We all start out as a single cell, one singular molecular genius containing all the information to allow us to grow, live and die. For the first 9 months, we have all the information we need to grow within the wholeness of another human being, and if we're lucky and we take care of ourselves, we have all the information we need to grow within the wholeness of Mother Earth for over 80 years as incredibly sophisticated beings composed of 50 trillion molecular geniuses. And we walk around most of the time under the illusion that our minds are completely in charge of this structure, creating boundaries around and within ourselves. As a civilization here in the West, we have dissected (literally or metaphorically) every part of our bodies to the point where we have created millions of parts, and our understanding of them seldom takes into account the relationships between those parts and how they are at once part of the whole, and contain the whole. We create an inauthentic, pseudo-community within, where a few community members supposedly have all the answers for the many, and the illusion of control is confused with importance of being.
Not surprisingly, everything that doesn’t fit within our craving - aversion paradigm is suppressed. If we're in control, why wouldn't we only include what we like and exclude what we don't? But just like in communities, what we resist persists. We see evidence of this in many places throughout the world today, whether it be in the form of Middle East uprisings against long-standing dictatorships, or even closer to home in Vancouver, where a riot seems to have materialized out of losing a hockey game. An alternative view might be that riots, no matter what the apparent flash point, have at their root a natural explosion of energy that has been suppressed through invalidation for far too long. Could it be that the rioting youth in Vancouver felt betrayed by the corporate elite, who got them to buy into the idea that their happiness could be reliably tied to the outcome of a hockey game? Granted the scale of that betrayal is not even close to the betrayal felt by the youth in Egypt for example, but it's betrayal nonetheless. And for the relatively well-off youth in the West, the mounting little betrayals coming from parental, political, and corporate "authorities" all adds up. We pay lip service to our children being our future, but how are we really serving that future? I'm reminded of a quote from Nelson Henderson, "The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." I'd argue that a more accurate metaphor for today's world is an older, privileged, more comfortable generation digging up the seeds, squeezing the juice out of them, and replanting them in darkened corners while cursing them for not sprouting and producing fruit. Far-fetched, you say? Look at what the likes of Monsanto are doing to our food supply.
Ultimately, existence without recognition leads to chaos. In a society, chaos manifests as dissatisfaction, demonstrations, social degradation, criminal acts, riots, etc. In an individual, that chaos manifests as disease within our bodies, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental. And unfortunately, we as a society have allowed this pattern to repeat itself in our communities and ourselves , because we have grown ever more confident in the abilities of "experts" to fix whatever it is that breaks. Civil disobedience? Call the police. Oil spill? Call the EPA. Financial meltdown? Get the people who created it to fix it. Overweight? Here's a magic diet. Depressed? There's a pill for that. Heart disease? Call the surgeon.
But what if we developed a systematic way to constantly monitor our external and internal communities in a way that was genuinely compassionate, and made every member feel that they were being heard? Perhaps we could prevent the chaos from taking hold. That, in a nutshell, is Hatha Yoga. Through systematically training attention on the body, noticing the continuum of movement and stillness, effort and ease, focus and release, discipline and freedom, we come face-to-face with our boundaries. Through regular practice, we come to recognize that those boundaries, like everything else, are creations of the mind, and are therefore impermanent and transmutable. And by simply noticing the opposites in our practice and staying at the still point in the movement, we start to notice the mutual interplay of opposites in ourselves, and by extension the flow of everything. And so we grow to fully accept and indeed love ourselves again, and through compassion we recognize the fundamental unity that underlies the parts of us, and the parts of the world around us. We are whole, nested in larger and larger spheres of wholeness extending out to as far as the mind can reach, which is infinite.
Want to change the world? Start by stepping on the mat and paying attention.