Recently, in a philosophy class, I learned that the root of the word “shanti” –translated as “peace” from the Sanskrit – is “to recede.” Shanti is willing disturbing thoughts or actions to move away from our center, like the tide. We think of peace as the lack of activity, but in fact it is a gentle action. It has movement, and it has discrimination.
When we repeat “shanti” before or after class, when we include it in our chants, prayers, or meditations, we are really performing a mental act of gravitational pull. Just like the movement of the moon can pull all the oceans of the earth into high and low tides, our mental focus can powerfully determine what we draw towards us, and what recedes.
Make no mistake: This is not an act of denial. Denial is impossible in this post-information era, where we are more likely to know and see too much. And after all, what is thrown into the ocean doesn’t go away. It can only be transformed.
Everything on this earth has its ebb and flow. The Wheel of Life is sometimes up, sometimes down. The geography of our mind has the same tides, except that we are the sun. We are the moon. Along with karma (or fate), we co-determine what we draw towards us, and what recedes.
In this new year, what do you need more of? What do you need less of? What is your base – your community and stability that can remain constant below the ebb and flow of life? Can you accept your shadow self, be it fear or anxiety or anger, while guiding it to recede from the center of your thoughts?
In his Five Sutras for the Aquarian Age, Yogi Bhajan advised us to, “Understand with compassion, or you will misunderstand the times.” He clarified that we should use compassion as the basis of understanding, as opposed to passion. We are all passionate about something, and the wave of “news” out there seems designed to provoke these passions. Compassion can be our constant – an oceanic depth of understanding that can remain stable despite some ugly storms of passion.
Where to start? Find your community! In fact – find any community. Yoga is absolutely awesome for this. I just returned from a dreamy, transformative and beyond fun retreat to Panama with this tribe:
Despite the fact that most of us had never met, that we came from different cities with wildly different ages and backgrounds, we easily bonded together for yoga and other tribal adventures. We burnt our obstacles in a huge bonfire on a moonlit island, then jetted back to the retreat to celebrate and dance on the bar. This was all possible because of my partners in crime, Juan Gamboa and Esco Wilson, and because these yogis said YES!
I deeply encourage you to say “Yes” to your yoga community this year. It is here to support you, to comfort you, to occasionally challenge you, and deepen your oceanic base of compassion. Trainings like Prema Yoga Therapeutic Essentials are designed to support your self care, and to elevate you with the fire of tejas – or learning.
Retreats like the Yoga & Safari Retreat are designed to open your practice and mind up to nature. Both are spiritual, yes, and celebratory! We are so lucky to have each other.
So just – come. Come to class. Come to study, come to retreat. Reply by Sunday to reserve your spot for Africa! The Wheel of Life will turn again, and the opportunity will be gone.
PS “Prema Yoga Therapeutics” and are now Prema Yoga Institute!