In my yoga class last week, I spoke about mandalas, specifically the sand mandala. Meaning “circle” in Sanskrit (another translation is “a world in harmony”, which I really like), mandalas are highly detailed and symbolic forms of ancient art. They represent layers of the universal divinity.
In Tibetan Buddhism, monks meticulously craft these intricate mandalas with colored sand. The process can take days or even weeks and is seen as a powerful aid in meditation and healing. Mandalas are crafted with intense compassion and positive intentions.
But unlike the mandalas which are painted or made three dimensional, sand mandalas are destroyed upon completion.
Crafted with compassion and then destroyed upon completion, symbolizing the impermanence of all phenomena.
When I first witnessed a sand mandala being destroyed (a word that has such a negative connotation…so maybe I’ll say deconstructed or dismantled instead?) it was quite heartbreaking.
That’s not supposed to happen!
It took so much time and fastidious effort!
At least take a few pictures!
And I defaulted to these thoughts because the act is so unfamiliar in a Western driven world where the outcome is everything. And not just achieving an outcome, but marinating in it.
Most of us identify and are defined by our list of achievements, instead of the skills we cultivate in the journey to them.
At our superficial, socially constructed core we need to experience and own the outcome. But it doesn’t stop there; by reinforcing the notion that results are everything we sprint past the process (I wrote about this theme of missing the process a month or so ago).
We minimize it. And by doing so we minimize ourselves & life becomes more about execution rather than adventuring.
Beyond the symbolic notion of dismantling impermanence, some sand mandalas are also swept into bodies of water as a blessing; an offering of compassion to the world.
That is also quite powerful.
If all our tangible manifestations or results were swept away today, how would that make us feel?
How would it make us feel to offer up our results to others? How would it make us feel to offer up to the world?
I remember speaking with a friend of mine about his thoughts on being a father one day. He said, “All I can do is teach my child everything I possibly can, and then hope that one day they will teach me more than I could ever imagine.”
So, as Rumi suggested, I will continue not to gather
but to burn
and heat and help
and then melt.
"When you have more than you need, build a longer table instead of a higher fence."
....and yes. I am aware of the political relevance.
"I must create an atmosphere in my classes in which each student can find his or her own way to yoga. I have to realize that each of my students is not the same person today as they were yesterday, and not at all the same as when they came last week...
.....Yoga serves the individual, and does so through inviting transformation rather that by giving information."
TKV Desikachar, the son of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, developed and emphasized a therapeutic style of hatha yoga which took into account a person's unique and specific physical condition. I am grateful for his honest & healing approach to the practice---a passion which has undoubtedly helped illuminate and bolster inclusive conversations around the importance of trauma informed/sensitive yoga.
His heart will be missed.
I awoke to the orange hue of the rising sun, its glow tiptoeing forward across my pillow. The floor to ceiling bedroom windows welcomed the warm first light of morning. I sat up and placed my bare feet down on the cool floor. First sensations. I reached for the glass of water on my bedside table and took a sip, its stimulating downward voyage bringing immediate comfort. With soft eyelids I walked over to the two small, uneven wooden tables in the corner of the room.
I sat down and lit a candle. Taking in the first fragrant note of sandalwood I smiled lovingly at my two tables, each adorned with things of beauty: an envelope of letters, a tea bag string, mala beads gifted from the wisest of women, dried flowers, a Khata, dearest Saraswati, striped stones from a lost city, and a homemade heart made of orange clay with a typed out message:
4ever moving towards the uncomfortable.
Tomorrow marks one year of living in the Middle East.
A year of choices. Desire over doubt. Action over assumption. Ritual over results.
But mostly, love over everything.
On my mat today I am, with the fullest heart, thinking of each person who has helped guide & support my arrival to this moment. Gratitude isn’t strong enough of word.
So, to each one of you, I promise to continue moving towards the uncomfortable.
There will be moments of sitting in stillness, reflecting on my growing acknowledgement of the unpredictable unfolding of the world as it is.
But there will also be an ever-growing recognition that my yoga practice is a privilege.
My practice, however personal to me, is blossoming within a billion dollar global yoga industry which is hell-bent on uprooting and repackaging “yoga” for corporate gain.
For me, and for yoga teachers who look like me, there is a choice.
There is a choice to show that yoga means more than balancing on our hands (asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga, after all).
Balancing on our hands won’t overturn systemic injustices.
Saying ‘love & light’ is beautiful, but without intentional action those words just become empty rhetoric to folks experiencing true oppression and hardship.
We can’t dwell in the realm of maya (illusion).
This altar is my reminder.
I want to put love & light authentically out into the world, not just on tank tops and following a hashtag.