Finding peace in the practice in a troubled time

Last night, Steve and I were watching the evening news, and experiencing all the sadness that it brought, when he turned to me and said, “I don’t feel like posting.”

He hesitated for a moment, and then quoted German philosopher Theodor Adorno: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

Adorno argued that the extravagant cruelty of humanity against itself makes creative acts inherently selfish, self-centered, and indulgent in the extreme. “Self-satisfied contemplation,” he called it. So I understood what Steve was saying.

It can be difficult to believe, in the face of horror, that creativity can go on—that anything can go on. The images from Connecticut shock the soul. And seeing them over and over, with no chance for catharsis, can be emotionally exhausting.

Comfort came from Robert Moses, in a message to the readers of Namarupa. I thought I’d pass it along to you. He wrote:

Hearing troubling news on a daily or almost hourly basis these days is indeed unsettling. Yet there is always hope. There is always the glimpse of love no matter how clouded things may appear to be.

Robert suggests—prompted by a message from Ammachi—chanting what we recognize as the closing prayer of the practice. It’s ancient prayer from the Rg Veda, known much more widely as the “Mangala Mantra.” It’s a reminder that there is, of course, solace in the practice itself.

svasti prajabhyam paripalayantham nyayeana margena mahim maheesah
gobrahmanebhya shubamsthu nityam lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu
om santih santih santih

As we prepare to embark on our Sadhana Yatra, it was good to be reminded that the reason for the practice is to improve the world—that our leaders take the right path, that we be faithful, that the world will be happy, and that there will be peace. It was good to be reminded that there is still poetry, and that there is also love.

Posted by Bobbie


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

6 thoughts on “Finding peace in the practice in a troubled time”

  1. I’m having a hard time relating to Adorno’s idea. Creativity can be an expression of the soul. It helps us greive and to heal. Art, music, dance, all of it helps us express the state of the heart, whether that is sorrow or joy. It helps us relate and to understand one another.

    1. Hi Anastacia.

      I won’t do Adorno’s many complicated ideas much justice, but it seems like I ought to respond.

      I’d probably sum it up as saying that he’d argue that in the face of something beyond comprehension in its horror (Auschwitz, Sandy Hook), there is no relating or understanding of one another. It can’t be expressed, it can’t be understood, and to think that we can — to have such a grand idea of what we are capable of, when we are capable of something so awful — is part of what’s “barbaric.” We’re making ourselves feel better, but not really addressing the underlying drives that cause the events.

      This is all tied up in Marxist/social/power relationship dynamics that inform his thinking.

      I don’t want to too neatly sum it up, but it obviously is a less hope-filled perspective than what I think you’re describing. (I write that with a caveat: From his perspective, if we could realize these limitations we are acting under, we might be able to move past them. And right there I may have somehow tied this to yoga and Ashtanga — the difference between purusha and prakriti. Maybe.)


  2. Take a look at @dronestream on twitter and consider a chant or two for all the innocent Pakistani children living in terror and killed by Obama’s drones too. I think they are too often forgotten by the world, and maybe willfully so by Obama.

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