You may have noticed that there’s been a lot of unkind behaviour in the Australian political arena recently. Okay, this may not be at all unusual. It seems that bad manners become badder when there’s an important seat up for election. Read the ‘blue ribbon’ the seat of Wentworth. This one had the Liberals introducing all sorts of hanky panky leading up to the by-election.
Worse and more dangerous behaviour was on display in America this last week. Acts of terrorism perpetrated by a crazy individual have demonstrated the terrible rift in U.S. society. It’s been there forever, it seems, and is surfacing now in bold and disturbing ways. Is it unfolding in this way because the American President is encouraging it?
I don’t mean to be joining a political debate with this particular post. It’s just that I read the signature of a friend’s email that included ‘Make American Kind’ and thought, yes! But then, my next thought was, if you try to make a nation kind, aren’t you just opening the door to opposition? You’re likely to polarise the people who don’t hold to kindness, who in fact subscribe to the exact reverse. You know the expression, ‘what you resist persists.’
So how do we go about creating a kind and loving world? I certainly don’t have a plan. But I do know that, personally, I need plenty of practice in being kind. I need so much practice! I’m sure that is why I’m drawn to yoga. It’s because every pose and every breath can be a practical reminder to be kind to myself, to my body, to my mind.
Yoga is a practice that helps me take care of my body, mind and spirit through the variety of practices I do. If I’m feeling sluggish, I might want to do a physically energetic routine. If I need rest, there’s restorative yoga. Practising mindfulness makes more me aware of my thoughts, words and deeds and their influence on others. Loving kindness practice gets to the heart of being kind. My spirit is lifted by pranayama and simply being quiet and inward.
Does what I do make a difference in creating a kind world? I hope so.
In 1996, I wrote these words which are the last paragraph of my book, Teach Yourself Yoga. I think they are as true now as ever.
Ultimately, I believe, one’s personal practices carry over into the public sphere. The healthy choices you make for yourself, such as doing a regular yoga practice, contribute to the wellbeing of others every bit as much as to yourself.
One characteristic of mature yoga practice is that the energy you generate for yourself and your own healing can be directed outwards towards humanity and the planet.
When you quieten your constant mind chatter, you are able to think and see far more clearly. This enables you to evaluate situations objectively and, because your mind is disciplined, you know what needs to be done (or not done) to make your unique contribution to life.
There are many things to attend to in doing yoga, the most important of which are your attitude and your awareness. Developing these is a process that is simple, but not necessarily easy. It is, after all, life training. You are building up a muscle for taking care of yourself on all levels — body, mind and spirit. In the beginning, especially, you have to work at it, but the rewards are great. Persevere.