For much of the last two months I had the great opportunity to experience “time out of time,” a respite from all that is familiar. Leading two back-to-back retreats — first on the volcano-dotted shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and then in the lush mountains of Puerto Rico — I was physically, mentally and emotionally removed from everything that typically makes up my days. Activities, schedules, surroundings, weather, food and people all were new. And for much of that time I was not able to see, hear or read about current events. I found myself feeling surprisingly guilty at first. How could I leave behind the urgent news and politics that had taken a place of such prominence in my life of late?
The world has gone into hyper-drive these last few months. Almost every day presents us with a new crisis worthy of our attention, anger, grief and action. But for two months I was removed from this possibility. What I discovered is that there is so much more worthy of my attention. I remembered that in addition to all the very real crises demanding my anger, grief and action, there is a whole world also very worthy of my attention, my encouragement, my joy, my delight, my awe and wonder. This is not to say that US and world politics are not as important as I previously thought, but rather that there are other truths and other realities occurring simultaneously, which are equally as important and — dare I say — urgent.
Taking in the magnificent beauty of a dawn sky as the fog disperses from the green hills in Utuado; watching the surface of the water change as the xocomil winds suddenly appear on Lake Atitlan; witnessing someone dance, sing and cry with tears of joy; guiding a relaxation that carries someone into a place of peace that I can see palpably reflected in their body — these events, too, are real and true, and they deserve my time, attention and energy.
I’ve since returned to my daily practice of news-watching — and I do see this as a practice; like my yoga, dance or meditation practice; I believe it’s essential for me to be informed — but I’ve returned to this practice with a new perspective. The world is greater than anything that any one individual or group of individuals can do to it. Whatever crisis is upon us — and there is always at least one — there is still beauty, joy, deep peace and liberation. And it is urgent that I make time to remember, acknowledge, practice and encourage it.
Yoga can be described as the practice of seeking to know, see and respond to what is — tat and sat, or what is real (tat) and true (sat). Therefore, whatever urgent crises are upon us today — and there will surely be at least one — may we each take a moment to recognize the very real and very true gifts of love, beauty and grace, which make up all of our lives as well.