When doing yoga, we tune up mind, body, and spirit. This self-care prepares us so that when the time comes for us to serve we are able. It’s on the 220 square inches of our mat where much of the preparation for life and service take place. That space is sacred space, the container within the container.
If you do yoga, you’ve noticed how teachers remind you to stay on the mat. One of my teachers says, “Your place is here, now.” Another says, “On your mat is where the magic takes place.” Both of these statements at the beginning of class help shrink the unmanageable world – if only for a short time – to a 23 x 96 inch mat, but its’ not always easy to stay there.
Recently in class I saw someone repeatedly stepping off the mat. I thought of a track athlete just before competition, stepping away from the starting line and circling around to calm their nerves or psych themselves up for a race, jump, shot or pole vault.
Yoga is different though because we are not competing; rather, we are engaging in encounter. This important encounter takes place as we embody asana, mobilize prana through breath, surrender our cares, and slow the busy mind. Our first challenge in class is to stay in place, which means staying present on the mat to experience the full truth force of self-encounter.
On my second trip to India, I studied at Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi and talked with Gandhian scholars from around the world. I read of Gandhi’s Jan Path, a way of living anchored in truth force (satyagraha) for individual and communal wholeness.
The Jan Path is a wholesome and selfless program of local community service, healthy diet, meditation, cleanliness for body, economic justice, and care for community, children, the infirmed, family, and for the nation-state.
Yoga’s complete program moves us to many of the same values and choices. We learn this through our our study of yoga, and the revelation of our deepest truths. This happens naturally if we stay on the mat, because within that container, we discover another level of identity and a broader revelation of truth force. Awakening identity and truth through yoga brings a slow but certain alignment of body and soul. And while practice on the mat looks to others like a task, its’ much more.
Recently, I watched a video of two men attempting to release a wild animal from a trap. One of its legs was caught in iron jaws, but since the animal had sharp teeth and claws, the men were trying to pin the wildcat to the ground first so they could hold and release it. The big cat was aggressive and panicked, but eventually the men held it to the ground and then removed its leg from the trap. After a moment, it ran away…(more)
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