Pandemic or Panacea? A Message Of Hope. COVID19, 2020
Amidst a whirlwind couple of weeks – now that some of the dust has settled – many of us are beginning to assimilate “the pandemic”.
During these past weeks of universal upheaval, as each day has unfolded it has gotten stranger. And, strange has become the new norm.
The heat of radical change has been deeply felt, both globally and on a cellular level. In a yogic sense, this ‘heat’ of change is referred to as Tapas, and is characterised by the pain or ‘burn’ involved in the thick of any catharsis, crisis, cleansing, or metamorphosis.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed, I have felt myself moving through the stages of what could be likened to a kind of grief. First it was the initial disbelief and confusion. Then, the shock, in hearing about the rise of the virus and the many people infected, effected, and dying across all parts of the globe.
Then came the anger and conjecture of how it all began. Who were the people responsible for the initial development and spread, and how could they be so careless as to allow this to unfold in the way that it has?
Then it was fear, worry and wonder. How many people in our community have the virus, and how will it affect those nearest and dearest to us?
Then the heartfelt sorrow took hold in recognition of how one tiny virus could potentially wipe out an entire nation, and effect each and every one of us, in every aspect of our lives.
But as with all grief, if you ride it out with courage and faith, eventually there comes a light. A moment of illumination, and the understanding that beyond all adversity, awaits the gifts of humility and grace.
In her writings on the Yamas & Niyamas (the foundation and ethical practice of classical yoga), Deborah Adele speaks on the Niyama of Tapas, and the ‘heat of change.’
“There is a bumper sticker which states, ‘A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’ Tapas can take us to the place where all of our resources are used up, where there is nothing left but weakness, where all of our so-called ‘props’ have been taken away. It is in this barren place, where we have exhausted all that we have and all that we are, that new strength is shaped and character is born if we choose to fearlessly open ourselves to the experience. It is perhaps the greatest gift life could offer us.”
Deborah goes on to share some thoughts on Charlene Westerman’s speech on catharsis; the dangers and the possibilities.
“During these times we have two choices: we can break down or we can break open. We can’t prevent these times of catharsis in our lives or know their shape or outcome, but we can prepare ourselves for them through our daily practice, through building our ability to stay in unpleasantness, and through the small, daily choices we make.”
In the few weeks leading up to now, the 27th March, 2020, I sensed the slow but certain “lockdown” approaching, and chose to take some timeout from work and the world, for myself and my family, prior to the closure of all gyms and yoga studios. My partner and I made the conscious choice to remove our daughter from school at the first talk of school closures overseas, mostly as we had the capacity to do so, and to do our bit in slowing down the spread of the virus.
My own take on the pandemic, after two weeks of social distancing and contemplation is that Mother Earth has spoken. A global shift of this measure has been necessary, and perhaps overdue. We have been going too fast for too long. Consuming more than our fair share, accumulating ’stuff,’ living in a state of disconnect, and moving so fast that amidst this quickening the important stuff has been pushed to the back burner.
For many of us, prior to this, we had been living unmindfully and insensibly, oblivious to the damage we were doing to the planet, to one another, and to ourselves. We had lost touch with the experience of stillness and heart-felt connection.
For many of us, now, what we have before us is a great gift in disguise. “Perhaps the greatest gift life could offer us.”
It may be hard to see or feel right now, amidst the madness, media noise, and haste.
But, if you can, try this exercise right now.
Take 15 minutes away from the news, away from family, housemates, pets, colleagues.
If it’s day time where you are, find a spot somewhere quiet, where you can feel the rays of the sun on your skin – or at least be near them – and the gentle breeze caressing you.
If it’s night, go outside, somewhere peaceful, find a comfortable seat, and light a candle.
Close your eyes.
Still your mind.
Attune to the sounds of nature.
Feel the softness of light on your face.
Feel the inspiration of breath in your lungs.
This breath, this stillness, this deep connect, is love.
It is the heart of yoga.
It is here, in this space, we enter the gratitude consciousness; the Namaste Consciousness. It is an acute awareness of our profound interdependence. Our interconnectedness.
Here, in this space, in the heart of yoga, we cultivate the healing energy of gratitude.
We send out gratitude to those on the front line who are working night and day in incredibly stressful conditions for our livelihood and wellbeing.
We invite in gratitude for this newfound ‘time’ many of us have been gifted. Time to catch up on the things of true importance. Time to immerse ourselves in our passions. Time to connect with those we have neglected. Time to connect with ourselves. Time to be.
This is the real.
In the Desiderata it states, “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
This unfolding of life altering events has to be for the greater good of our highest Selves, and for the evolution of humanity. Nature will always default back to balance in one way or another.
We are amidst a moment to moment awakening unto a brave new world. A new way of seeing. A new way of being. A newfound appreciation for all that is. And, in those moments of quiet and calm, we can easily attune to this new frequency.
Faith and daily practice is critical during this time.
We have the green light from the powers that be to take time out, self-isolate, and socially distance; the ideal conditions to work on our infrastructure, and to contemplate what it truly is to be a positive participant on this blue rock we call home.
And, as the planet is insisting we strip it back to basics, it is the perfect time to start again, and rebuild from the ground up. In our lives… beyond the superficial. In our yoga practice… beyond the physical.
In B.K.S. Iyengar’s, Light on Yoga, he reiterates, “Without firm foundations a house cannot stand. Without the practice of the principles of yama and niyama, which lay down firm foundations for building character, there cannot be an integrated personality. Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics.”
Although an asana practice is always of great benefit to keep the body and its systems strong, now more than ever, it is the practice of the foundations of yoga that will be our greatest ally.
The Yamas – Non-Hostility & Kindness, Honesty & Transparency, Non-Stealing (from yourself, your neighbour, the earth), Moderation, Non-Greed & Non-Hoarding.
The Nimayas – Cleanliness, Contentment & Gratitude, Self-Discipline & Tolerance, Self-Study & Contemplation, Surrender & having faith in God (whether that be a religious God, the highest Self, or Mother Nature).
The conscious breath. The seated meditation. The stillness.
Psalm 46:10 states, “be still and know that I am God.”
The second of the yoga sutras affirms just that. Yoga is to be found in stillness.
And, as Deborah Adele proposes in her writings on Tapas, and the heat of change… we must trust that on the other side of any crisis, awaits a panacea.
“Can we stand the heat of being dismantled and changed forever by the fire? Can we prepare ourselves daily through our practice, our staying power, and our choices? Can we stay in the burning with integrity? Can we hold on for the blessing?”
Discover more about Tapas, the Yamas, and the Niyamas in the ‘Rock Your Chakras, Roll Your Yamas, Yoga Toolbox for Life.’ It may be of support during this time, and can be delivered to your door! 🙂
Find it here:
Or, connect with me on any of these platforms for on-the-fly information on upcoming online classes and courses:
Author: Tanaya Ti’en