I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Reflections about peace on earth

Snagged from Facebook
This picture is all over my Facebook feed because of last week's awful news. It was like one blow after another, with the murder of those two black men, and then the murder of those policemen in Dallas. It seemed like every time I turned on the news, it was one awful event after another. It didn't help that the news media kept playing those traumatic videos over and over. I was caught by surprise by the first one, but after that I was careful to avoid seeing that kind of violence again.

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.


Far Side of Fifty said...

It was a sad news week. I have the utmost respect for Police Officers. I want to hear the full story behind the two shootings the one in Minnesota and the one in Louisiana before making a judgement.
The gal with the video seemed more like a newscaster with an agenda than a girlfriend whose love of her life had just been shot...unbelievable that she did nothing to help the injured but run her mouth.
Luckily I can just tune out the news...it is a very passionate election year :(

Linda Reeder said...

I don't see us on the brink of disaster or ruin as a country or a world. There always have been and always will be issues to deal with.
Truth seems to have taken a holiday lately. I will continue to stand firm in promoting truth and fact based, reasoned thinking. I am, after all, an educator, and ignorance has always been my enemy.
We're off to visit gardens again today. My happy place.

Marie Smith said...

I think our minds were in the same place today. You expressed it so much more eloquently than I did. Hope you have a peaceful day!

Anonymous said...

People should be like us in Hawaii. We have a melting pot of interracial marriages and we all get along.

Rian said...

DJan, I find myself turning off the news after the initial reports as it seems that the media repeat and repeat the same tragedy(s) inciting more outrage each time. And something I don't like is that the media makes it seem like there's an uprising, not the act of one scared, frustrated, unstable individual (white, black, or whatever). It's happening too often, that's true. So things need to change... but there will always be some who will be scared and frustrated enough to commit horrendous acts. How do we keep it from happening? Agreed we should try, but I'm really not sure we can. And I think things ARE changing... just not fast enough to suit.

As for politics, Brexit made me realize that the world is in strange place... not just the US. I've stopped watching anything to do with the November elections. We seem to be on a strange course and I can only pray that we survive it without too much turmoil.

And I agree that for most of us, we must simply live our lives day to day. As you said, "create a little corner of the world where there's peace" and love (and hope that it spreads).

Gigi said...

You HAVE created a little corner of the world that is peaceful!

I remember a line from a hymn that went "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me..." It be naive of me, but truly I think that's the key. If only everyone subscribed to that philosophy.

Have a wonderful week, D'Jan!

Red said...

You have a great contrast in this post where you worry about all the violence in the world and the peacefulness of yoga. Yes, every individual has to do his or her part to bring about peaceful world. There are many ways to bring peace and of course one of them is yoga.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so happy you have Yoga in your life now to help center you in these trying times. I think Yoga should be mandatory to put all of us in a more peaceful frame of mind. Wish I had it available here.

Elephant's Child said...

A beautiful reminder. Thank you so very much.

Tabor said...

I am trying so hard to catch up with my blog reading, but it seems everyone is in a state of angst. "If it bleeds it leads." That is what sells and we much watch less because we cannot change the anger except in our own little corners of the world. I am going to smile at everyone this week...even if they check to see if I am carrying a gun or pepper spray!

Carole said...

I felt more peaceful just reading this post. You are an inspiration. Thanks DJan :-)

Rita said...

This was why I quit watching the news when I left home after graduation. I couldn't bear the sight of any more bloody soldiers or hearing the sound of gunfire and helicopter blades while I ate dinner every night. (My mother and father were thrilled when CNN came about--all news all day--AWK!!) There are enough horrible events I have seen over the decades without being a news devotee. That is why I try to live as calmly and peacefully as I can in my little corner of the world. I would rather try to spread positives and love energy than shock and dread and fear, you know? I loved this post!! Totally agree with you. And I admire you with your yoga practices, too. Love and hugs!! :)

C-ingspots said...

Felt myself nodding in agreement and then breathing a little deeper in relaxation. We are living in troubled times and I believe they will become worse, but as you say, let peace begin with me. We can spread love and light wherever we go and with whomever we come in contact with. We cannot change the whole world, but we can make small changes in our worlds. Beautiful post, encouraging words. I hope you really enjoy your yoga class and reap the benefits. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

amanda said...

This morning I find myself checking in to my blogger feed for the first time in.. I really don't know how long. Your words hit home, DJan.
Balance, focus, perspective. As I was just commenting on another post, sometimes our vessel is tossed around in the rough sea, sometimes it comes ashore. I'm well here, we all are very well! I'm not sure why my absence. But inner peace and enjoying the now have been at the core. Both working and resting have been factors. Balance.
The news and media and events happening around us are indeed harrowing. I just read Seabiscuit, finished it last night.. it was a delightful retreat.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I want to make peace, too, but to get there I am called to get angry and to say Enough! and try to make change. I have just posted about my experience of the past week (well, just a little slice of it) and it won't make everyone happy but I have to speak the truth as I believe it to be. But I also keep reminding myself that we can't be ONLY angry; we have to be centered and in tune with the beauty of life.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

hmmmm......am not sure you will post my comment though I have to be honest in my response.

It is very disconcerting and frightening how the perpetrators of the injustices witnessed is perpetrated by those sworn to uphold the law and is seemingly exempt from said laws. When injustice passes as justice we change the faith of the people bearing witness, they become disillusioned, they lose hope and they abandon faith in the laws said to govern all. Hopelessness in people is a very very dangerous thing. If one cannot trust those sworn to protect whom do they trust? That is a scary reality because some will begin to take what they feel is justice into their own hands, once called vigilante justice. An eye for an eye.

We live in an age where everyone has a camera. What we are learning is not second hand, it is not he said/she said, it has not had time to be filtered and prettied up, it is what we see time and time again unfolding in real time as it occurs, it is evidence most horrifying in its brutality in front of our eyes yet most if not all of it is dismissed. Yet we are surprised by the outcry of injustice?

If we focus on each other's humanity instead of the color of each other's skin and designating worth and value based on its shade the world will be a better place. Unfortunately there are those that decide which lives has more value and which lives have none and in doing so designate their selves superior and assign their selves God status and perpetrate violence, cruelty, continual brutality and death upon those deemed inferior and worthless. There has to be a line that is not crossed. The thing is violence begat violence, bullets do not discriminate and innocence is always the first causality of war. Their are many that wish to turn back the hands of time to a time in history they know little about and make many assumptions of. Human life should not be valued based on the distribution of melanin nor should discriminating assumptions and characteristic be assigned.

My heart breaks when i watch the news. My soul bleeds because I get it, I feel it. I know what its like to sit in this skin and be judged by it and given labels that has nothing to do with me. I am frightened at the horrendous reality of what is happening blatantly by those who fear no repercussion or accountability because that sets a precedence of consent to murder without regard to particular human life of specific groups, that puts me, my mother, my sisters, my brothers my children at risk for no other reason than the color of our skin. You don't want to know what that feels like, to be frozen in fear when you see a police officer, to be terrified to speak if they ask you a simple question even when you know you have done nothing, you live in a state of heightened oppression, you experience everyday PTSD much like soldiers in a state of war.

One's humanity should not be dismissed due to ethnicity or skin color neither should their worth or value be equated or vanquished by it. We need to see each other and not assumptions and labels. A criminal is a criminal not because of ethnicity or skin color, a criminal is a criminal base on their character and decision making.

Have a blessed evening.

Anonymous said...

I too will be eager to hear the news of theft, murder etc. But one day i felt really sad while seeing them. It makes me to remember the incident and spoiled my mind. From that on i started to hear only good news and see good things...

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Before I get into the current post I wanted to say Thank You for previous posts on Eye that I've found helpful in recent days. I've had occasion to think about those posts as a result of my brother-in-law passing after a two year battle with prostate cancer. He was 66 years old and had spent his adult life practicing as an Osteopathic Physician. He passed on July 5th, unexpectedly, as a result of falling out of bed in a nursing home where he was attempting to recover from recent surgery. After being diagnosed about two years ago he tried many, many things to overcome the cancer, but surprisingly did not make preparations for death. My spouse is now spending some time with her sister to help get through this difficult time. The reports I get are that it's quite difficult and mostly due to a lack of organization that could have been prevented with some of the preparations you have discussed on Eye. I thought I would mention this just to let you know how your blogging efforts can be fruitful for those of us lucky enough to find Eye! Now, on to this current post: So often you write about what's on your mind and it seems uncanny how often the same thing is on mine. Where is this world going? I am so with you re disgust with the news media and the way they are drilling the violence into us. There is another blog I watch, which often leaves me in a reflective mood, and the current post is entitled "Should We Really Lose Faith?" The title of the blog is Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer. There are 176 comments on the post but I don't see you among them, so I will give you a link as I really think you would enjoy it and how it relates to what you said in this current post on Eye. http://keithawynn2011.blogspot.com/2016/07/should-we-really-lose-faith.html
As always, thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments on my blog.