We Are All Connected

HBO has a new ad running on social media that looks to be a plug for the network, but also feels a bit like a political statement, borrowed from the ancient yogic texts.

The ad reads “It’s What Connects Us.” The video that accompanies the ad portrays a variety of HBO actors and actresses saying “ah”, one at a time, until they all slowly melt together. Together their voices create the familiar tone that accompanies the HBO logo at the start of all of their programs.

It’s an absolutely brilliant use of one of the great teachings of yoga: “we are all connected”. This theme is found throughout ancient yoga texts from Yoga Sutras to Bhagavad Gita. There is so much about this idea in yoga, but the ad specifically reminds me that the sound “om”, or “aum” as it is traditionally written, is believed to be the sound of the universe working together. HBO is missing two of the syllables–it is actually pronounced “ah-oh-m”, in three syllables, but still, the meaning is similar.

When we chant “aum” in community, the result is much like the sound we would hear if flying high above the earth, listening to all beings at work and play. The constant buzz of people milling about their days creates a beautiful and meaningful vibration. It confirms that every life has a unique and important purpose.

It’s interesting to note, also, that the three syllables in “aum” each have a meaning–the A stands for creation, U stands for preservation, and M stands for dissolution. The entire life cycle in one word!

I love how this ad demonstrates the importance of perspective to recognize connection. We all need to take a step back once in a while. right?! Although each individual “ah” in the video is not particularly inspiring, as the faces blur and the voices blend, it makes a joyful noise.

Maybe you have noticed this in your yoga classes? Some classes offer three “aums”, and the first can sound cacophonous, but by the third, the sound is quite beautiful. This phenomenon occurs because we begin our chant alone, but quickly find our connection to each other through shared energy.

It’s a lot like life–so much of what we do each day can feel mundane, disconnected, and less than inspiring, especially if we do it alone. Taking a step back, however, we realize that we each have important work to do, and we begin to see that everything works together for higher purposes. Our responsibility is to stay on our unique path–yogis call this dharma–and trust the struggles, believing that everything that happens holds meaning.

Perhaps most importantly, HBO’s “It’s What Connects Us” ad reminds us that the idea of separation is an illusion. Our minds may tell us that we are alone, but the truth is that we are all connected, even if it sometimes does not seem that way. The high and the low, the good and the bad, the interesting and the boring, the beautiful and the ugly, all support the beautiful harmony of the universe. Just as the artist uses dark and light colors to define his work, the contrasts of life are necessary and beautiful forces for connection. Thank you, HBO, for this reminder.

 

Discipline And Dharma

544954_447580958662894_1146899417_nI had an epiphany last night. I realized that this blog is not as much about letting go & living well, as it is about discipline & dharma.

Because, if I have learned anything in 15 years on my mat, it is that discipline is the path to living a purposeful life. Or, as yogis like to say, fulfilling our dharma. Fulfilling our dharma makes us happy, and that is a beautiful thing.

Discipline

I thought discipline was a dirty word before I got into yoga. Why would anyone do the same thing, day after day? What could be more boring?

I liked having the freedom to do whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and not feel guilty about it. I wanted to be able to run, if I wanted to run. To swim if I wanted to swim. And to blow it all off, when I wasn’t in the mood to exercise.

Yoga changed all that. In 1998, I discovered that a little bit of yoga, every day, changed my body, my mind, and my spirit, more rapidly than I thought possible. I started seeing muscles in places I had never had muscles before, my battle with migraines got easier, and I felt more connected to God. I also craved healthy food for the first time ever, and spent less and less time in front of the TV with a pint of Haagan Dazs.

Little by little, and practice by practice, yoga shifted everything I believed about myself, and the world around me. I learned to reject the voices that told me it was ok to skip a day, and embraced the idea that daily discipline makes me happy. It really, truly did, and it still does, after 15 years.

Why did I experience such profound changes? Because, as I eventually learned, yoga is the most efficient practice for uniting the mind, body and soul. I realized that without it, my life felt fractured. With it, however, I incrementally found my way to becoming whole. Yoga became a foundation for living my life on purpose.

Dharma

I was “getting into yoga”, around the same time that Rick Warren made a lot of money teaching us about The Purpose Driven Life. It was the late 1990s, and Rev. Warren challenged us to answer to the question, “What On Earth Am I Here For?”

I remember thinking, as I read Rev. Warren’s book, that this is the exact same question yogis have been asking for thousands of years, in pursuit of their dharma.

Yogis believe that there are eight specific disciplines that help us fulfill our dharma. They are known as The Eight Limbs, and are outlined in great detail in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Here’s what they mean in a nutshell:

1. Interact with others ethically.

2. Treat ourselves respectfully.

3. Prepare our physical body for stillness.

4. Breathe with awareness and intention.

5. Release attachments that interfere with our relationship with God.

6. Cultivate self-awareness.

7. Meditate.

8. Seek unity with God.

This might sound like rhetoric to some, but anyone who has a daily yoga practice will tell you that it’s very real, and it works. When we repeat these practices, over and over again, with intention and awareness, we discover who we are, and how we are supposed to live.

Isn’t that we all want? To know why we are here, and what we are supposed to do with our time on earth?

We all struggle with discipline…it’s human nature. It’s also human nature, however, to be resilient. Trust the struggle, reject the voices that tell you that you can’t, and just do it. Go create yourself!

If you are not sure where to begin, start here. And let me know if you need a little help or encouragement.

Daily discipline will help you live your dharma. And that will make you happy. I promise.

Happy National Yoga Month, my friends!

Namaste,

Amber