Sunday, March 20, 2011

The world around me

What do you do when it seems as though the world is falling down around you?
Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily have to be understood, to date, in the metaphorical sense as in which it is usually spoken. It does seem that the world is falling down with respect to what has gone on in Japan over the last 9 days. I've been both

1. impressed


2. vehemently discouraged

with humankind during this catastrophe specifically (as with most all of them, actually), and this is probably a common sentiment during any global disaster. I've been impressed with what I've seen as to how the Japanese people are handling this disaster. I'm not necessarily referring to Japan's government or any regulatory group, but rather the people... the people that have been most affected. On Rachel Maddow's MSNBC evening news show, specifically during the last 5-10 min. of the show, she showed footage of a few of the rescue efforts that were most compelling (15 March 2011 episode, I podcast it on iTunes). Mind you, these were not military helicopters scooping up people, these were human chains, people carrying other people... heart warming. There has likely been more footage than I can even imagine floating around the airwaves the past week. Given that I don't have a TV with any English channels, this limits me from unintentionally seeing anything, which I think is good. I have to actively pursue it on the internet, and for that reason I go only to sources I believe to be reputable. This helps, as I don't think I could handle the other side of disaster right now, and by that I mean the propaganda, the lunacy, the fear mongering in the media and in the general public, the hate, the ignorance, the disrespect. That's the ugly side of this and I think that, regardless of how serious the potential for meltdown is at Fukushima, it will be how the world handles it that will be the tipping point, not the fact that it's happened. It's how you handle catastrophe and chaos... hmmm...

Having said all of that, what about in every day life? What happens when the (2.) latter description (vehement disappointment) overshadows the (1.) first description (impressed) in your daily routine? I have what I call IHHK (I Hate Hong Kong, not I HEART Hong Kong, as the image to the left portrays... I have those days too, though!) days, and the frequency of these days occurring is roughly 3 days per week lately. Sure, I have IHHK moments, but when I have a full IHHK day, I worry. Can I liken it to sitting in front of the TV watching Fox News -- or some other right-wing, conservative, fear-mongering media conglomerate -- mindlessly letting them fill my head and heart with whatever they think is going on or whatever they think is important? So, in a sense, I'm letting the parts of the outside world -- in this case Hong Kong and it's residents, language, culture -- shape me, and determine my perception of the world and myself. Granted, there are aspects of the culture here that I like, but the ones I do not like are more numerous and profound for me. So, it does seem, often, that the world, not just on a global scale, when disaster strikes, but also on a local scale when immersed in a different country and culture, is falling down around me.

I can look at my yoga classes to see this resonates on a more personal level too. Of course, yoga is my great metaphor of life! So, I could rephrase the question that I posed at the beginning of this blog.

What do you do when the rest of the yoga students in your class are falling down around you?

Sometimes, I fall too. Lately, I've been falling a lot and not necessarily because I'm pushing myself to the outer periphery of my virtual capacity and abilities in my yoga practice. I'm falling because I'm distracted. I'm paying attention to other people's issues and challenges, the limits of their abilities, their perceived weaknesses, etc. rather than my own. Sometimes I pass judgement too. I think to myself, "wow, if they would have only listened to the step-by-step instructions of the teacher, instead of rushing, they'd have at least made some progress in the posture" or maybe even "they aren't even trying." Then I fall. It's only when I come back to my intentions, bridge my ego with my intentions (topic for my next post I promise), centre myself, draw awareness to my core, an focus my gaze that I am in my own balance again. Sometimes this is impossible for me until that final Shivasana.

For example, today I practiced hot yoga with Bernadette Leung. During the practice, some lady
one or two mats away from me was burping or making some sort of pig snort for the entire hour, and not just one every 10 min. or so, literally several sounds per minute! It was so loud and so guttural, I was horrified! While usually I would just acknowledge that "WTF?" thought bubble that is perpetually above my head, today it disappeared and all I could do was get really angry about it. It was affecting me and my practice and offending me personally. The thoughts that entered my thought bubble, hence pushing the benign "WTF?" out of there, included but were not limited to the following:

"What on earth did you eat?"

"Do you realize how loud you are?"

"Your burping is making you fall out of every posture!"

"I can't see any of your knuckles or joints, do you have chronic edema... and again, what do you eat that makes your body respond this way?"

"Is yoga part of the solution? If so, that's fine, but maybe a private class is a better idea."

I either wanted to ask her what was wrong or exclaim "jing dee!!" I looked around, and it didn't seem as though the other 50 students were even as close to being as affected as I was, however.

Ok, so what is wrong with me then? There were several times when I regained my focus and was able to ignore the disturbance. There was no acceptance, however... during those times, I was just ignoring... ignorance? Ignorance is bliss? What does this all mean in the grand scheme of things, though? If I were to use the "just ignore it" or "ignorance" tactic for the LOCAL and GLOBAL examples above, what would that look like? NOT GOOD! As I mentioned, it's hard enough in a full, sweaty, technically challenging yoga class to acknowledge and regain your focus and go back to your core strength and deep-rooted knowledge with every little disturbance you experience. That's a daily challenge, and some are better at it than others.

Indeed, we're all at different stages of our journeys. When the disturbance gets so profound, maintaining our centre is more difficult. Fighting fire with fire isn't the answer either though. LOCALLY, if that were the case, during my daily commute, I'd intentionally step on peoples toes, push and shove, talk really loudly on my phone, burp without covering my mouth, eat really stinky food while slurping it loudly... the list goes on. On a PERSONAL level, if fighting fire was the case during my yoga class, I'd stomp loudly and slam the door when entering the studio, I'd drop my water bottle and not think a thing about it, and instead of burping 3 times
per minute for an hour, maybe I'd pass gas from the other end just as frequently to add the smell component to the situation. Although, maybe I already have a strange smell to me, as Asians say Westerners smell like cheese. Would it have been the same if someone was farting 3 times per minute for the entire class? I'd die to be a fly on the wall of that yoga studio (with a clothes pin on my nose, of course). Finally, we all know what it looks like when fire is fought with fire on a GLOBAL scale. It is not usually productive over the long term and can usually heighten catastrophe and chaos. That's definitely NOT how Japan is dealing with things in my mind, which is good and a relief. What I see is the workers of Fukushima Daiichi doing what they know to be the right response protocol, using every resource they have and all of the safety training under their belt to make sure that the situation does not get worse. Meanwhile the brilliant engineers are using all of their knowledge, a collective intelligence that could never be quantified, to come up with short-term and long-term solutions so that not only the area but the entire country and Asia, for that matter, stays safe. They are learning and will continue to learn a ton from this, no doubt, and likewise for the rest of the world. Indeed, there have been some amazing scientists interviewed on TV (several on Rachel Maddow's show) and radio that have informed the general public as to the ins and outs of this disaster from their scientific perspective, but in lay man's terms, which is crucial. Again, they are leaning on their core strength, which is their education and capacity to educate others... not fear.

So, what's to be said from all of this? I've outlined my current and timely thoughts and examples for what happens when the distracted and panic buttons are pushed on a GLOBAL, LOCAL, and PERSONAL scale. If yoga is the metaphor for my life, and what Bernadette said in class today:

"Your yoga practice is an outward expression of who you are."

rings true, then that is the most important lesson I can learn right now. My annoyance and anger and frustration today... that is not who I am... the core strength, focus, education, intelligence, foresight, and intentional actions that I had a few glimpses of this morning... that's me, and not just in yoga, but also in every day life. Namaste नमस्ते...



  1. In today's society, we are given validation that feeling negative emotions is normal,if not ok. But do these emotions ever serve us well, or aid in our quest to put the pieces of our world back together? No, not really if we are honest. However, what these emotions can do, is give us a sense of gratitude if we are willing to put a positive spin on them.

    When our world (global, local or personal) is falling apart, we can be grateful for good friends, partners, family that are there to support us and with whom we can share our lives. We can be grateful for our health, that we are living and breathing, and if you are reading this blog it means your brain is functional. Be grateful too, that in this time of adversity or overwhelming circumstance, you are actively learning a life lesson. The greatest lessons often come with the greatest sacrifice or cost, but they are priceless in shaping the people we are. One day, you will look back on this period in your life and say,"I survived that and you know what? It has made me stronger."

    While the author is unknown, I hope this quote provides some inspiration:

    "Do not fear the winds of adversity. Remember: A kite rises against the wind rather than with it."

    May you soar upward Jodie, we know you will be the most beautiful (and aerodynamically accurate) kite in the sky. But always remember, that should the prevailing winds ever become too much, your friends and loved ones represent the string attached to you, the kite, and we will always pull you to safety.

  2. Wow, well written Jodie! :)
    I think the first step is always awareness. Once we are aware of something we didn't know before, a shift in our perspective begins to happen. The frustration we feel may occur because the shift doesn't happen as quickly as we would like - at least, this is what I'm beginning to think about my frustrations.

    The awareness we bring to our consciousness will inevitably change the way we view the world and as a result transform the way we are in the world. We are an evolving species with evolving conciousness'. I believe my ultimate goal is to be a positive part in this evolutionary process in order to make the collective life experience of all beings on earth a more harmonious one.

    I get frustrated when these shifts don't happen as quickly as I would like them to, but I'm trying to place my trust in time, and the idea that the shift will happen as long as I continue to allow my awareness to expand and grow.

    With luck, these shifts will happen on a global scale before the human species wears out its welcome on this planet.

  3. Thank you both... indeed, awareness is key... and I feel both richer and stronger having had the people and experiences in my life that I've had thus far... I do look forward to every day! If not for those memorable moments... at least I can count on the "WTF?" moments for a good laugh!