Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Faith or Fear?

We have arrived at the brink of war in the Mahabharata (the famous war that is the subject of the Bhagavad Gita).  A few chapters ago the Pandava brothers lost a dice game and their kingdom along with it, but have now fulfilled their obligation by living out their 13 years in exile, earning their kingdom back. Duryodhana (who won the dice game) is reneging and refusing to restore them to their kingdom so it’s looking like a fight is imminent.

Arjuna (Pandava brother) and Duryodhana decide to seek advice from Krishna, who is a character and a man in this story, but is also an avatar of Vishnu and as such a God.  They arrive to speak with Krishna on the same day, Arjuna looking for advice, Duryodhana looking for an ally in the fight.  When they arrive Krishna is sleeping.  Duryodhana gets there first and flops down to wait by the head of his bed; Arjuna comes in after and stands by his feet, a respectful distance so as not to disturb him.  Krishna wakes up and asks why they are there, to which Duryodhana answers “There will be a war. Be on my side.”

Krishna refuses to fight but gives them each the choice to either have himself unarmed or an army of 10,000 warriors.  Arjuna chooses Krishna, and Duryodhana chooses the warriors.  Arjuna’s first request is that Krishna drive his chariot if it comes to battle, but to first go to talk to Dhritarastra (the blind king, father of Duryodhana and the Kaurava brothers) to try to broker a peace.  Dhritarastra, who is physically blind but also chooses to be blind to his sons’ behavior, refuses to talk to Krishna and refers him back to his son.  When Krishna goes back to Duryodhana, asking for him to fulfill his promise and return the land that belongs to Arjuna and his brothers, he recounts a story of his father giving away half of his kingdom when he was a child and says that he doesn’t want to lose what is his again and refuses Krishna’s entreaty. 

This is a story about choices and what guides us to make the decisions that we do.  When Arjuna makes the choice to take Krishna as his help rather than the 10,000 warriors, he is choosing to walk with the Divine, even though Krishna makes it clear that he will be unarmed.  It’s not the obvious choice, but it is a choice that is full of faith.  Can you imagine standing at the brink of a war and choosing God over an army?  And yet we have many examples of those who did just that and won the fight in the end (Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.).  Duryodhana chose the warriors, those who would fight and try to win by force. He made a choice from fear.  

When we read these stories we need to remember that every character represents ourselves - it's easy to picture ourselves as Arjuna, aligning with our faith.   But think about the story Duryodhana tells Krishna of losing his kingdom as a child. He was hurt.  He wasn’t feeling loved by his father, and was afraid that it was going to happen again.  Instead of facing that fear and hurt he chooses not only to hold onto it, but also to let it be a determining factor in his life. It becomes his "story".  I won’t tell you mine right now but we all have one - the "I got hurt in the past" story that clouds our vision, moves us from faith to fear, and unfortunately guides our decision making from time to time.  

What is guiding the choices you make?  Making the subtler, less obvious choice is not usually the easy route, but we have to ask ourselves if we are being guided by faith or fear, and which we want to bring forth as we decide on our path. Sharon Salzburg has a beautiful explanation of faith: "In Pali, faith is a verb, an action, as it is also in Latin and Hebrew.  Faith is not a singular state that we either have or don't have, but is something that we do.  We "faithe".  It is the willingness to take the next step, to see the unknown as an adventure, to launch a journey.”  There is a reason we start Anusara yoga practice with open to grace - it softens us, moves us from fear to love, makes us more open and receptive to the possibilities that making the subtle, less obvious choice might bring us.  So go out and “faithe”!

Off the Mat:
Think back to a time when you made a less obvious choice.  How did it work out for you?  How is that outcome guiding your current choices? 

On the Mat:
Open to Grace: Allow yourself to be breathed. Feel how the breath comes and goes without an effort on your part.  In Hebrew the word for breath and soul are nearly the same word - feel how your breath connects you to the ineffable - the life-force that breathes you.  Feel how it fills you and supports your life, both physically and also at the deeper level of the soul. Connect to your breath and your Source and let it become a stronger presence in your life so when you are faced with challenging decisions you have something deeper to draw on than just the obvious.  Align with your faith, tap into your innate intuition and inner wisdom, and let it guide your practice.

Muscular Energy: Draw from the outside, physical aspect of yourself, to the inside, subtle aspect of your being with faith
As your muscles tone, embrace your faith in whatever it is that supports and holds you

Kidney Loop: Breathe into the back part of your waistline, the part you can’t see, expanding your belief in all that you have faith in

Pelvic Loop: Tone your low belly with your conviction in making the faithful choice

The Choice
Danna Faulds

Is it faith or fear
that rises to the fore,
affirmation or negation
at the very core
and center of the self?

Will it be light or dark
Within the heart today?
The icy grip of fear
that knots and sours
leaving me to cower
in the shadows?

There is another way-
I know it as surely as I
know the scent of Spring.
The choice of faith
invites, invokes, calls forth
from all creation
both the blessing
and the lesson
of the day.

Whether faith or fear
the choice is mine alone.
Each moment, choosing,
stepping through the door
trusting that the path
beyond will surely
lead me home.