The past two years have been a time of incredible change, including reconnecting with nature and many of its attributes. For anyone who thought that they lived in isolation from mother nature, we all realized how interconnected humanity is.
The good news that’s happened during the pandemic is that the reduction in shipping and cruise ship traffic allowed whales to sing and listen to each other again in the Pacific Northwest, dolphins returned to the Venice canals, carbon emissions were reduced, the oil business nearly became extinct, confederate statues were removed and football was replaced by reading as a past time. Black lives have begun to matter more, and Indigenous land has been acknowledged more. People have done more walking and less driving, cooked more meals at home and eaten more meals and done more yoga with their families. People have had more time with their pets, bicycle sales went up and toilet paper consumption went down.
Rama Jyoti Vernon and Gratitude
Over the past 20 months, we have lost more souls than one can imagine. The official global death toll has passed 5 million and the full count is certainly much higher. Personally, I have seen eight amazing people pass from this realm to the next in the past year. One of them, Rama Jyoti Vernon, an incredible Yoga Teacher and Grandmother of Yoga in the United States passed last year.
In her book on the Yoga Sutras, Chapter II, Verse 32, 42 she describes the practice of Contentment, one of the Observances (Niyamas) of Yoga. “To be desire-less is to be content, tranquil and serene. If the mind is filled with movements of cravings, it is not content and concentrated.” Does this mean that contentment is a practice, and not a place of arrival or departure? Rama continues, “Contentment is a state of mind that must be cultivated so that the seeds of one-pointed singleness can grow into unwavering steadiness of thought.” If we are to really experience gratitude, as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras say, it is a practice we must cultivate.
Gratitude Practice During Interesting Times
Why do we want to go back to “normal”—is that really a desired state? Can we find a new normal that values the interconnectedness of life, supports nature and the earth, allows us to live in harmony with those whose beliefs are opposite to ours, and makes space for each soul’s expression and journey? Just as we can establish contentment on the yoga mat in any position, we can gather gratitude for any situation in life.
In my experience, I have come to find that those whom I might have initially thought of or treated as my “enemy” have turned out to be some of my greatest teachers. By encountering the projections I place on others, I have learned so much about myself and my subconscious. Rama says, “By contentment, supreme joy is gained.” This is not just mere gratitude but tear-wrenching uncontrollable joy.
If we can “expand the perimeters of our consciousness instead of staying in old, stuck patterns,” says Rama, we can explore the edge of our universe and bask in bountiful gratitude. As I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving, I also acknowledge the transformative potential of these “interesting times”. Through them all, we may be truly grateful for all that we are learning and all that we have.