These past few weeks have been tragic in Nepal, and whether or not you realize it, you are affected by the loss, suffering, and the rebuilding that is unfolding. When almost 8,000 people die in a natural disaster, we are all affected. Buddhists might call this notion of universal connection interbeing, or oneness, and others might say it’s the “butterfly effect,” but the profound suffering of others does affect us, even if we live thousands of miles away. In times of tragedy, it can be difficult to know what to do- how can we find meaning in our mundane everyday lives when others struggle to eat, live, and have basic necessities? How can we be of global service in such a time? While I don’t have an all-encompassing answer to these questions, I do find that crisis is a reminder to be generous, to give kindness, presence, and assistance however you can, wherever you can, and to whomever you can.
I grew up in southern California, land of earthquakes and drought, and I remember the sudden sweep of damage an earthquake can bring. I was 8 when a 6.7 earthquake took place, and I remember seeing hundreds of buildings, freeway overpasses, and communities destroyed in my neighborhood. Los Angeles suddenly became a place of caring and generosity, with neighbors opening their homes to those who had lost, and churches and schools opening at night to support those without homes. Parts of the city, which had been renowned for its racial and gang related violence became places of tolerance, non-discrimination, and unbiased aid. The same was true after 9/11/2001-there was a sense that daily hatred and judgement was futile in the face of such loss and an outpouring of global support emerged. This same innate spirit of generosity and connection has come from many nations around the world in efforts to support Nepal, through financial, material, and human services.
Not all of us can travel to other counties to serve, and not all of us have the means to make large financial donations to organizations doing noble work. Rather than ignore this suffering or feel powerless, think of this as a call to serve wherever you can, even on a small scale. Maybe you can volunteer in your neighborhood, play music at a hospice, pick up trash in your neighborhood, or support animal adoption. You can use yoga as a means to raise money for a cause, or bring yoga to people who need it most. Even as a yoga teacher, it is essential to remember that yoga is not the only gift we have to offer. We can give time, presence, and compassion to our interactions with others and become more sensitive to suffering, poverty, discrimination, and racism in our own cities and neighborhoods, as well as in within the yoga community. In this time of chaotic global suffering, it can be challenging to see how one individual can make an impact, yet a few small acts may inspire others to shift their perspective, which can in turn spark larger collective change. When we share the spirit of service and self-inquiry with our children, partners, and greater family, we are all able to look beyond our selves and instead create a new paradigm of connection and collective compassion. In bringing your yoga practice out of the studio and off the mat, ask how you can be of service every day, for the benefit of all beings.
Some of my favorite yoga organizations are Off the Mat Into the World, the Yoga Service Council, Give Back Yoga Foundation, Street Yoga, and the Art of Yoga Project, although there are hundreds more doing amazing work.