|Snagged from Facebook|
I can understand why some unstable person might completely lose it, after being exposed to such violence over and over. Why does our news media do that? And then to stick their microphones into the faces of the bereaved and ask them how it makes them feel. It's simply awful. I finally turned off the news not only in disgust, but because I could feel it was arousing feelings of frustration and despair inside me. It reminds me that although I cannot do much to change the world, I certainly can change my own focus.
It feels to me like the world I live in is at a crossroads. Change is in the air, from the events in the Middle East to the roiling anger in our cities. And on top of that, the two major political parties will be holding their conventions this month. Maybe it's emblematic that the two main candidates are some of the least popular people on the planet, and who knows what will happen at those events? It's really scary.
I think, for me, it's time to look for some perspective so that I can put all of this angst into a more positive outlook. Yesterday I picked up a good book at the library that was recommended to me, and once I was several chapters in, I realized that my mood had improved and that maybe things are not as bad as all that. The book is The Swerve: How the World Become Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. In addition to winning both the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award, it also won the Modern Language Association James Russell Lowell Prize. So I'm not alone in thinking the book is wonderful. From that link:
Greenblatt tells the story of how Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th-century papal emissary and obsessive book hunter, saved the last copy of the Roman poet Lucretius's On the Nature of Things from near-terminal neglect in a German monastery, thus reintroducing important ideas that sparked the modern age.Part of what I have realized in reading this book is that it doesn't take much for something to change the course of history, and while it's not possible to see what's actually happening while standing in the midst of it, it will all become clear when viewed from a larger perspective. While I might not live long enough to see the outcome of this particular historical period, I have faith that it will one day be understood and written about.
In the meantime, I have my own day-to-day life to live, and it's important to realize that getting bogged down in depression is not helpful to anybody, especially me. After I finish with this post, I'll be getting up, as usual, and starting my Sunday with a yoga class. I went for the first time to Laifong's class last week, and I am thrilled that I've discovered a class that will definitely benefit me, as long as I remember to pay attention to what I can and cannot do. While most of the dozen people in her class are younger than I am, they are not in any better shape, and she doesn't see age as a barrier to improving one's strength and balance. It is a Level I class, after all, and not in any way advanced yoga.
She reminded me that yoga is a journey towards balance in all aspects of one's life and not a competition. In the Iyengar tradition of yoga, which is what I'm learning now, Ingela, the main teacher there, has a page called "Reflections" that discusses what yoga is:
In Yoga it’s not what you do, but how you do it that is the power of the practice. Quality is more important that quantity. To bring quality to a pose you align the body with balance, extend fully, and then go to your healthy edge, breathe, relax and experience.She has much more on that page about the process of the contradictory theme of letting go and making an effort. Laifong said last week that if you injure yourself while in class, you were not doing yoga. Being aware of my body and its limitations is part of what I'm supposed to be paying attention to, not trying to emulate someone else's pose. For me, that's easier said than done, which is why this is such a good journey for someone like me. However, there is nothing more beautiful than watching Laifong demonstrate the pose as it's supposed to be done, and then wanting to give it my best shot.
A few months ago I attended a pranayama (breathing) class taught by a woman in her eighties. Although we spent much of the time sitting quietly, every once in awhile we'd get up and stretch. I watched her as she raised her arms and effortlessly bent forward with a straight back, touching the floor with flat palms. She's been doing this yoga practice for a long time, obviously, but it made me realize that in ten years, if I keep doing this, I'll be just as limber as her. Something to look forward to.
It also makes me realize that there is only one place that I can actually affect real change, and that's in my own spirit, my own body. What I choose to do with my own life is within my own power. It brings to mind Mary Oliver's closing lines from her poem "The Summer Day": "Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
If I can create a little corner of the world where there's peace, I've done all I can to make things a little bit better. Writing this post has helped me gain even more perspective about the condition of the world and my place in it. And guess what? I have two hours before I'll be starting my 90-minute yoga class, and before then I need to get up and start my day. I've finished my tea and hear gentle breathing emanating from the other side of the bed. It's quiet outside, with only an occasional bird call to break the silence.
Hopefully you will be inspired to find your own peace and tranquility to add to mine, and then we'll begin to change the world, one little bit at a time. One day, I have no doubt, there WILL be peace on earth. It may take awhile.