A Brief for the Defense By Jack Gilbert
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies aren’t starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants. Otherwise mornings before dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal Tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future. Smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. Their is laughter everyday in the streets of Calcutta, and the woman laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord run us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. We must admit there will be music despite everything. We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning. To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.
A friend of mine posted this a couple months ago. It was in response to a heartbreaking situation in the world. There have been so many heartbreaks these past few months, I am having a hard time remembering what the particular tragedy might have been. The poem spoke right to my heart about how I have been feeling about my yoga practice.
More and more I feel called to do my yoga practice as a protest to all that is seeking to break me down and suck all the hope and light out of me. I remember when I heard that the mothers of the 200 kidnapped Nigerian school girls were not allowed to protest in front of the government building. I was in utter disbelief. What else can they do but protest?! I vowed that I would protest, right where I am. I would protest and not forget that their daughters and granddaughters and all our beloved sisters had been taken. I would dedicate all my love, strength, prayers, courage, vision, and fierce hope to those mothers and daughters. The government can’t tell me that I can’t protest.
So, this is how I have started to look at my yoga practice. As a protest. Something that I CAN do, as opposed to the infinite ways I can’t do a damn thing about all the suffering in the world. It has transformed my yoga practice into a prayer and a protest of hope that inspires and empowers me.
I do yoga to salvage my own broken heart. I do yoga in total gratitude, because I am so aware that so many people are weighed down by grief, fear, physical pain, depression, anger, isolation, danger, and only God knows what else. I do yoga so that I can stay present and fiercely hopeful in the midst of all this darkness, and not just curl up into ball, kicking at anyone who comes near me.
I think this quote from the poem by Jack Gilbert will be my mantra and theme of the year for Daily Bread Yoga;
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
What do you say? Let’s be so stubborn and fiercely hopeful (I might say that a hundred more times, please forgive me) as to do yoga in the midst of all that is trying to bring us down, make us fearful, angry, and hopeless. When I read what I just wrote it sounds so trite “to do yoga” …but seriously, what else can we do some days? Other than slum on Facebook all day reading 1,000 articles and posts about how messed up the world is. Ugh. I’m pretty done with that.
So, join me for some fiercely hopeful (I got it in again!) yoga. Look under “Schedule” on this blog for the weekly classes starting the week of Sept. 8th. The Beginner’s Retreat is Saturday, Aug. 23rd, 9a.m.-noon at Philo Presbyterian Church. And, starting on Monday, Sept. 22nd I’m offering a 6 week class series called “The Daily Series”, a series to deepen your practice and understanding of yoga so that you can have a daily practice, on your own, whether it is 15 minutes or an hour. Previous experience with yoga is strongly recommended for the Daily Series. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register for the Beginner’s Retreat or the Daily Series.
A whole lot of peace on your head,