I was speaking to two dear friends last night, sending our voices through cable wires and Internet routers, bridging the space between southern Ontario, central Alberta and coastal British Columbia. We were talking about the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon.
We were a yoga teacher, a law student and a nurse, sharing thoughts, ideas and musings about this growing occurrence, this exciting rising up of people, emotion, desire and strategy.
We were thoughtful (“I love the language on their website, how careful and responsible the organizers are being about what they publish.”). We were appreciative (“I saw a sign that said ‘the cops are part of the 99%’ I am so glad to see that inclusion, rather than it being adversarial.”). We were pragmatic (“What is it they are wanting? Do they have a list of demands?”). We wondered aloud about the outcome, about the evolution, about where it might be heading. We pondered the resilience, the strategy, the political climate and the economy.
We came up against the question that often trips up concerned humans: what kind of change would make an actual difference? What could the protesters ask for that would start to shift things for the 99%?
We felt stuck encountering such a question. A question that we have been trained to ask in our “fix-it” culture. I began to wonder, as my thoughts mixed with those of my friends, what kind of question do we need to be asking?
The first question assumes that there is some kind of concrete, definable thing that could be asked for and fulfilled. It assumes that something is going wrong and needs to be fixed. It also assumes that there is something out there that we have to figure out; if we can unlock it and find the right way to approach it, things will be better.
In the midst of all this muddle, a yogic concept called ananda popped into my head. Ananda is Sanskrit; it is one of the highest purposes of Anusara Yoga, and can be translated as deep joy, deep expressiveness or bliss. It can also be understood as “loving acceptance of what is.”
It hurts to think about practicing this idea in relation to what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are pointing at. It hurts to think about lovingly accepting the deep dysfunction and suffering that is occurring in this world. If I imagine doing that, my heart feels like it might stretch and break. Yet, it is what the mystics call for us to do, to love what is hurting us, to empathize with our torturers. Not blindly, naively or passively, but powerfully, radiantly and compassionately.
All of us, 99% and 1%, need to be loved. We need to be seen in our wholeness. Our suffering, yes, and our greatness.
What is happening in cities all over the world right now is a surfacing of greatness. An intelligence waking up to itself, calling its awareness to those disparate, difficult pieces of our whole.
What the Occupy Wall Street protesters are doing right now is deeply acknowledging what is so often invisible, placing it publicly, in the powerful economic sectors of our cities and seeding it there. They are not asking to be seen – they are taking their experience, lifting it up, pushing it out and birthing it. The imbalances of our world need to be visible in order that we awaken to them and begin to respond.
Ananda does not imply passive acceptance. Ananda is a powerful place to begin. If we can stand, grounded in love, firm in our understanding of what is actually happening, we hold the present in our hands. We can sense it, touch it and weigh it. Ananda is where we begin to shift and see the present clearly for what it is, and from inside of it, begin to shape it. The Occupy Wall Street protesters have no defined end for their expression. They are sitting in the present. They are moving towards ananda, with every creative and compassionate hand-lettered sign, with every kind and thoughtful interaction with the beings representing law enforcement, with every hour in the cold, in the damp, in the wet. Something powerful is beginning and watching what continues to emerge from that space is deeply, deeply exciting.
Emma Dines is a poet, gardener and keeper of chickens based out of Waterloo, Ontario. She teaches at Queen Street Yoga and loves writing, tending to her flock and making soup.