I’ve recently found myself getting involved in some pretty thought-provoking discussions with friends about the state of the world. From politics to religion, from daily dramas to life and death, it seems like there is a common undercurrent of negativity that we are being fed, and given the right company and circumstances, it erupts forth and instigates a healthy dose of communication and debate.
The subjects that seem to get the conversation close to a boiling point always seem to be the same: the apparent (and seemingly inescapable) descent into the realm of complete bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and general insanity from the American Republican candidates…the utter ineptitude of the Canadian population (excluding the province of Quebec) that somehow allowed the egomaniacal lunacy of Stephen Harper to not only be elected, but to be rewarded with a majority government…the mounting tension between Iran and Israel and the countries that support each of them on their way to some sort of conflict…the state of the European economy…the state of the global economy…what separates those who are immensely wealthy from those who seemingly run after the dangling carrot of economic security. This is but a cross-section of a typical evening’s list of topics, and from the point of view of those I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, these topics are enough to get us all sitting on the edge of our seats in anticipation of the next topic to be thrown into the arena. Throughout all the face time we’ve shared, it’s a true sense of disbelief that we end up walking away with…disbelief that we, as a race of beings, have become so polarized from logic and compassion that we now find ourselves feeling helpless as the age of stupidity drags us even further away from advancement and evolution.
In a yoga workshop last weekend with Dechen Thurman, he talked briefly about how we used to value intelligence, and how we sometimes valued it enough to elect those blessed with it to positions of leadership. He followed up on that by saying that instead of electing people based on their intelligence, we now elect people based on how they make us feel. Rarely have I been exposed to such a succinct summation of where we find ourselves as humans, and with that in mind, in keeping with connecting to how we feel, I’d like to propose the solution to dealing with a propaganda-based, media-driven world of negativity: gratitude.
In the yogic teachings, we learn yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ , that Yoga or state of Union, is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. This cessation insinuates that we hone in on one thing as opposed to allowing the mind and our awareness to be ricocheted around like a pinball, and it’s through this honing that we gradually become aware of the veil of illusion we live behind. This veil keeps us ignorant of our true nature as beings of love and compassion, stemming from the source of all that exists. As long as we allow ourselves to stay behind the veil, we validate the daily dramas that we tend to obsess over and appoint them as a source of importance to be revered and fed. These dramas are simply a trick, something to keep us distracted, focused on the obvious when our nature is to seek out the fleeting nature of the essence hidden behind the obvious. From my point of view, the media outlets reporting on the topics that keep us all flabbergasted at the state of the world are simply feeding us fluctuations….of the collective mind. We are being thrown curve balls at every minute, and instead of trying to catch them all, we should instead focus on that which renders the distractions insignificant. We need to find gratitude. We need to take note of every seemingly innocuous detail of our lives to see where we can find blessings, and then emanate gratitude for them.
You want to know mine? Here goes: I’m grateful for this body that allows me to practice yoga and tap into the essence of the people and events around me. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my friends. I’m grateful for the people who support and love me and who allow me to support and love them back. I’m grateful to live in a country where I can have in-depth discussions with people without having to watch what I say for fear of being imprisoned for expressing myself. I’m grateful to be able to sleep at night. I’m grateful to the people who live their truths and inspire me daily to do the same. I’m grateful that my words reach people and occasionally make a difference in their lives. I’m grateful to be able to travel. I’m grateful to be able to meld my passions with my career. I’m grateful for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, and the knowledge that no matter where my path takes me, I’m taken care of. It’s through gratitude that we tap into the heart’s memory, and in one fell swoop, we draw the veil of illusion aside and can see the permanence that informs every single one of us.
We have a responsibility to each other to never take anything at face value, to seek out the truth behind the distractions. The portal to that process is gratitude. Feel it in every moment possible, and see how it changes you. Tap into your heart’s memory.