The NY Times recently published an article called 1.5 Million Missing Black Men.
Due to early deaths or incarceration, these missing men are no longer living the lives that millions of us take for granted each day. These men have been murdered, died young or are in prison. I wondered how many people would do more than blink an eye if they read the headline or the article.
Last night, my daughter and I were discussing why people do not take action on important issues. I recently heard a speaker say that we cannot expect people to go beyond their karma. If a soul’s journey does not include actively changing themselves in a “big” way or becoming an activist, we cannot shift them in that direction. My daughter, a psychology major, had another thought on the matter:
“People like doing what everyone else is doing. It makes them feel comfortable.”
Conformity is a psychology concept that explains why humans need to follow or change their beliefs or behavior to fit into a group. My daughter pointed out that, to do what the “flock” does, is ingrained into the human condition for survival. If one member of the flock does something different, it is dangerous for them and makes them feel uncomfortable.
I think anyone who has pushed for something greater than the everyday mundane can attest to this. Movers and shakers are called crazy. They are criticized for standing out. They are taunted verbally, physically abused, arrested or killed for their differences. Galileo, George Sand, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harvey Milk, Aung San Suu Kyi, are just a few who did things differently than the masses and paid the price. We can see the patterns in history of excluding any group different from the primary group—Native Americans, African Americans, women, the LGBT community.
How do we get from point A, wanting to make a difference, to Point B, actually making a difference? We know our nature is saying to sit still. Going beyond the norm puts us at risk for persecution. However, our soul is calling for more. This is the place of choice. The choice is not whether we sit back and do nothing or move forward. The choice is whether we can release our ego.
The ego is a beautiful thing that helps us build a life in this world. It helps us get an education, a home, perhaps a family. It is what drives us to survive. The ego is also what holds us back from making great change. It tells us to conform. The ego doesn’t want to be shredded.
The soul, however, calls for something deeper. It ignites in each person the desire to go beyond the physical body into what many refer to as a “higher calling.” The concern of the soul is for the spiritual growth of each being.
Each and every day, our soul calls to us. We find that voice hiking in nature. We find it in our pranayama practice. We find our connection to our deepest selves in meditation. It is in that place that we go beyond the ego. It is only then, that we see the bigger picture—we are all connected. Even through our differences, we are still a global, soul community. Each being is infinitely connected to one another. Perhaps, in seeing that string of energy bonding us all together, can we ask the ego to sit down next to us while our soul takes the steps to exacting change for the betterment of all.
Karma Yoga is one of the three paths to realization or connection with God as described in the Bhagavad Gita. When someone chooses karma yoga, they place their life on a course of selfless giving. This action not only benefits the soul of the person giving of their time, talents and hard work, but benefits the recipients of the action. Karma Yoga can be anytime we selflessly give to others or conduct our everyday work without expectation. The karma yogi/yogini need not look for a pat on the back as they are graciously giving to the greater good or offering their work up to a higher power.
Whether we choose to invest ourselves in helping the environment, a population, or a social cause, each one, when performed in peace, contributes to the whole. Maybe we need have to have a little crazy in us. Maybe we need to have the self-confidence of a boulder or a support system that will have our back in order to exact change. However, know that when you open up your heart a little, allow the ego to rest for a bit and bring in some selfless acts of karma yoga, a little spark will fly out into the world. Soon you will have a mass of people ready and willing to follow you, making a difference. And your soul might just give you a little wink.
Author: Susan Kiskis
Editor: Travis May