I’ve been in bed with the post-JetBlue flu, alternating between feeling sorry for myself, then guilty because, let’s face it: I have it so much better than the Syrian and Afghan refugees who are all over the news. There’s no easy Hallmark card tagline to get out of this one.
The Syrian refugee crisis is happening to someone else, to many “others” across the ocean. Does that mean it isn’t affecting “us” over here? A yoga practice worth its sweat teaches us about the laws of nature. One of these natural laws is that everything is connected. But what does that actually mean? Here’s a metaphor within yin yoga that provides a living example of environmental connectivity.
We think of muscles as these individual units that act on specific joints. And they do. But if you ever roll one foot around on a tennis ball (which we do a lot of in Integrative Healing Yoga Therapy Yoga Teacher Training) and then lean over into a forward bend, you’ll feel the left/right difference from head to toe — hamstrings, back, neck and shoulders, one arm may even appear to be longer than the other.Connective tissue is so pervasive that, if you were to remove everything but the connective tissue, remove muscles and organs and nerves… you’d still have the distinct shape of a human body in front of you. (If you’re interested, Anatomy Trains has a great article on this topic.) Your connective tissue is the environment surrounding and permeating your muscle cells. The philosopher Marshall McLuhan said, “Environments are not passive wrappings, but, rather, active processes which are invisible. The ground-rules, pervasive structure, and over-all patterns of environments elude easy perception.”
Just because we can’t see our interconnectedness, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And just because the logical mind may blanche at the notion of interconnectivity, certainly this doesn’t mean we are immune to its influence. The first step in being with the pain of bearing witness to other people’s suffering is to acknowledge that it exists in the first place. When we perceive or feel how we’re all in this organic environmental soup together, practices like metta (loving-kindness meditation) have more meaning (For more on that, here’s another link: Metta & Anger Management.)
Yoga practice, with its inherent intentionality and mindfulness is the first action. Metta may be either the result, or the second step. Taking action gets us out of the rut of feeling impotent and hopeless. When we truly feel the inherent me-in-you-ness/you-in-me-ness of the world, our creative passions are channeled into any number of purposeful actions.
Here’s a list of charities who are already set up to help our extended family in Syria. Donating money is not the only way, but it’s an intentional acknowledgement of our interconnectedness.
American Refugee Committee www.arcrelief.org A+
Catholic Relief Services www.crs.org A+
Charity Ratings https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-hot-topic/syrian-humanitarian-relief/4