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The Other January 6

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The Other January 6 Act Like a Yogi No More Resolutions

Nope, it’s not Boxing Day. It’s not New Year’s Day. The Last Holiday of the season is January 6. For 2021 years, before this date was associated with a certain insurrection, January 6 has been known as Twelfth Night. The 12 Days of Christmas mark the time between the birth of Jesus on December 25 and the arrival of the three kings, aka the wisemen, at the manger.

That kings, endowed with worldly power and wealth, sought spiritual guidance from a baby born to impoverished parents, evokes the core of Christian theology:

Power submits to Grace Experience (wise old men) yields to innocence and purity (an infant) Worldly knowledge bows to eternal wisdom The material (gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh) offers itself to the spiritual The profane submits to the divine The head (mind, brain) listens to the heart.

Yet it’s odd that in France, “la Fete des Rois” (“Festival of the Kings”) seems to favor the person who finds the gold coin in the cake: The winner is crowned king for the day.

And even more odd that in our secular American culture this is the week that kids go back to school and grownups go back to work. We exit the “holy days” spent in religious or cultural rituals and knuckle down to our very material routines. We start paying off holiday extravagances, from overspending to overeating to over-indulgence of all sorts. We prioritize our finances as we prepare for Tax Season. And we retreat from gatherings with loved ones to the isolation of individual routine.

ACT LIKE A YOGI

The root of the word “yoga” means to “yoke together.” Yoga never asks us to separate the material from the spiritual, worldly from holy, head from heart. Instead, yoga asks us to hold these seeming opposites together in a powerful if unstable union. As householder yogis (people with jobs, mortgages, spouses and kids and aging parents, student loan debt and car payments and the rest) we are tasked with integrating our spiritual beliefs into our daily lives. We connect what we hear in temple or church with what we do and say at the office. We don’t behave differently on holy days and every day. We don’t act differently in the yoga studio and on the sidewalk or parking lot.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you strike yoga poses out there, unless you have a strong exhibitionist streak and don’t mind a potential fall onto hard pavement.

Instead, we could all practice the yogic yamas (restraints or ethical principles) and niyamas (personal observances)—yoga’s equivalent of the 10 Commandments. I’ve cherry-picked a few as good starting points for this lifelong practice:

Ahimsa (non-harming)

  1. Ahimsa (non-harming). This is the first and most comprehensive of the lot. If we commit to not harming anyone or anything (including ourselves), we don’t need to break down the other nine, which are facets of this guiding principle. Yoga asks us to practice ahimsa at all times, in all situations, with everyone and everything. In thought, word, and deed. It’s a tall order, demanding a perfection none of us will ever achieve. Still, we can set the intention and do our best. As a character in a James Joyce short story toasts his barroom buddies, “To have lived so long and done so little harm!”

Sattya (truthfulness)

  1. Sattya (truthfulness). This goes way beyond not telling lies. We must be true to ourselves, living authentic lives and not making up stories to justify our behavior (or, conversely, to beat ourselves up). We must allow others to be who they are, and we have to relinquish the delusion that we can stage-manage the world. We remain right-sized, neither victims nor masters of the universe.

Santosha (contentment)

  1. Santosha (contentment). I love this one because it runs counter to just about every impulse in our driven culture. When was the last time you savored, with quiet enjoyment, the abundance of material and human support that surrounds you? The body you’ve been given, or the roles you’ve been allowed to play? Winnie the Pooh—a humble, bumbling, contented creature—illustrates the sweetness of santosha, offset by the poles of Eeyore’s depression and Rabbit’s need to control. Yurtle the Turtle suffers the consequences of a discontented life, climbing to the top of the heap only to land in the mud.

Before you dash off to the next thing, take a pause and picture yourself contented with your true place in this universe. From there, ahimsa will flow naturally: There’s no need to step on anyone’s toes or reach for more than your share. Instead, the gratitude that everyone’s so busy making lists about will become your resting state.

Yoga News Jan 13, 2023

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