A Thanksgiving Prayer
I often feel that what’s in the news has nothing to do with me. My eyes glaze over the political headlines (as I search for something fluffy, probably about food). My justifications are these:
That’s so far away.
What can I possibly do to change the situation? Reading is only voyeurism.
I can’t begin to understand how those people feel.
Washington has nothing to do with me and how I live my own life.
Today, something changed in me. I was moved by the stories of protesters in Ferguson and across the country. I was moved by the workers caring for Ebola victims. Moved for those living in fear due to terrorist attacks, and moved for those suffering losses.
What changed in me has to do with Yoga.
I practice yoga regularly because it soothes my body and clears my mind. It leaves me feeling centered, like I fit snugly in my own body. It stimulates my mind. The feeling a good practice gives me is like a strong espresso—mind alert, body energized–but without the jitters.
But today I was reminded that yoga can and should also stimulate the heart. Yoga can and should cultivate compassion. Yoga can be a prayer.
I listened to celebrated (and celebrity) yoga teacher Seane Corn talk about yoga as prayer. (You can listen to this On Being episode here.) Seane dedicates a practice to a person, or to a part of the world where there is pain and suffering. As she does her practice, messing up or losing her balance isn’t cause for anger, swearing, or self-deprecation. Why would she want to offer those feelings to the recipients of her prayer? No, her yoga-prayer-practice is only filled with an intention toward someone or many people, whom she sends energy toward as she breathes and moves in her practice. This, anyway, is my interpretation of what she was saying.
This, I realized, is how I make those headlines have something to do with me.
Buddhism teaches one-ness, that we are all connected. By sending my intentions and prayers toward others, I can be connected to them. I can pray for people I will never meet, bring their plight into my heart, and send out my energy to them. I tried it this morning. This makes me feel more for others. We are all humans experiencing this world, sometimes in messed up, less-than-perfect ways. We are all connected.
The place where we put our heart and our mind may not look like action, it may not be proven make a difference. But the mind and the heart are the sparks of action. How we treat others is a reflection of our minds and hearts. Get right with your mind and heart, and right action will follow.
So this actually brings me to a Thanksgiving thought. In all the busy-ness of preparing, whether you’re hosting or being hosted, stresses can take over the mind. The heart can harden and forget joy. Perfectionism can take over (it does for me), fear manifests (what if something goes wrong?) and the heart hardens.
But if I make my preparation a prayer about love, being loved, and loving others, than a mistake is no longer a reason to feel shame or anger or fear. It’s like losing my balance in a yoga- prayer-practice. It’s just a thing that happened within the prayer for love. And it does not diminish the love, for self, or for the other people who will be sharing the holiday with me.
Happy Thanksgiving. May those who are suffering find comfort. May you glide through the holiday with prayer and intention in your heart.