After a summer of drought, we just experienced inside the Beltway the power when the earth shudders and shakes in an east coast earthquake of unusual magnitude. Now, less than a week after the earthquake, I take appropriate precautions and follow with deep caring the unfolding predictions, photos, commentary, and human reaction on a collective and individual level to the impending traverse up the east coast of Hurricane Irene.
Watching the hurricane reports has led me to remember what it was like when Hurricane Isabel was approaching DC in the summer of 2003. The day before was gloriously sunny and bright–the way we want summer to be and there was no reason yet to cancel classes nor, once suitable precautions and preparations were made at home. to do anything other than enjoy the day to its fullest. Fewer students than usual came for class; others must have been preparing or attending to other business. The ones who came said that the impending storm made them want to practice together even more than usual.
Though I rarely lead chants other than the Anusara Invocation in class, I was moved to lead my students in a chant to Kali–fierce goddess of destruction. Chanting to Kali allowed us to focus our profound respect for the forces of nature and the dance of the universe throughout the whole of the practice. Our ability to express our awe and our yearning to flow with the currents and eddies of these extraordinary forces instead of feeling powerless or angry was enhanced by sensitive and careful attention to alignment.
Practicing the three A’s of Anusara yoga–attitude, alignment, and action–for me seems to apply profoundly to the way we want to prepare for and experience what comes with events demonstrating extreme forces of nature. When we challenge ourselves on the mat we both honor our edge and seek to expand it. We use the alignment principles in every aspect of a pose to express a perfect respect for the amazing concatenation of abilities and limitations that is human embodiment. For me, taking what I have learned on the mat practicing with the three A’s has helped make it possible to shift how I am able to respond to whatever comes. There is not much that serves as a better reminder of how much will just come, no matter how much we prepare and study than earthquakes and hurricanes. We need to appreciate, though, that while we are not in control, we are not without power. The power is in choosing how to respond, how we are going to put into practice off the mat, as well as on, the principles of attitude, alignment, and action.
I believe to the very core of my being that we must have profound awe and respect for the mystery and power of the dance of the universe (put that how you will) and love for it, too. We should be expanding and using existing knowledge of how most safely to weather a huricane or other extreme forces (I am choosing not to say “disasters”). It is important to take care of ourselves to get into the space where we are most likely to be able to have awe triumph over fear, hopelessness, frustration, or anger because plans have been thwarted and, more important, to find the best path possible in the face of serious loss or harm. Perhaps this is too easy for me to say, knowing that it will be mostly ok for me; my house does well in storms, and we are only on the edge. I am more concerned for friends and family all up the east coast and especially Long Island and New York.
In class on Saturday, with or just ahead of the first band of rain, we will be chanting to Kali. Maybe like last time, we will all have power when the lights around us go out, but that was just a happy side effect (or coincidence, depending on how you look at it) and not the purpose. The purpose of chanting will be to remind ourselves to prepare to the best of our abilities and then let go of outcome and hang on for the ride.
Hope to see you in class soon. My summer class at Willow Street goes through the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and I will be here. Registration is open for the fall session at Willow Street. My Saturday noon class continues, and I will also be leading the ninth annual Thanksgiving Day fundraiser for Oxfam.
The William Penn House class is an ever-deepening weekly adventure. Come join us.
May all be safe and well.
Peace and light,