Happy New Year, dear yoginis and yogis!
May 2016 bring you, and everyone around you, health, serenity and joy – our practice is a way to obtain them!
I have spent the quieter days of late December with my loved ones, practicing yoga, and going to fascinating exhibitions. One was Goya at the National Gallery, testimony of a time of great upheaval in Spain over 200 years ago, during and after Enlightenment, and the other a very rare view into Tibetan yoga, presented at the Wellcome Trust.
I also watched an inspiring documentary, En quête de sens, about how a radical change in thinking is underway, from being consumers to being free individuals in a caring society. Many of the ideas in the documentary echoed an earlier, also excellent film, the Economics of happiness, as well as the book Une brève histoire de l’avenir, by Jacques Attali, which I have been reading after seeing the eponymous exhibition at the Louvre.
As a former political scientist, the dangers and chances of our present global political and economic situation still fascinate me. But I can also clearly see how yoga fits in!
Yoga was originally a mystical path of Hinduism, a collection of techniques to attain something called “enlightenment”, the spiritual kind, were the boundaries of the ego dissolve and samadhi, the liberation of the soul, is attained – not the kind of social enlightenment that Francisco Goya and his politically active friends were interested in. The Wellcome trust exhibition showed the Tibetan yogis retreating to lonely mountain caves were they would practice intensively in the hope of attaining samadhi.
When yoga came to the West in the 20th century, in the context of several waves of peace movements, it was meant as an instrument of both individual and social peace. One famous swami used to say that to change society, you need to change one person at a time.
This is what movements like Off the Mat into the world or the Africa Yoga Project and all those fierce yogis who teach in prisons or refugee centres or hospitals have understood and made their mission. Change yourself, yes, but in order to change the world, to be part of that global movement of people who choose connection over conflict, empathy over aggression, contentment over greed, patience over instant gratification.
So yogic enlightenment and social enlightenment, the Tibetan mountain dwellers and the revolutionary thinkers, can merge, and a new “tribe” of people emerges, who are brave, resilient and creative enough to contribute towards a happier future for their society – the yogi citizens. Each time you spread a bit of peace, at home, at work, in your city, or online, you are part of that movement.
I raise my mug of yogi tea to that! Happy 2016!