Uncovering Peace

My beloved teacher, Sivakami, told me that if you are uncertain about what to do, where to go or how best to move forward, then choose the option that brings you peace.  This works the other way around too: if you are feeling unsettled and unsure, if you do not feel peace in your heart and mind, then ask yourself where and how you can find it.  Ask what you need to let go of or move towards in order to feel it.

Where do you look for peace?  I look for it in the woods, on mountains and in the ocean.  I look for it on my yoga mat and on my meditation cushion; I seek it in my breath and in the movement of my body; I see it in my teachers and hear it in the tone of their books; I watch for it in my students, young and old, and I observe it blooming within them when they practice. 

Peace is nowhere else.  I do not climb mountains to look for it there; peace lives in my heart, being alone on a mountain just reminds me of that fact.  Peace is always within us; it is our natural state.  Yoga is a way that we turn to the peace in our hearts, over and over again.

I attended a workshop last week in London; it was Friday night and I waited outside a busy studio for the class to finish and the room to empty before my session began; I was surprised to see the faces of the people streaming out of that yoga studio after 90 minutes of yoga; it was not peace that I saw shining there, but ruddiness, annoyance and tired short-temperedness.  I wondered what they had spent the previous hour and a half looking for in that yoga studio, if not for peace.

I know that there are lots of things that people gain from a yoga practice and I understand that there are many reasons why people come to their mats.  I know it makes you fit, increases your flexibility, improves lung-capacity and good-health.  I know it makes you feel good, challenges you and increases your sense of yourself and your capacities.  I am a recipient of all of these benefits.  I know that there is Hot Yoga and Laughter Yoga, Yin Yoga and Yang; there is Vinyasa Flow and Astanga, there is Kundalini and Sivananda.  Yoga styles are as various as the people who practice yoga and this has always been its beauty and its strength - yoga does not make you conform to it (be straight, be male, be rich, be poor); it moulds to suit you; you create your own path and within the course of your long life-time there is time and scope for you to evolve and to change according to what you are learning and what lessons you still need to learn. 

But a fit body is only a vessel for the peace inside and a comfortable and healthy body and mind is simply a better place for a peaceful soul to live.  That's all.  It doesn't matter what we do on our mat or how we do it; whether we sit, or stand, or leap or dance, whether it be in silence or with music, whether we chant or pray, or meditate or not; none of that matters.  The only thing that matters; the one thing that makes yoga different, is that yoga is always, always about seeking and finding peace.

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?"
 
Swami Satchidananda

 

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