May 19, 2010

Gulf Disaster: 5 Yogic Things You Can Do Right Now to Help

What’s a yogi to do when you hear about dead dolphins washing up on shore in Louisiana, tar balls assaulting Key West and oil soon to be snaking its way up the East Coast?

Despair and paralysis aren’t terribly helpful at this point.

Our actions right now need to be deliberate and potent. We have the choice to make this event the pivotal shift in human consciousness towards real sustainability – it’s an opportunity for tremendous change.

Yogic teachings guide towards the right course of action in any situation. Yoga practices can strengthen our third chakra – the abode of will and resolve – and fire that strength up into our hearts so that we can act with compassion in order to make a difference out there where it’s so desperately needed right now.

An effective response necessitates that we raise our vibration to meet the challenge, that we thoughtfully and lovingly respond to this crisis from our highest part of ourselves.

So here are 5 yogic things you can do right now to help:

1. Raise Your Vibration: Sadhana
Sadhana means “to make an effort through practice.” If you’re a meditator, meditate more, if you’re a kirtan enthusiast, don’t stop singing, if you get your groove on by praying, keep it up, if you touch bliss in your asana practice, do more.

Whatever it is that makes you respond from the highest part of your being – maintain and strengthen that practice in order to raise your vibration. The people, animals and plants of the gulf need you to keep practicing so that you can respond to their need from a centered place.

Any obstacle can be overcome when we approach it from the highest part of ourselves – and we get to that part of ourselves through practice. Patanjali wrote Vishoka Va Jyotishmati – “Stabilize the mind by focusing on that which is peaceful and on the Light within.” With a stable, concentrated mind, your actions will be powerful and meaningfuland they’ll make a difference.

2. Take a Pro-active Intention: Bhavana
Hoping and praying for the best, for the highest good for all beings can go a long way. The idea of Bhavana is to then act on that intention. Whatever you decide to do, do it with the idea that your actions line up with your intention and your intention is for the highest good.

Cynicism, skepticism, doubt and depression are serious liabilities in the face of urgency. We are being called to raise ourselves up out of the muck of our individual vrittis (emotional tendencies) and harness all our capacities to swiftly and efficiently address the problem at hand.

3. Apply Critical Thinking: Viveka
One of the best bhavanas is the intention to think differently.Viveka is the practice of expanding your mind so that you can approach challenges with a keen intellect and clear insight. Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

We need to be thinking in ways that address the whole web of issues at hand – economic, social, environmental, corporate, political and individual. Then we need to figure out not only how we are going to clean up the mess – but also plan how to prevent manmade environmental disasters from  happening again, and use the impetus of the disaster to change how we live and use energy.

One way to apply Viveka is to talk to people you wouldn’t usually talk to. You could call this transdisciplinary, systems thinking. What are your skills? Identify them and then communicate with others who have completely different perspectives and skill sets. What could a marine biologist, a minister, a truck driver, a social networking junkie, an engineer, a retired math teacher, a city council person, a grandmother and an 8 year old soccer player come up with together? Talk to the people who look at the world entirely differently than you do, network, form alliances and small groups. Some amazing solutions will begin to emerge for a wide range of social challenges.

4. Be Humble, Ask the Right Questions and Offer Your Service: Pranipatena, Pariprashena, Sevaya
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna said, “Know by your humility, by asking the right questions, and by your service; Wise ones who see reality will give you knowledge.” This is one of the many formulas given in the Gita for taking right action and I think it speaks for itself –  ask lots of questions and listen with an open mind. Offer yourself and your skills in the spirit of selfless service – and the best part about service is that you are the main benefactor.

Krishna is also the dude who admonishes us not to be attached to the outcomes of our actions. Do the right thing, just do the right thing and don’t worry about the results. It’s the doing that matters.

5. Do the Right Thing: Karma and Dharma
Karma literally means “taking action” and here by dharma I mean something like “social justice.” If you apply the above principles, you can take firm and clear action. There is nothing wrong with channeling the motivational force of anger and disgust into doing the right thing. In fact, it has been an essential component of the strategies of all great people who’ve changed the world from Buddha to Jesus to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. But all of them refined, honed and strengthened their fire with spiritual practice.

Do something and do it in the spirit of the highest good. Not because BP, Haliburton and Transocean are evil corporate pigs we should despise, but because the world is fundamentally a beautiful place full of love and we should preserve and celebrate consciousness whenever and wherever we can. Sometimes that requires telling people that they are doing something wrong and stopping them from continuing to do it. Petitions, letters to Congress, showing up at rallies, Facebook pages, there are endless ways. Know your skills and apply them.

It’s always better to take some action than to do nothing.  Here’s a list of things US News and World Report recommended for helping out in the gulf.

And if you still can’t think of anything to do here’s a sixth idea:

Shave Your Head (I don’t know the Sanskrit word for this, but I’m sure there is one) – Hair absorbs oil and they want to use it on the beaches to help clean up the spill. Your whole family including the dog and cat can contribe. It would be a true and simple gift of yourself – as an added bonus, your friends might think you’ve become a Buddhist monk.

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