Chinese artist and renegade Ai Weiwei has created something I for one can’t wait to witness:
I’ve been fortunate enough in the randomness of my advantages that I can dedicate time to a practice of contemplation and calm. I can step onto the secure space of my yoga mat, move with relative ease and strength, enjoy the peace of my environment, and rest. Many years ago my father, working in Yemen at the time, would say upon his return to Canada that “we live in Disneyland over here”. Still so true. Ease and freedom and peace are fantasies to much of the world’s people.
When I meet life outside of this Disneyland, I inevitably ask myself, What am I practicing? What does what I do actually do? Well, my yoga practice is a way of me living the kind of life all of us should be able to enjoy. It’s my personal practice of stepping up, moving through, staying focused, and training a state of balance in myself which helps me function well. Humans need to move.
Beyond this personal practice, though, is this other kind of human flow, one that’s forced, violent, destructive, destabilizing, alienating, one that Ai Weiwei has brought into focus. We’re still so incapable of taking care of ourselves and each other. We’re still so driven by aggression and self-protection and fear. We can’t be separate from it because we ARE it, we are all in this bonded human flow. We are all so lost until we can all rest in some degree of safe, free movement – from within our own primitive bodies to the vastness of our cut-up continents, until we can each have a secure space to move with ease and strength, and enjoy the peace of our spaces, until we can all rest.
Are there too many of us? Are we too chemically driven by underdeveloped brains to survive ourselves? Are we incapable of freedom? Do we only know how to learn through suffering? How do we make positive change in the face of such a vast diaspora?
I don’t know.
Can it start on my mat, in my movement practice? Can I feel empathy while focusing on my breath? Or do I want to hide there in my safe space? Do I resent the idea of having to think of others in that hour or so of time I’ve set aside to take care of myself? How can I connect my yoga flow with this human flow without being pulled apart by the riptide?
I start here, with this simple practice:
Sitting, imagining one person in the middle of such destruction across from me, I look them in the eye and say:
May you be at ease in the world (and I consider what that might mean)
May you feel safe and strong (and I consider what that might mean)
May you forgive and be forgiven (and I consider what that might mean)
May you love and be loved (and I consider what that might mean)
It’s toothless, but it’s a start. It changes my mind and heart. It moves me. Unless I take it off the mat, it does exactly nothing for anyone else. How do I take it off the mat … this is my next movement, my next flow …