Dear Clients and Friends,
Happy new year and new decade to you.
It’s hard to write a typically cheerful New Years letter. There is just so much going on in the world that I am torn between the promise of a new decade and the effort not to sink into despair.
I was recently asked what yoga has to offer in these most complicated times. The truth is that yogis have been dealing with difficulty for centuries, if not millennia, and it is one of the hallmarks of our time that we believe our suffering to be so much more complex, and so much less solvable and tolerable, than in any other period of history.
This, of course, is both true and not true.
The full spectrum of human experience is always playing out in technicolor. Ancient yogis recognized this effervescence as well as the need to sometimes transcend it. To do so, we must practice empathy by upholding the potential for all of life to wake up to itself. By this I mean that we can all equally embrace the temporality of being.
If we were to truly understand impermanence in a sustained way, the infinite beauty and complexity of the world would ignite our desire to preserve it, even when this might entail great personal sacrifice.
Modern yoga focuses much more heavily on embodiment, which is to say that it encourages us to include our corporeal selves in the equation. Matter matters. Animals matter. The environment matters. Humans matter. The focus shifts from a transpersonal approach to a highly personal on the ground sense of connection.
True empathy is much less head-y and much more heart-y because the desire to stabilize and sustain comes from feelings and longings and hope rather than the lofty pursuit of enlightenment.
To the fellow yogis whose feathers I may have ruffled with this vast simplification of our tradition, I apologize. But my point is that both roads—mind and body—lead to the same place anyway.
Nothing is ever simple, and nothing ever was. Nothing is all head nor all heart, and nothing ever was. The great tragedies of the world, the great triumphs of humanity, the very subtle and personal achievements and failures all co-exist as they always have. The baby crying in the apartment above me doesn’t know that this moment won’t always be so sad and so hard. Weddings and funerals happen on the same day. Unjust history when left untended can infect an otherwise bright future.
So this new year’s note is really a call for all of us to pause, to breathe, and to accept that the complexity we're experiencing isn’t going anywhere. We’re in this place together, hands caught in the cookie jar with crumbs strewn everywhere. Collectively we are responsible and thus we can own our actions and our empathy. We can hold space for one another when we are overwhelmed. And we can move and breathe together when we need respite.
Soul by soul, this is how we change.
There is still much laughter available and even more love. We just have to take responsibility for creating it.
I hope to see you all so very soon. 2020 is not a year to go it alone.
With folded palms,