The Ripple Effect. Last night, at our weekly 40 day meeting, some fellow 40-dayers spoke about how they have noticed that their 40 Day Journey is having a far reaching, ripple effect on friends and family. I have noticed this too and it is not something that I expected to happen. A few days ago, I had a long conversation about the benefits of meditation and yoga with my father and sister. My father, who has chronic back issues, even got down on the floor and started doing his back strengthening exercises. My sister went out the next day and bought a month long yoga pass. Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a coworker about doshas( I will explain what these are in a later blog). That same day, other co-workers began asking me about my vegan diet, not out of judgement, but out of pure curiosity. This morning, a high school friend who I had not spoken to in a few years messaged me to say that he had been reading this blog and that he too has been undergoing a profound spiritual journey lately. We spoke about the fact that while our high school prepared us to be able to easily handle the academic work load and the social dynamics of college, we graduated from high school with little or no spiritual awareness. We both feel extremely lucky that we have found, pretty much stumbled upon, the " tools" and people that have allowed us to " see the light." As overused as that phrase may be, it has true merit, especially when talking about a spiritual awakening. Over the past few weeks, I have had many conversations similar to the ones that I have written about above. The people around me are genuinely interested in what I am experiencing. More than anything, this deep curiosity shows me that the majority of people do not live a typical " mainstream" lifestyle because they necessarily want to, but because they do not know any other way. We are conditioned to live one way before we even have a chance to discover that there exist many alternative modes of living and states of being that far surpass the limited form of consciousness that has come to be the norm today. What is the best way to break away and free ourselves from the shackles of this limited form of consciousness? Among other things, it seems to me that the answer is doing yoga with others and discussing yoga with others. Through each other, we can come to better know ourselves, which allows us to better know each other. Yoga is a never-ending, rippling circle and its effects are felt on and off of the mat, in the grandest and in the most intimate details of our lives and ourselves.
During last night's 40 day meeting, Joan and David asked us to partner up for a listening exercise. For this listening exercise, we sat shoulder- to- shoulder to our partner, looking in opposite directions so that we could not see our partner's face. Joan explained that each partner would have a chance to speak for 4 minutes, uninterrupted, and she encouraged us to really, truly listen to what the other person was saying, exclaiming that in our everyday lives, we tend to half listen to what others are saying and to hear only the parts that we want to hear. Each partner had 4 minutes to speak about how the 40 day program has affected he or she thus far. I went first and I spoke about many things, such as the fact that I am beginning to think about pursuing yoga and holistic medicine as a career, that I have been sleeping better, that I am complaining less, and that I no longer have even the slightest desire to drink coffee. After I finished speaking, my partner said " I heard what you said " and then she had 1 minute to summarize and repeat back what I had said. If I felt that my partner had misunderstood something that I had said, I could clarify by saying " you said this, but I really meant something else." When we felt that our partner had heard us completely and accurately, we said " thank you, I feel heard." Then my partner had her chance to speak for 4 minutes and I now became the listener. Although this exercise seems like something children would do in elementary school, it was incredibly liberating and helpful. This exercise showed me that the majority of our everyday conversations are often done half heartedly and in haste. Regardless of what I said to my partner, it felt good to be truly heard, to know that my partner was devoting her attention solely to the words that were coming out of my mouth. It felt equally as enlightening to listen attentively to my partner's words. I now realize that I have become far too good at pretending to listen to someone and that I often devote half of my attention to the person and the other half to my phone, computer, or future plans.There really is a difference between being listened to and being heard.
After completing this exercise, we went around the room and shared some of the things that we had spoken about. One 40 Dayer raised her hand simply to say " thank you all for voicing your thoughts, your worries, and your feelings. We all walk around this world as if nothing is wrong with us, yet each and everyone of us has some type of struggle, some type of inner battle. It makes me happy to know that other people can outwardly acknowledge that this everyday battle does exist." She is completely right. In our society, voicing our fears, our failures, and our doubts is often seen as a sign of weakness. Yet, only by openly confronting our fears and doubts and discussing them with others will we overcome these darker sides of ourselves. I have said this many times before and I will say it again- more than anything, this 40 day program is showing me the true power that lies in community. Without a sense of community, we have nothing.
For awhile now, I have been wanting to try to write a poem. My fear of not sounding eloquent enough has always held me back. I guess it is about time to let that fear go, so here is a poem, in its first and only draft. It's " raw," may not have much flow to it, and doesn't even have a title, but it's a start!
Wherever we are,
we always wish for something different.
In the winter, we wish for a strawberry,
picked fresh from the vine.
And in the summer,
we wish to feel the cooling sensation of a snowflake on our nose.
When we are short, we wish to be tall.
And when we are young, we wish to be old.
When we are alone, we wish to be with another.
And when we are in a bustling crowd, we wish for solitude.
Today, we long for the simpler days of the past,
for the days when the Navajos ran free, ran far, ran with the animals.
Perhaps the Navajos longed for better times too,
they most likely did.
When we see a bird, we dream that we too
could glide on the wind with ease and grace.
Maybe the bird sees us and dreams that he too
could walk on two legs.
The sun may even wish to be the moon,
the moon the sun.
There are a lot of things we could be
and a lot of things that we are not.
Yet, without you, there is no me.