I can see Bikram now, pacing the stage back and forth, headset on, hair in a neat knot atop his head, body perfectly fit, ready to share his insight on living a good life. “It is so simple, just avoid the bad.” Not rocket science here. But, Bikram always peaks my curiosity: he was going somewhere with this… “As soon as you begin to do something wrong,” he says, stopping in his tracks, “you must quickly make a 180-degree turn and begin to do the good.” He makes another about face and resumes his pacing. “Being bad, that is so easy and so boring. What is the worst thing that can happen to you? You die. So, what? You should be so lucky.” Now, he’s warmed up! “But,” as he makes another 180-degree turn, “doing good, now that is more challenging, that is more interesting and that is infinite. There is no end to how good you can be.”
In one of my favorite books, May I Have This Dance author Joyce Rupp, talks about the holiday season and how we can abandon our hearts if we are not careful. The frenzy of consumerism is at its peak and we tend to overindulge. That, in and of itself, is bad enough however, it is also the guilt we carry about participating in all the unnecessary wanting. Traffic, long lines at the grocery store, demands to be here and there, being with family members whose behaviors make us uncomfortable are just some of the stressful situations we encounter. Without a concerted effort to focus our awareness, there we are: cynical, negative, judging, impatient, exhausted, and less available to experience the Joy the season can bring.
Year after year, this holiday season is upon us. Yoga gives us the tools to transform old habits. This year, choose to “avoid the bad,” as Bikram would describe it. If sister Sue is on her high horse about politics again this year, can you hear it as if it is the first time and find something useful in it? If traffic is horrible, can you detect and quell your anxiety before you cut off the car next to you? In other words, you have a chance, if you use – not lose – your yoga, to be right there in the present moment and consider a course of action that will leave you feeling good. Joyce Rupp wisely notes, “we lose our hearts, we forget to listen, to be open, compassionate, giving. We push others aside, our life becomes a blur of rushing, we feel isolated as many don’t accept our views, and we experience grief.”
This is the season that puts your practice to the test. Allow your yoga to help you make constructive differences in your life. Participate fully in your celebrations. However, when you have a chance to respond, take a moment and if necessary, make that 180-degree turn, and do good, do infinitely good. Your responses do matter. The deeper meaning of the season is to express what’s in your heart and influence all the earth with the good that you do.