Opening Up to the Gifts of the Universe
By Guillerma Moreno, September, 2017
September literally stormed in, forcing us to get into fall mode, quick. I like to set professional goals in September. I answer questions like: What can I do this year to evolve as a teacher? What can I focus on to help grow my business? And a new one that has popped up this year: How can I nurture and strengthen my relationships with my community? I sit with these questions and come up with all sorts of answers and strategies. I edit them down, devise a plan, and then—the hardest part—I let it all go. It doesn’t mean I don’t do any work. I continue to work toward something, but I let go of the results. Or I try to.
A common goal for yogis is to do a handstand in the middle of the room. So we show up to the mat, day after day, hoping to one day look like a gold medal gymnast. One day it will come, we think, or not. As human beings, especially ones living in New York City, we want to know that if we do A and B, it will look like C. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.
So instead of feeling frustration, despair, and hopelessness that we can’t, say, do a gold-medal handstand in the middle of the room, can we see it as an opportunity to practice letting go of a desired result? Can we find grace and equanimity when things aren’t going our way? We have such a finite view of how we want things to be, but when we relax into the flow of the universe, we open ourselves up to an infinite realm of gifts and possibilities.
In The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama says that “there are different aspects to any event.” “For example,” he says, “we lost our own country and became refugees, but that same experience gave us new opportunities to see more things…. I had more opportunities to meet with different people, different spiritual practitioners, and also scientists. This new opportunity arrived because I became a refugee. If I remained in Lhasa, I would have stayed in what has often been described as a golden cage.”
With the political climate being as it is these days, as well as the global pain and suffering we consistently bear witness to, it’s easy to fall into a state of despair; it can seem like nothing good is happening, no matter what we do or how much we organize, pray, or meditate. But if we change our perspective just a little bit, we can see that times like these bring people together. Times like these give us the opportunity to become better informed, to wake up and stay woke.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and peace activist, explains that suffering—dukkha—is one of the biggest problems of our times. He says, “First we have to recognize this suffering and acknowledge it. Then we need to look deeply into its nature in order to find a way out. If we look into the present situation in ourselves and our society, we can see much suffering. We need to call it by its true names—loneliness, the feeling of being cut off, alienation, division, the disintegration of the family, the disintegration of society.”
If the disintegration of society is a root cause of the suffering in the world, we can create or gravitate toward community as an antidote. A yoga studio is a great place to connect with others who feel the suffering of the world every bit as deeply as we do, but who are also building an inner resolve to get through these challenging times. I feel fortunate that I have a community that I can share my fears, my goals, and the gifts I receive in the process.
Let’s all introduce ourselves to someone in class, gather with fellow yogis and like-minded people, and seek and give the support we all need when it feels like nothing makes sense and things aren’t going our way. Together we can receive the gifts of these otherwise tormenting times.