Let me start by saying that this blog is not about my last trip to Hawaii. Last year I made the mistake of starting a blog with a tongue in cheek line about retiring from my full time job. I was referring to my job as a full time mom because my kids were leaving for college. As with many blogs, many readers didn’t get far enough into the article to know what I was talking about. Six months later, I am still getting inquiries about how my retirement from yoga is going! So for those of you just breezing by this article, this is about complacency…mine and maybe yours. If you are looking for recommendations on great beaches, or Pina Coladas this is not it.
When my husband was nine, he and his younger sister lived with their Dad and Stepmother in a trailer park in California. From time to time they would get to visit their Mom’s apartment, which usually involved a weekend filled with lots of television, favorite junk food and as much soda as they wanted. Back in the car heading home, they would giggle and laugh and punch each other, acting like any kids who have had a carefree weekend full of sugar. Inevitably, their Stepmom would turn around from the front seat when she’d reached her limit of silliness and say loudly, “Vacation’s Over, Kids!”
Over the years, that phrase has become one that we say to each other jokingly anytime something really great has to end, whether it is a vacation or not.
Recently I thought of this phrase in relation to our new president. I realized that for the last eight years, I have not worried too much about our economy, the environment, our borders, our wildlife, our schools, etc. I felt like Obama and his team were taking care of our country so I didn’t need to worry about it. That isn’t to say that I spent the time watching television, eating junk food and drinking soda though! Many hours were clocked chauffeuring my kids, supporting our economy with daily visits to Fred Meyer and running a business. I felt like my priority was taking care of my family and helping my students find peace of mind on their yoga mats.
But, “the Vacation’s Over, Kids!” Like Rocky’s stepmom, I’ve reached my limit. I feel called to stand up for the values I have taken for granted. I have lost confidence in the direction of our country. I’m determined to ask more questions of our State Representatives and leaders; I want to know what projects my bank is funding with my money and will change banks if needed; I want to be more owner discerning about what companies I support with my purchases and I want to make a difference by funding the non-profit organizations that are accountable and standing up for the issues I hold dear.
It’s no longer enough to eat a healthy diet; do yoga; meditate and study sacred texts. This is the time to take action; to expand our idea of family to include our neighbors, our communities and our country; to think globally, not just locally.
Like Arjuna, the warrior, who represents all of us in the classic, Bhagadvad Gita, it would be easy to throw myself on the floor “of my chariot,” my mind overcome with fear and grief about the challenges we face and feel unable to take action. But Arjuna’s charioteer, Krishna, urges him on, saying, “…impotence does not become your true nature! Abandon your faintheartedness; Rise up!”
We, too, must search our hearts and ask ourselves what actions we are called to “Rise Up!” and take. One of my friends recently suggested: “Put your congressmen and women on speed dial!” Join forces with others who are standing or marching peacefully in support of those who need our help. The time to make a difference is now.
Although I have not spoken up for anyone outside of my family and community in many, many years, I feel like I am returning to a strength I cultivated when I was in high school. I had a step parent at the time and he stood for values that were completely opposite of mine. I ate most of my meals in my room, sent away from the family table and my quieter, more respectful siblings because of my tendency to speak out against his beliefs over dinner.
Since then, I have spent a lifetime learning to flow around obstacles in my life rather than pushing through them. Now I find myself contemplating alternative actions. Can I practice what I believe in with all of my heart and at the same time stand up for others who aren’t able to do so?
The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, a roughly 2500 year old yogic philosophy text that has remained relevant into our modern times, describes the Yamas, the first of the 8 Limbs of yoga. The Yamas, translated as the Five Moral Restraints, speak to the foundational principles we should commit to in order to lead a balanced, spiritual life. Right now, I feel every one of them is being challenged by the current administration.
(Ahimsa) Do no harm…to anyone or anything. That includes people of all faiths, animals and the environment.
(Satya) Tell the truth…not the alternative or convenient version of truth but the truth that you feel to your core.
(Asteya) Do not steal… ideas, lives, freedom, health coverage, or sacred land.
(Brahmacarya) Moderation…We are encouraged to practice balance in all that we do. We can bring moderation to our thoughts, words and deeds. This really speaks to letting go of obsessive concerns; thoughts that consume us and lead to imbalance in our lives. ( Can you let go of how many people attended the inauguration or voted for you in the Electoral College?)
(Aparigraha) Nonpossessiveness or Nonhoarding… This yama encourages us to grieve the past but to then let go so we can embrace the future. I’m guilty of “mentally grabbing Obama’s ankle” wanting to hold onto the vacation that was the last eight years. But there is another cautionary tale imbedded in our understanding of Aparigraha which speaks to holding onto worn-out beliefs. Part of what we liberals are rallying against is the insistence of the new administration in turning back the clock and embracing what we consider outdated ideas: anti-abortion laws; immigration bans; abolishing gun laws; dialing back environmental protection laws; animal right’s etc.
I know I can’t squeeze back into my high school jeans but I can tap back into the courage I had back then and speak my mind. I can stand up for those who can’t help themselves while simultaneously honoring the yogic path. I’m grateful for the vacation I’ve had for the last 8 years because the memory of it will motivate me to do whatever it takes to help return our country to the level of respect, love and decency that we took for granted; to return to being a country for which we can feel immense pride and not shame. “Vacation’s over, Kids!” But with a little effort, it won’t be our last trip!