By Maya Angelou
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God. Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us as we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come. Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
implore you to stay awhile with us so we may learn by your shimmering light
how to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices to celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud. Peace.
We look at our world and speak the word aloud. Peace.
We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
This is a poem about seeing Oneness through pain and fear. Although I am Jewish, I have always loved Christmas time. It always felt to me like a time of great love and benevolence and kindness, a warmth that envelops humanity during a cold December. It’s the time of the year that we set aside our differences, we look beyond race, religion, ethnicity, sex, and see the Shree (auspicious beauty) in everything and everyone. We all dig a little deeper to our own innate goodness and open-heartedness and offer it a little more freely and liberally. In class this morning we started on our backs to start with the feeling of openness and softness that savasana gives us. Starting the practice in savasana (which doesn’t mean you skip it in the end, you get to do it twice!) imbibes the practice with a sense of softness and a feeling of peaceful tranquility that then guided us through our poses. Then we worked on bringing a backbend into every pose we did, reminding us that whatever pose we find ourselves holding, in life or on the mat, we can choose to approach it with an open heart.
As we spoke about last week (see last week’s blog entry if you missed class!), when the world starts to get chaotic, Vishnu the Sustainer incarnates to restore order. In the Mahabharata he incarnates as Krishna, seemingly a man and a king, friend and advisor to the Pandava brothers. The characters in the story overlook his divinity. They don’t see it. How often do we do the same thing? We get caught up in our daily routine and forget to seek out the highest in ourselves and those around us. Yogi Bhajan said “If you can’t see God in all then you can’t see God at all.” Holidays are time to see the divine in all, starting with ourselves.
We are living in busy, complicated, and often chaotic times (was anyone else a little freaked out that in the same week in December we had 4 inches of snow and a 70 degree day??). It’s easy to go into contraction, to close our hearts and protect them. The holiday season can be the invitation to do the opposite. To choose to see the Shree. To choose to be nice, kind, benevolent, generous, not of wallet but of spirit. To choose to look into the eyes of every person we meet and see divinity and oneness first. And it is our responsibility as yogis to be open and receptive to those very same qualities when they are offered to us. To focus on the checkout girl who offers a Christmas blessing (whether you celebrate the holiday or not) rather than the guy in the parking lot who stole your spot. The sweet thank you hug from a grateful niece rather than the griping about the meal by an allergy-ridden cousin. You get the idea.
Lao Tzu said:
“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”
This season the best gift you can offer those around you is to cultivate peace in your own heart. 2 savasanas per day should do it…if not, add a round of meditation or a few restorative backbends. Chant a few rounds of Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu, invoking this blessing: May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Let your peaceful presence be the present to all those around you this season and always. Wishing you all abundant blessings, from my heart to yours, for a beautiful Christmas and a Happy New Year.