October 2, 2010

Joy is a choice.

…or Why I teach, “Inner Power Yoga.”

While we cannot always choose our circumstances, we CAN always choose our responses to those circumstances. Inner power is the ability to recognize and take responsibility for our choices, including how we experience joy or suffering.

It is the power to invoke drala, a Tibetan word offered by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche meaning “to experience basic goodness in yourself, in others and in the entire world.”

Inner power is Spanda (Sanskrit for vibrational energy.) This energy pulsates from the Universal Source into our very cores, integrating us with our own strength and intention. And then it vibrates from our cores back out into the world, expanding our minds and opening our hearts to the infinite potential of this life experience.
It is the power that allows us to overcome the anger and injustice of another’s suffering.
It is the same power that can help us overcome our own suffering.

We are ONE through the force of this power, and through this power we experience true inner peace and unconditional joy.

I have seen evidence of great wealth and shocking poverty in nearly all the places I have traveled. I have witnessed immense suffering and also ecstatic joy. And note: the wealthy are not always the ones rejoicing and some of the most joy-filled people have absolutely nothing material. I have witnessed this phenomenon so often, in fact, I am convinced that the experiences of joy and suffering are completely chosen states of mind. Viktor Frankl, who wrote of maintaining peace and power through the Jewish Holocaust said, “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” That’s Power.

Yoga philosopher, Patanjali told us about santosha or “the supreme joy” that arises from appreciating what you have. From my experience, santosha is cultivated through gratitude, forgiveness and meditation on the interconnectedness of all things. It is found when you see that there is the potential for liberation in every situation, and practice wielding the peaceful power of your choice.

I honor the many human inspirations for this practice. From all different global societies, walks of life, and faiths, there have been those who provide testimony to the importance of forgiveness and gratitude for nurturing one’s inner power, inner peace and JOY.

Immaculee Ilibagiza is one such inspiration. Having survived the Rwandan genocide is a miracle. Having survived the Rwandan genocide with a forgiving and grateful heart is grace. The grace that I am writing of, the grace that Immaculee embodies after such a horrifying struggle, is a grace of choice. How did she choose it? She realized that the alternative is suffering; that the choice was hers to make. Once she realized her inner power, she could experience the shelter of inner peace, even as she witnessed the extreme violence all around her. Over the course of three months, while hiding with seven other women in a tiny bathroom she meditated on forgiveness and gratitude. She was unable to move her physical body, but she was in constant prayer. Even knowing that nearly her entire family had been brutally murdered, she woke every morning thanking God for her life. And Grace was waiting to empower her.
It wasn’t always easy. In her book, Left to Tell, she recounts the struggle and the active choice she made to find peace and joy within her own heart.

Viktor Frankl gave us this beautiful quote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Yoga and meditation practice help us to recognize that space of Inner Power so that we are able to choose our own response. In this way, we are no longer a slave to our circumstance, but free to co-create our life experience in the exquisite Joy of Grace.

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