, usually toward social justices. It’s similar to the yogic concept of doing one’s work with attention and care, yet remaining detached from turmoil the world often produces along the way. Yoga also shares the same sentiment found in the famous song heard this time of year by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson, “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin with Me.”
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence…
Whatever your labors and aspirations,
In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.”
Desiderata, Max Ehrmann
Yoga teaches that our personal meditation practice is the most important enterprise toward the pursuit of Peace on Earth. We have an inner world and an outer world. We can bridge the two worlds and bring our inner peace outward as we interact with the world if we pledge to work toward that end. Further, yoga specifies self-regulations, which will reward time spent in meditation. Yoga’s codes of self-regulation involve our actions in the outer world where we live and connect with others.
Of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, or Ashtanga, the five yamas make the first limb. They are:
1. Ahimsa, non-violence. At all times to endeavor to be non-harming in thoughts, action and speech. No blaming self or others unnecessarily and no foul language.
2. Satya, truthfulness. It’s honesty without exaggeration or intention to harm with words.
3. Asteya, non-stealing. It’s also non-desire for what isn’t ours, or for more than we need.
4. Brahmacharya, either celibacy or loving sexuality within a committed relationship.
5. Aparigraha, non-attachment, non-indulgence, and not wishing for unattainable worldly objects.
The yamas are necessary first steps in purification for all serious yoga students. They help us gain control over our inner worlds, our emotional lives and our relationships. They teach us how to begin cultivating inner peace in order to create a more peaceful world.
“Once we have this inner peace, world peace can be achieved in the twinkling of an eye…
So when we have inner peace, automatically it expresses itself.
It spreads its qualities throughout the length and breadth of the world.”
When I lose sight of my inner peace, I try to pay attention and make adjustments, moving from fear and hurtful habits towards greater wisdom. I contemplate why I bear harsh feelings and try to adapt them into something productive. If I root out causes, I often move through forgiveness of myself and of others. So if I can change my thoughts before I speak, usually with the help of deep breathing, I’m usually pretty good at decompressing and controlling outcomes. I feel we must practice inner peace daily, not merely as hope for some future time. We must begin today and pledge our diligence so we may realize peace as soon as possible everywhere.
“Dear Peace Lovers Around the World,
When you hold silent meditation prayers to commemorate those who have died or suffered in terrorism violence, do not forget to offer a prayer for the terrorists.
May God grant them Sat-Buddhi (re-awakening of their wisdom) so that they may change their paths. This is the only antidote to terrorism.”
Swami Veda Bharati
During the third week of December, the Winter Solstice brings the seasonal symbol of the returning sun with increased daylight hours. May the return of greater sunshine illuminate the way for peace in each and every life, every day.
“We live in hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us.”
Hope Of Deliverance, Paul McCartney
Here’s a short list of meaningful and inspirational books that encourage peace:
Freedom From the Bondage of Karma
Creative Use of Emotion
Thich Nhat Hanh:
Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire
Peace Is Every Step
Swami Veda Bharati:
Human Urge for Peace: What Is Right with the World
Education and Parenting for Peace
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait:
Why We Fight: Practices for Lasting Peace
No Time to Lose
Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
When Things Fall Apart
Always Maintain a Joyful Mind
Cynthia Gran hangs with her husband and her dog in the garden or kitchen, on the couch or the fl oor. She teaches meditation and offers Ayurvedic consultations through Annapurna Holistic Services – firstname.lastname@example.org