I really like the mantra Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. The meaning of this chant is just beautiful. In Jivamukti, we translate it as: May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all. Many students of yoga like myself agree wholeheartedly with this intention. It's very simple and very direct and very easy to understand. What is not to love?
Has anyone let you in yet on the secret that yoga is hard? Not so much because of the twisting and the binding and the balancing and the turning upside down. Those things are challenging for sure, but what I am referring to is the difficulty in staying consistent with what we say we believe in. Yes, we say we believe that all beings deserve to be happy and free. Well, the last time you were standing in line somewhere and someone cut in front of you, did you think "may this person be happy and free"? How about when a business partner disagreed with you about something? Or how about a conversation you have with someone you care about that escalated into an argument? In the heat of that argument, did you think "may my mother/father/partner/friend etc be happy and free"?
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj which means to yolk. The state of yoga is the state of oneness, of letting go of the illusion of separation. And this is hard. When people cut in line or try to take disadvantage of us or argue with us or even just disagree with us, we often turn to our knee-jerk reaction of me-versus-you. We forget that we say we believe and wish for all beings to be happy and free. During those moments, we only care about being right or being justified. The things that we think, say, and do are not consistent with what we say we believe in.
In yoga asana, we often bring our hands in prayer position in front of our heart center. My teacher Sharon Gannon in her essay for June 2014 focus of the month says, "The simple but powerful gesture of placing our two hands together in front of our hearts when we greet or acknowledge others (namaste mudra) speaks without words of the magic of union. Two hands coming together: the left and the right, the sun and the moon, the ha and the tha, the self and the other. This is the gesture that describes yoga: union, the ultimate truth."
Think of a person whom you may percieve as your opposite, maybe because you have opposing views, or maybe you are in conflict with each other about something. Dedicate your practice today to this person. It is not an easy task, but you may find that your heart is bigger than you think.
While we practice, we find that we sometimes struggle and fall out of alignment. Perhaps our disagreements with this person are also like that, us being out of alignment, or them being out of alignment, maybe both. There is no reason to judge or condemn. Whatever struggles we have, they have them too in some way and in some form. Whatever desires we have, they have them too in some way and in some form.
This person whom we perceive as difficult can test us. Quoting my teacher Sharon-ji again, "Often we think, if only the others (meaning problematic people) are out of my way, I would be so happy, could be in a state of Yoga. But actually, these 'others' are the way". We practice yoga by extending our love to them. It does not mean we will agree with them or condone their hurtful actions. It just means that we love them despite those hurtful actions, because we still wish for their happiness and freedom. Our condemnation may not help them get there, but maybe our love will.
Yoga is hard and the path of compassion is a path of persistent and unrelenting practice. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free. We know all the words that make this promise. The words are simple and the practice is hard. May we all stay on path. May we be open enough to join the left and the right, courageous enough to join the sun and the moon, compassionate enough to join the self and the other.