Current day international, political and social justice issues can feel daunting. At times, listening to the radio brings me to the brink of tears as I hear of the unfortunate events occurring daily worldwide. I fantasize about giving it all up to run around the world as a rogue activist. That may come one day, but for now I’m left with the question, what can I do?
And then I step onto my mat. Lately, unrolling my purple mat and sitting quietly with how I feel in that moment means a lot to me. For someone who often tried to accomplish everything in one breath, it’s just so nice to peacefully sit and not ask anything of myself but gratitude.
Gratitude is an extremely powerful tool. I look around the room and feel gratitude for the time afforded to me to practise yoga, for the other Haligonians whom have taken time out of their day to breathe and work through postures alongside me.
David Steindl-Rast suggests in order to practice a grateful way of living, one should “Stop, Look, Go”. In this way, one can recognize the opportunities available and follow a path to contentment. Many of the publications on gratitude talk about happiness for self, but Stendl-Rast points out in his Ted Talk lecture that grateful people will act from compassion and non-violence offering the opportunity to change the world.
“If you’re grateful you’re not fearful, if you’re not fearful you’re not violent, if you’re grateful you act out of enough, not out of a sense of scarcity and you’re willing to share. If you’re grateful you enjoy the differences between people and you’re respectful to everyone and that changes this power pyramid under which we live. It doesn’t make for equality but it makes for equal respect, and that is the important thing.”
As I take in the room; the others around me deep in their practice, it’s easy to see each person with their goals, limitations, desires and frustrations. I’m grateful for our commonality as Men and Women of various ages, beliefs and origins united in our breath and movement.
Often, the teachers at Shanti remind the class to notice where there is space in a pose. Rather than gripping and stretching through each posture, I’ve found simply noticing the space within a pose allows for more enjoyable and consistent progress.
In the same way, gratitude has afforded me space. My blood circulates, my breath slows and I fall into the practice making a point to turn my mind to the moment and the feeling of thankfulness I have towards it. Slowly a smile spreads across my face as I soak in the good vibes, sink in to the poses and coast through the flow. By the time I’m finished this overwhelming feeling of letting go, readiness and alertness has taken over.
I bow my head to the floor and am mindful of the challenges our teacher has gone through in order to pass this information on to us, and am thankful for the many yogis before them whom have held fast to the belief in breath and movement to bring peace to others through the practice of yoga.
As I roll up my mat with a thankful heart I know I have the power to make change happen. In small ways yes, but those certainly count. When the worrying has given way to a full and content heart I’m able to speak with clarity, concern for those around me and pass on the peace afforded to me through this moment of pause. My priorities shift from what is lacking to what I can create; shifting to a perspective full of opportunity, allowing myself to pass on the abundance.
And so, maybe one of these days I’ll be able to get out there and make a huge tangible change in the world’s anxious behaviour. But for now, as I practice, I practice with gratitude and peace which I carry through my day, hoping that this small shift in my mind will turn a ripple into a wave of change. This is what I can do, and I’ll continue on this path as I step slowly onto the street to begin the day.