It’s a commonplace that activists often neglect their own health and well-being in the pursuit of larger goals. The fact is, we all know that the place to start is with oneself. From the perspective of the Buddhist and Yogic teachings to which I subscribe, human beings are already whole. Healing is remembering who we are, and that we are more than our thoughts, our preferences, our opinions, the work we do, and the roles we play. If this were easy for anyone, the great teachers wouldn’t have addressed it so frequently. It wouldn’t require Practice, that is, the discipline to show up, work with what we have — mind, body, breath, the present moment — and to do it again and again. We practice not to get it right, but because it is worth doing. Path and goal are the same. I bring these teachings into my yoga classes whenever I can as much to share them as to hear myself repeat them.
When one begins to look more closely at what we have collectively allowed to happen to Planet Earth, our only home, the heart turns over in despair. And then, if you are willing, it awakens into action. There is no way back from this moment, even if those closest to you think you’ve lost all reason. And sometimes you question your own sanity, so pervasive is the dominant view of reality: we can grow (shop, entertain, gadget-ize ourselves) out of this crisis. Even seasoned environmentalists can’t always see the forest for the trees. Because I have been supporting environmental causes for many years, I get urgent messages nearly every day about what will happen if I don’t ‘chip in’ another $3 to save polar bears or stop the Koch Brothers in their assault on progressive policies. Focusing on what is wrong gives a fragmented view of reality. Demonizing the other must also be healed.
This is where personal practice to stay present, moment to moment, can support a sense of wholeness. With regular attention to one’s inner environment, discernment and care can blossom. Then, like Krishna admonished Arjuna, you do your best and let others judge the results of your actions.