On that sweltering hot day of August 28th,1963, Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to hear the social revolutionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sing to the hearts of the world the song of his dream of racial equality. Even though racism isn't completely erased in America, who would have even dared to imagine that 45 years later we would be inaugurating our nation's first African American president?
Dr. King knew of the imperative for non-violence as did his predecessor of peace, Mahatma Ghandi. Our new president, Barack Obama, whom we will inaugurate this week, fittingly the day after we commemorate Dr. King, plans to use his influence to perpetuate non-violence even in the face of immense challenges. He plans to eventually establish peace on several battle fronts including Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as our influence toward establishing peace between Israel and Palestine. Our president simply represents the most politically influential part of all of us and therefore we can all help to support the plan for peace from the grass-roots levels by being active in our communities.
The principle of non-violent revolutions and non-violent living parallels the ancient yogic principle of non-violence, Ahimsa.The yoga scholar, Patanjali, lists Ahimsa as the principle step toward finding Samadhi, our highest self. Consider the idea of not only personal Samadhi but a Samadhi of community or collective.
If, as we learn from yoga, we originate from the same source, call it God, Universe, Creation, then to hate or harm someone else is the autoimmunity of humanity, the failure of one part of the organism to recognize itself and therefore to to fight against it.
But Ahimsa goes deeper than not throwing punches. The gate into the temple of peace is non-violence, however the true lesson of Ahimsa is to honestly and deeply love each other, even when your brother or sister holds radically different ideals, morals, or opinions than you. When the power of our conviction meets the peace of our compassion, we can sit together as brothers and sisters and build lasting solutions to differences and problems. These solutions last because they are built from the most durable and fundamental element of us all--love.
Dr. King said, "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."
Tacit in this understanding of non-violence is understanding our responsibility to be gentle to ourselves. Harming another harms our own spirit because we are each other to some degree. Others aside, Ahimsa means not harming YOU. I'm amazed how easy it seems not to hurt another but to be emotionally, spiritually, or physically brutal to ourselves. Remember, you are a part of the universe and deserve to be here, to be happy, and to have abundance. I believe we cannot truly love someone else until you honestly love yourself. You deserve this pleasure of peace and to truly appreciate it you must also work for all our brothers and sisters to achieve it.
This communal peace within yourself and with all others is enlightenment of the whole organism of humanity, an ideal that begins with a dream. And just like Dr. King's dream, will grow into a reality.
Peace begins now and it begins in your own heart. It spreads to your family, to friends, to community. It spreads to politicians and policies. It spreads across borders to other nations. It spreads into a consciousness of this generation of all living.
Dr. King pointed to this peace in the form of freedom when at the rousing finale of his I Have A Dream speech he said:
" And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Whatever your political preferences, may I encourage you to practice Ahimsa by supporting our new president Barack Obama and doing everything you can in your own heart to love yourself, your family, friends, your enemies, your communities, other nations and those brothers and sisters, those parts of yourself, whom you haven't meet yet. Practice compassion for those who get under your skin and find the universal lesson there.
I invite you to consider ways you can spread peace to yourself and to your immediate environment, your work, family, etc. Commit to doing something toward peace this week, today.
Let's practice peace in yoga this week. One of my teachers quotes her teacher who said, "Yoga is one of the most compassionate things we can do for others because suddenly we are not such a pain in the a#! to be around anymore."
See you in class.