Practicing when the world seems to be going to hell

During our Yatra, we had about a six-day stretch where we were fully off the grid. No wifi or Internet access. No email. No news. Nothing beyond the peaks of the Himalayas surrounding us.

When we came back down (literally and figuratively), the news was filled with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and, seemingly out of nowhere (but not really), the fighting going on in Gaza.

It felt like the world had taken a turn or two for the worse while we were tucked away in the safe embrace of the Ganges.

Over the past few days, I’ve seen a fair amount of social media posting from teachers, and some Ashtanga practitioners, who are struggling to practice in the face of all the fighting, death and other unbelievable tragedy. Some write they found relief in the practice — often in the consistency of the breath. Others seem to question the efficacy of the practice in such moments.

It brought to mind one of the many attributed to Pattabhi Jois sayings: “You take care of your anus. The universe will take care of itself.”

I can’t find a credible source for the quote, but it is one I’ve heard more than a few times. (I did find some interesting health sites while doing that search.) It does fit with other quotes from Guruji, and with Ashtanga’s focus on the agni of our digestive system.

I wonder, though, how it sits with those teachers and practitioners who can’t shake off the images we are seeing from both areas (and others — it isn’t as though all the fighting going on today is limited to those two places). Is it a helpful reminder to take care of yourself? After all, it is hard to take responsibility for anyone else. Or does it suggest an abdication of responsibility that isn’t acceptable? I suppose there is a certain Vedic perspective inherent in it that may form a disconnect. Things will happen as they are meant to happen (and perhaps as they have happened incalculable times already).

That can be hard to accept, though.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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