One of the things that confounds me in this yoga journey are the empty platitudes that some instructors expound that contradict what is to me the essence of yoga; connecting with our true selves and connecting with others in creating a supportive community or sangha. So every time that I hear a teacher invite me to dedicate my practice to someone, a big question mark starts forming in my brain.
What is dedicating my practice to someone going to do for anyone in this world, beyond possibly giving myself a false sense of activism? It feels exactly like I’m clicking the “like” button of Facebook, which is simply an acknowledgement of notice or attention. Maybe it’s the practical side of me but if I really wanted to help someone, I would roll up my sleeves and physically do something. Hold their hand while they tell me about their troubles, knit a warm hat, work on a food drive, cook a meal for someone, watch their kids, walk their dog, shovel their walks, take in their mail, – well – you get the idea. There are hundreds of things we can do every day that support the community we live in beyond a thought that goes nowhere. Personally, I think smiling at a stranger and saying “good morning” which acknowledges and witnesses their existence is more yoga than dedicating my practice to someone.
On the other hand, I do recognize that there intangibles that are constantly impacting our world. Scientists continue to study the affects that positive and negative energy has on livings things like plants. There have been many testimonies about the power of prayer healing someone half way across the continent. How far can positive energy travel? Do these teachers who invite me to dedicate my practice to someone have information that I am not privy to? Or am I just not deep enough to have faith in some abstract ideal?
The invitation always brings up memories of me as a child arguing with some authoritative figure about a rule or concept that I was not comfortable with and certainly didn’t believe in. Both then and now, when confronted with the baffling, I can feel my resolve (along with my toes) dig into the floor while I wait patiently for the evidence of proof. For a brief moment of discomfort, I acknowledge that my energy might possibly be contradicting the energy of the room and yet it feels disingenuous to pretend to believe something I am not ready to accept or embrace.
Implanting positive energy into the world is an ongoing effort. It’s the breath you take when confronted with aggressive people at the market. They’ve probably had a challenging day. It’s the student who acts up, who probably needs some attention to fill a void in their lives. It’s the whiners and complainers who probably feel powerless in lives, whether they recognize that void or not. It’s the divorcing couples that have simply taken two separate life paths…paths that are like two matching magnetic poles…diametrically opposed. One of the best ways to develop a more peaceful environment is to train yourself to NOT react to another person’s negative force. When that blast of chaotic and hateful energy slams into you, acknowledge it. Also acknowledge that you probably don’t know what the root cause of that energy, acknowledge the struggle that the other person is going through and acknowledge that you might be able to help or that your help might not be wanted. What you can do is not add to their problems by adding your negative energy onto their heads. Simply be their witness or be their support.
So what do I think about when someone asks me to dedicate my practice to someone? I silently pray for patience to deal with the idiots of the world.