|The Anarchist Swami and Me|
|Wednesday, 01 February 2012 00:00 | Written by Jessica Dallas | Blog Entry|
Yoga advocates encourage their students to work with natural forces rather than against them. This is, in practice and theory, a philosophy that tends toward deep observation of nature and human interaction with it. Back in the day, students would retreat into the natural world regularly to deepen their practice.
One of my mentors, Swami Nirmalanda, was a huge proponent of the ecology of yoga and was known to many as “the Anarachist Swami,” due to his encouragement of personal reflection upon one’s spiritual values and their incorporation into daily living. Being an angry teenager with a big anarchist “A” on all her school materials, Nirmalanda spoke my language.
He taught me about being vegan. He was one of the first advocates of a dairy-free lifestyle in vegetarian India. He was a forager and in many ways a raw-foodist who chose to live in the wilds of India despite his wide following. His aspiration, to walk hand in hand as “a playmate and companion of Nature” in many ways encouraged the serious little Western practitioners like myself to evolve out of the “yoga of potted plants” (where one’s practice takes place in a private studio and is independent of one’s effects upon the planet) and into the yoga of balance and integration.
Nirmalanda was of the belief that internal issues are mirrored reflections of our external environments. So in an effort to reduce one’s inner turmoil, one should reduce one’s outer turmoil (e.g., acts that exploit the planet) and practice as close to the Earth as possible. When you’re doing less harm, you have more opportunities to concentrate on the real task at hand—conquering your neuroses and serving others. This is a formidable undertaking, but one worth pursuing. My latest task has been one of questioning the impact that I am making upon my inner and outer world.
And as with all things, there is a certain level of disconnect in my practice. I yearn to get closer to the Earth in my forward bends, but I have a growing pregnant belly that prevents me from direct contact. I go to work, I return home and mother my kids, I welcome the haven of my studio with its potted plant, yoga mat and silence. It is a pretty funny interaction. But it is, as they say, the reality of the householder, the worker bee, the parent, the person who has elected to forgo the spiritual mountain top and do the western living thang at the present time.
I would wager that there is a schism in the green community as well, between the two extremes of the householders and the academics/researchers. Those who are making tons of babies and increasing the carbon footprint of the human species and those who are refraining from eating much of anything for fear of increasing the body of methane emissions.
The ever-evolving point in all of this life confusion is not whether to continue to live (fart, breathe, require shelter, clean water) but how to live. That is where I see my role in terms of the householder, the one who is neither better nor worse than the ascending yogi or academic researcher. We are all proponents of truth. In seeking clarity on the subject, I frequently return to what my mentor used to say: “In order to live in freedom, it is most important not to be influenced by anything that causes brainwashing, mind conditioning and distortion of human values.”
This includes my politics and my practice. Most importantly, this references my call to refrain from judgment and hearken toward increasing education and love for others who are at a different place on the same path and creating a world a bit better for our children than the one we were born into. Human values of tolerance and love come into greater contrast with those of dissension and judgment when we discuss the future of the Earth and our participation in that future.
I would bet that all of us can learn something from the other when we get ever more inclusive and less fearful.
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