The human soul longs for the ‘real’ sensuous experience that we can only have in the gathering of live, shared interaction.
In our contemporary culture, we are repeatedly encouraged to live ‘boxed’ within a protective shield that numbs us to our deeper longings.
It is one of the sadnesses I feel around ‘modern yoga’ that ‘doing yoga’ has become another way of ‘fitting in’, something one can do in order to be accepted according to some artificial, externally dictated standard. I find this so sad because really, yoga is about accepting ourselves as the unique individual we really are. Accepting ourselves so wholly that we can meet and relate to the other openly and honestly, in a way that allows for mutually nourishing exchange, stimulation and growth.
I also find it sad that in the contemporary ‘yoga business’, it seems so much about the business and not so much about the yoga. Many studios seem to operate on a very ‘play it safe and sexy and fill the classes’ model, many ‘teachers’ seem hell-bent on ratcheting up the number of likes, hits and followers in the netherworlds of facebook and Instagram, when the real business of yoga is about connection, not through text messages or social media, but real meeting: with the parts of ourselves we might have held down or back, or have preferred to keep in the shadows; and having begun the work of reconciliation and recovery, which yoga practice is, then going out into the complex world of real time, real world interaction and relationship with greater compassion and humanity.
Our current human culture is in many ways diseased. Consumerism just eats everything up and on its current trajectory will lead to our auto-destruction. However, the sages of the wisdom traditions from every part of the world are also part of our common human heritage.
The problems of consumerism and the legacies of successive revolutions (agricultural, industrial, technological) which have severed us from so much of the support structure of tribal gathering and collective, practical wisdom are not problems of individual nation states or politicised economic groupings, but of us all.
When we practice yoga, real yoga, when we practice reconciliation with reality as it is, when we practice connecting with more of who we really are so we may connect more wholly in any encounter, this impacts all our relationships and can bring us to a place where the harmonising influence of our presence reaches much deeper and further than we may even dream.
But first, we must gather: ourselves and together. Because for the vast majority of human beings, the work of gathering one’s soul needs the support of the other, the catalysing, tempering and reflective agency of group support. In the collective wisdom of many traditional societies it is said that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Given the way we are plundering our environment, squandering so many of our resources and blithely ploughing a furrow of self-sabotage, we might equate humanity to a spoilt and unschooled infant. But the infant has great gifts and great potential. We just need the counsel and the wisdom of the elders, and we all carry some of this. So let us gather.