Saturday, April 17, 2010

We are more...

"My religion is based on truth and nonviolence.  Truth is my God.  Nonviolence is the means of realizing Him."  Mohandas K Gandhi

     I am lying at the base of a tree and looking up at the long trunk through the branches to the blue sky above.  This is a new way to look at the tree, oriented lying below it and looking up.  It takes a moment of quiet, focused awareness of my breath and allowing the sounds of nature to soften my perceptions.  I begin to look at the branches and try to notice where they begin at the tree's trunk.  I ponder where do the tree's roots begin from the trunk under the ground.  The edges of the branches and the roots are blurred into the trunk; flowing into one another.  The interconnectedness of the parts of what I think of as a tree becomes apparent in my struggle to find where the tangled roots and uplifted branches become separate from the trunk.  I realize that the names I have for the parts of the tree do not indicate the complexity of what actually is a tree. 

     Recently, I was speaking with a distant cousin, whom I had not heard from in quite a long time.  In the course of our conversation, we began discussing book ideas, as aspiring wannabe writers will do.  He announced that he was considering writing an autobiography with the lead sentence of the book being, "I am a musician, who is blind, gay, and both my parents were moderately mentally handicapped."  While he thought this sentence encapsulated the truth of who he was, I began to think about how we define ourselves and hide the complexity of our true identities through our names, roles, ideas, disabilities, abilities, wounds...

     In yoga, we become aware of the interrelatedness of all things.  We  realize a basic unity when there is no more black versus white,  gay or straight, disabled and nondisabled, haves or have nots.  In wisdom, we no longer have just facts and knowledge, rather we see the truth of what our words are pointing towards, giving meaning to our lives.  We must be open to who we actually are rather than who we hope or expect or are told we are. 

     Yes, my cousin is all of these things, blind, gay, a talented musician, and raised by mentally handicapped parents who did the best they could and loved him with their whole hearts.  He is much more than just these mere words.  I would include courageous, whitty, handsome, sometimes happy-sometimes sad, a child of the Most High God, a man who has created a good life for himself and his partner despite great adversity, and so much more...  I look at my cousin and wonder, where does one description of him begin and another end.  How has the sum of who he is come about to create this valued human being. 

     The complexity of who he is, or any of us for that matter, is not immediately apparent upon first sight.  All aspects of who we are (spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental) become interconnected in such a way as to create each of us, each perfect in our own selves.  When we become aware of this interconnection, we may practice a kindness towards ourselves that is based in personal nonviolence.  Nonviolence forces us to find and search for the truth that honors this interconnection of who we are for ourselves and for other living beings.  Living a life that looks beyond our personal labels, roles, names, ideas, allows us to live in peace and nonviolence, inspiring and inviting others to be nonviolent towards themselves as well.  As Gandhi stated, "My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop nonviolence... in a gentle way, you can shake the world." 

     Out of compassion towards myself, I gather up the courage to act with respect, honor, and reverence for my own being and that of others.

May you find Gratitude and Peace in every moment.
Namaste, Joan

(Tree discussion adapted from Yoga for a World Out of Balance, Michael Stone, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2009.)

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