Every time we step onto our mat, we are entering into the Province of the Unknown. Every time we practice a balance pose, we never know how it is going to go. Will we fall or will we manage to stay upright? We never really know how our practice will unfold. This is a very good thing,
because it prepares us for those times in our lives when we will very much be on the threshold of the Unknown. Very often, it seems, in this now world, we are faced with the Unknown. With the fear of what lies ahead for us.
The events here in our country over the past few days, the killing of unarmed servicemen, by allegedly deranged people, have opened our eyes to the terrors that others of our world live with each and every day. Here in Canada, we pride ourselves on the security and protectiveness
of a nation that, for the most part, is safe, quiet and comforting. Courteous (almost always!) Patient. Peaceful. Our Canada. We go about our business with nary a thought to our safety – other than the danger that exists on our roadways here in Toronto!
Now, it seems, we must truly, resolutely stand on guard for Canada. We are entering the sphere of the Unknown.
The Yogic texts have something to say about the Unknown. In fact, we often practice a meditation called ‘Not Knowing’....which takes us to a place of supreme silence, where the past falls away, and the future has not yet arrived (the NOW moment.) We can find rest there. And
serenity. Preparing us for when we are in freefall. Especially for then.
And another meditation with the name ‘Being Ok When Things Are Not OK.’ Pretty much says what it is! Nothing will ever be completely OK! Sometimes close, but more often than not, quite distant. These two practices are also preparedness rehearsals for those times of life when
our lives seem chaotic, and fearful. Where we can find calm in the presence of Fear.
Fear – with a capital F – is still an emotion. An emotion is felt in the body, but initiates in the brain. A powerful chemical change in the brain which either inhibits action or causes us to run
and hide. Fear is always...always about the future. About what can happen in the future. Yet, the future has not arrived, so fear is unfounded. Prevention, yes, but No Fear, please. Hmmm. The physical body is highly sensitive to the possibility of threat, (whether real or imagined), so
there are multiple pathways that bring that fear information into the brain.
The part of the brain that is central to the fear pathway is the amygdala, an almond-shaped group of nerve cells that release neurotransmitters, chemicals that relay signals in the brain. Neurotransmitters trigger a cascade of responses in the body responsible for that "fight or
flight" response -- and that adrenaline rush that not only may be key to our survival in dangerous situations, but also may make scaring ourselves so much fun! Think Hallowe’en and roller coasters! Adrenaline raises your heart rate and blood pressure, and gives you a boost of energy and alertness.
Luckily, the brain dials down the amygdala's response and returns your system to normal if it recognizes that you're not actually in danger. Hmmm again. Maybe we feel Fear because we don’t really understand how to express it in our language. We are really GOOD at expressing it in other ways - by eating, raging, being greedy or jealous or all of those other nasty ways of being, but maybe if we knew we were fearful – and we could express it – we wouldn’t be quite so anxious. (Anxiety IS fear.)
So, Not Knowing is OK. And….. It’s OK to Not Know. But being Fearful is NOT OK. Especially over long periods of time.
On the other side of things, the teachings of Yoga also have something to say about ‘Knowing.’ In short, ‘Knowing’ is all about arriving at that point in our spiritual journey where we inherently know that we are not only connected to everyone and everything, but that we are most importantly connected to ‘The One’ …. (whoever of whatever that may be for you!) Buddha, Brahman, God, Allah, Divine Spirit and on and on. Many religions, one path. Whoever that is s responsible for you
being Here. And that you are Loved (Capital L!)
I remember in one of my very first teacher trainings with my yoga teacher, I was trying to get my head around Love. To love myself, to love others. To feel compassion for myself, and to practice compassion for others. Kindness to Self. To others. As a way of life. To put ourselves in others’ shoes, so to speak, and feel what they feel. My hand went up in class …albeit shyly……I distinctly recall asking my teacher Erich ‘Yes, but, what about the others in this world who wreak utter terror
and horrific practices on others? What about them? How can we love them?” He was quiet for a bit. Pausing (probably….he is GREAT at PAUSING, AND RELAXING!) He answered with 4 short words. “Because they don’t Know.” Know with a capital K. Followed by MORE
I had to sit with that for a while. A long while. And then I sort of Knew. At least, I could understand what my teacher had answered. I still had a long way to go before Knowing (capital K!)
Now, I Know.
Knowing does not mean forgiving or forgetting. Although I am working on the forgiveness thing. It is hard.
So, yes, we are connected, one with the other. We are one with The One. Why The One elects to – or presides over – or cries over – the actions of some of our people on this planet is still in my Unknown file. Yet, I will continue to practice. Especially NOW.
Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we
can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay.
Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working
marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still
hear the voices of our loved ones. Thich Nhat Hanh