This ground that supports us. This soil from which we get our sustenance, our water, our very life-force… our very lives.
I don’t need to give you the statistics; you’ve heard scientists shouting into the void of capitalism, convenience and complacency for decades. Plastics, fossil fuels, the food and meat industries, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, population growth, online shopping phenomena, throw-away clothing cultures—in short, human consumption.
It’s overwhelming—in part because how do we not implicate ourselves?—and it’s so easy to go about our daily lives with a woozy sense of powerlessness, of doom… and maybe even of guilt. After all, being a human who’s trying to stay “awake” in the 21st century comes with an endless sense of conflict: How to live without consuming? How to consume as simply as possible when our world offers us such convenience? How to move beyond materialism as the basis for our sense of well-being?
For me, the answers to these questions are found in this particular practice I’ve chosen: the understanding that I am—that we are—inextricably linked to all living beings.
That when we lose a single species (and we are losing as many as 2,000 a year), we’ve lost one more link in the chain that supports all life. We’ve lost billions of years of astounding evolution. We’ve lost a fraction of the greater life force in the grand ecosystem that sustains us.
But that’s just the knowing part—the feeling into my inseparability from all life. The tougher part—thanks to that feeling of overwhelm—is the action.
For me, this feeling of individual powerlessness is where sangha comes in, in a very profound way. It’s where I must evoke a sense of community that’s bigger than the one I step onto my rectangular mat with every week—a community more massive, even, than “the worldwide yoga community.” Because the truth is it will take no less than all of us—no matter our practice—waking up and doing our parts to slow the tide of destruction we find ourselves living in. Committing to live as simply as possible as individuals, yes. But also shifting from the passivity of powerlessness to the activity that arises when community comes into being. And we need a very big community right now.
If I can dedicate even a small amount of time—the minutes in a day that I’d be checking Instagram, for example—and use it to call lawmakers, seek out conservation lobbyists, connect with ocean conservationists, chat with my team, my kids, my colleagues, the wooziness feels a little less pervasive.
And I can do all of this just a bit better when I know my sangha—this great community of humanity—is doing it with me.
So my challenge this month—to myself and to you—is to pick one thing. Let’s make the work of stopping the rising tide feel a bit less overwhelming… because that’s our best hope of moving out of inertia and into action. If I see you beside me, I can feel more confident in my role, in my choices, in our work together.
It’s a long view, I know… but after all, that’s what yoga asks of us.