I freely admit, I love disaster movies, apocalyptic movies, those insane movies where something that is a foundation of our beliefs, our systems, our assumptions, is questioned or nullified. President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on my 8th birthday (do the math), so that was likely my first experience with having the world tossed on its side. I was old enough to understand what had happened in the big picture, but not really able to grasp the nuance until a Mad Men episode eloquently illustrated the emotions of the day that went beyond loosing a cherished president.
My first big disaster movie was The Towering Inferno. A newly built, much heralded building considered state of the art and safe, catches fire and kills many. Not to spoil the ending of a decades-old movie, but the cause was contractors saving money, using substandard techniques, not xraying the welds. All the disaster movies that followed have the same theme, though. Some human frailty, be it greed, ignorance, pride, greed, or just greed, leads to a massive disaster and some hunky hero with massive scruples and burly biceps, saves what is left of the day.
Always awful is that so many innocents die in these movies, but that only serves to drive home the point of the suffering caused by the human frailty, and just makes us root for the handsome hero all the more.
But what I love about these movies is that the rug is pulled from under us. Water World gave us the idea that there was no land, no food, Mad Max gave us petrol shortages, Jurassic Park was greed again, Terminator movies taught us to distrust corporations. (Don’t get me started on Designated Survivor!) So many of these movies focus on one resource that we take for granted. Just as Buddhist teachings on death bring us to a deeper appreciation of life, these movies bring us to appreciation of what we have, and maybe, just maybe, motivate us to conserve it.
So here we are, living in our own disaster movie. OK, there is definitely no hunky hero that will save us. (I have no burning desire to see Dr. Anthony Fauci take his shirt off.) I am certain, though, that the movies made later will find an attractive actor to fill this void. (I’m thinking Clooney in a lab coat..) But everything we count on has been pulled out from under us, and we are left with our selves, our feelings, our deeply held beliefs, our selfish and selfless emotions, and our problems.
First, I want to say how proud I am that Genevieve and Suki had the biceps to make the decision to close Shree as the virus came into New Mexico. I am proud to be part of the movement of closing down, taking the awful financial hit, and being responsible adults. Yoga is so important to my life, in financial, physical, social and spiritual ways, yet this is bigger than me, or Shree.
When our worlds are tipped upside down, be it some personal loss, a death, or any tragedy, we often become fully alive. Routines are disrupted, nothing makes sense, the veneer is pulled back, and we learn who we truly are. We loose our reference points and fall into the acid trip of confusion.
As an 8 year old, I had little responsibility for anything, and a barely formed moral compass. 57 years later, there is a lot to fall back on. As a child, my birthday party was the most important thing in the world that day. My parents did not want me to feel slighted just because the country was in turmoil. As an adult, I hope to be a little bit less self absorbed, and look at the bigger picture here.
In case I am lost, I can look at the Yamas and the Niyamas, the moral code of yoga. The first Yama is Ahimsa, do no harm. The decision to close Shree was made in the spirit of Ahimsa, not providing an environment where the contagion can spread. Aprarigraha is non attachment, non greed, pointing to a bigger picture of there not being anything to hold on to. This Yama is against greed. We all need money to live, to survive in this world, however, we need to be ethical above all. (Toilet paper hoarding, anyone?) Santosha is the Niyama of contentment. Accepting that these changes are our reality now, and finding peace and humor within the boundaries that we now live. Ishvara Pranidhana, while a mouthful of Sanskrit, it is essentially surrendering to something larger than ourselves.
Svadyaya is the Niyama of self study. In my disaster movies, the villain never has this quality. The villian, there is always someone who caused the disaster, and this person or corporation never has the ability to self reflect. But as yogis, we do. In this time, when we all mostly have more time on our hands, take some of that time to self reflect, to study the self, your self. Not in judgement, but to look inward, to step aside and look at yourself. Are you Sarah Connor, bravely putting plans in place to prevent a future calamity and save humanity? Are you the kindly lady who inadvertently helps the hero, not knowing he will be the hero? Or are you one of those inadvertent villains who manage to make even a bad situation a little worse?
This stuff is big. This is a big moment on the planet. Sit back and reflect on this. Get out of your own way. I have been in grocery stores where everyone is slowing down and being kinder. Yes! There actually IS enough to go around, and we all have enough. Things will work out if we help one another, instead of falling into a zero sum game mentality. Smile and thank the cashier. Over tip, even if you cannot afford it. In the true spirit of Aparigraha, it will come back to you. Trust in this. If all else fails, look 10 years down the road, and ask yourself how you wish you had behaved. Do it now. And keep your practice up, on and off your mat.