May Newsletter: The Yoga of Compassionate Action in the Age of Coronavirus
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Here in Nashville TN spring is moving into the hot & humid sub-tropical environment that is hallmark of the American South, and folks are taking advantage of being vaccinated (or not) from Coronavirus. The party buses & pedal-taverns are out in full swing accompanied by the touristy hollers of "WOOH!" vibrating throughout the city.
As the United States "opens up" to precarious getting-back-to-normal living and Americans are lining up for vaccines, please consider that while we may feel some sense of alleviation from this traumatic experience, people around the world--including people right here in the US--are still suffering from this horrible pandemic. Right now, India is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus that is devastating families and communities, making it the second hardest hit country by the virus behind us here in the United States.
India is the world's fourth largest Coronavirus vaccine producer and accounts for about 13% of international doses by exporting up to 65% of its domestic production. To contrast this, the US is the world's second largest vaccine producer behind China, yet has exported 0% of vaccinations to the international community while sitting on thousands of doses due to Trump-era "America First" policies. Of course there's more to it than this, including the failings of India's Hindu fundamentalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the disparity of basic healthcare accessibility is not only heartbreaking, it is infuriating, especially when looking at the data available.
What is also problematic is the denial, bypassing or unacknowledging of this very real infectious disease or the vaccine's efficacy by too many in the holistic wellness & yoga community here in the United States. Over the last year, the rampant spread of White Supremacy-steeped conspiracy theories and anti-vaccination rhetoric draped in a superficial hodge-podge of New Age spirituality has been propped up by celebrities & social media influencers, thus given rise to a broad cult of "Conspirituality" in the Western yoga world.
As yoga practitioners, now is a time for skillful action. Through the guidance of the Yamas & the Niyama and the light of positive discernment we can individually and collectively guide ourselves and our communities away from the destructive cycle of the Kleshas and toward compassionate, illuminated, life-affirming choices. Consider how your yoga practice can be of benefit not only for yourself, but for all of humanity--yes, all of humanity. Every action matters no matter how grand or subtle. How can your actions make even the smallest difference for yourself, your immediate community, the yoga community, and our global human family?
Compassionate actions are not always the easiest choices, but they are the least burdensome on the heart and truly require the least amount of effort in the long run. As Deepak Chopra expands upon in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success:
Nature's intelligence functions effortlessly, frictionlessly, spontaneously...It is intuitive, holistic, and nourishing. And when you are in harmony with nature, when you are established in the knowledge of your true Self, you can make use of the Law of Least Effort. Least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love, because nature is held together by the energy of love. When you seek power and control over other people, you waste energy (54-55).
How do you start choosing compassionate action? According to Chopra:
When you make any choices--any choice at all--you can ask yourself two things: First of all, 'what are the consequences of this choice that I'm making?' In your heart you will immediately know what these are. Secondly, 'Will this choice that I'm making now bring happiness to me and to those around me?' There is only one choice, out of the infinity of choices available in every second, that will create happiness for you as well as for those around you. And when you make that one choice, it will result in a form of behavior that is called spontaneous right action...It's the action that nourishes you and everyone else who is influenced by that action (42-43).
While our US government is figuring our how to put all of humanity first, what can you do right now to help? Yoga teacher, activist & author Susanna Barkataki has compiled this document providing a list of various aid organizations to help the people of India with healthcare, food, shelter and other foundational resources. No compassionate action is too small.
लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवंतु ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
lōkāḥ samastāḥ sukhinō bhavantu
ōm̐ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
And may my thoughts, words, and actions contribute in some way
To the happiness and freedom of all Peace, Peace, Eternal Peace