Yesterday was certainly a day full of immense energy here in the United States, and around the world, as we witnessed the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama. The swearing into office of this president was particularly significant for many reasons, but I think the thing that struck me most about the ceremony, is the same thing that amazes me each time we have a new president: the peaceful transfer of so much power. We need only look around the world today, or in the annals of human history, to see what a rare, and impressive occurrence this is. It makes me very proud of my country.
As I watched the inauguration yesterday it was wonderful to see so many happy, hopeful people. As a yogini I know that there is nothing more powerful, more initiating of great change, then the power of unity, optimism and positive thinking. I feel this country has suffered a great, "dark night of the soul" in recent years, and I too, feel that yesterday was the dawn of a new day, in many ways.
However, I also felt a great level of concern about the unrealistic, and somewhat excessive nature of the enthusiasm. Without getting into what I personally perceive Barack Obama's strengths and weakness as the leader of our country may be, I am absolutely certain that he is a man, not a messiah. And man, does he have his work cut out for him.
Listening to the almost frenzied way that some people have been talking about him over the last year, I've really come to feel a bit sorry for the guy. People have put him up, I think unfairly, on a very high pedestal, and it is a very long fall from there.
I am also concerned by the ferocious hatred I see coming from both "sides" of the political spectrum. I feel it in myself. I have opinions, strong ones, and sometimes it is hard for me to accept that others are entitled to theirs. I can feel the tightness and separation this causes in myself, and I see it in other people. We must work with great vigor to recognize that this separation is illusion. We must, as the Dalai Lama says, "find through compassion that all human beings are just like me." This is the tallest order of all, but I believe it is a worthy goal that we must strive towards.
How can yoga inform a situation like this?
Yoga is at it's core a set of teachings focusing on union, and on staying firmly rooted in "the middle path," where we are not subject to the highs and lows of excess in any area, including emotions. As the Bhagavad Gita teaches us, "A lamp does not flicker in a place with no wind." Powerful emotions can set us on fire with enthusiasm and energy, but they may not sustain us over a long haul when the initial "glow" of an exciting situation has worn off.
I say all this not to rain on any one's parade, not to diminish the excitement and power of this time, but to offer a call for a level of rationalism and realism, that will help us as a country, and throughout the world, to sustain a positive momentum for all the hard and long work we, and our new president, have ahead of us.
On this day I have a wish and prayer, from the bottom of my heart, for this man, for my country, and for this planet.
It is a portion of the Saha Navavatu Mantra that we often recite at the beginning of a yoga class, and it helps to define the scope and the nature of the work before us. I think it beautifully expresses the energy of enthusiasm, realism, and unity, we must have on our journey of "the middle path."
OM saha navavatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha viryam karavavahai
OM shanti, shanti, shanti
May we be protected together
May we be nourished together
May we work together with great vigor
May our study be enlightening
May no obstacle arise between us
Om peace, peace, peace