Updated: Mar 3
At the beginning of every yoga class I teach, we sing “Lokah samastah sukhinoh bhavantu. 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.” And at the end of every class, I repeat the phrase, “May all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering, may all beings be at ease.”
I do these things to reinforce one of foundations of Jivamukti Yoga practice—ahimsa or non-harming. The word “foundation” comes from the Latin fundare which means “to lay a base for.” The foundation is the basis (such as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported. Jivamukti Yoga is built upon the foundation of five tenets: Ahimsa (non-harming); bhakti (devotion); dhyāna (meditation); nāda (sound); and śāstra (studying the wisdom teachings). Over the coming months the focus-of-the-month will look at these foundations individually. Collectively they are known as the 5 Tenets of Jivamukti Yoga, and as the foundation they are to be woven into each class. The highest aim of yoga is enlightenment or transcendental consciousness, and staying close to the foundations of the practice will help us toward that liberation.
As we move along the path toward Self realization over the course of perhaps many lifetimes, staying true to the foundations of our practice also helps us to become more compassionate, kind, forgiving, aware, loving, mindful, caring, and wise. As Jules Febre says in the March Jivamukti focus-of-the-month, “Our mind will wander away and the foundation supports us and brings us back. All we need to do is take a moment to check-in. Are our actions aligned with or coming from these foundations? Do we feel that steady and joyful nature more because of our association and practice? Do we still want what we used to from the yoga practice? What does yoga want from us?” This month, I invite you to explore these questions and also to consider what it is that draws you to spiritual practice. What do you hope to achieve? What are you looking for? What are your core values, current or desired? What are your foundational beliefs?
Just two days ago, I had yet another life experience that reinforced to me that yoga itself is foundational to my life. While sitting at a red light with my son and his girlfriend in the car, we were rear ended by a woman driving at least 35mph. On her way to make a food delivery, she admitted she was looking at her phone for the address. While my car is totaled, we all walked away. For that I am grateful.
Yesterday, my husband and I had to go to the impound lot to remove the plates from our car. It was my first time at such a place, and it was both eerie and emotional. As we drove slowly over the bumpy, frozen ground, I looked at what was left of some cars that clearly had been in tragic accidents, and I was reminded of a lyric from an Indigo Girls song: “twisted guardrail on the highway, broken glass on the cement. A ghost of someone’s tragedy, how recklessly my time has been spent.”
I felt the ghosts of tragedies in that impound lot, and I felt tremendous compassion for those who were involved in those accidents, and I again felt gratitude that we all walked away. But what I didn’t feel was that my time has been spent recklessly. Rather, the accident has reaffirmed to me that I am on exactly the right path. As a practitioner of yoga and seeker of enlightenment and as a yoga teacher and studio owner, this is my path. There is nothing I would change about the past because it is what has led me here, to this moment.
The accident is a reminder that life is short and that in an instant it can end or change dramatically. It is a reminder to continue to practice and to practice more earnestly because time is short, perhaps shorter than I’d like. It is a reminder to be supported by the foundational beliefs upon which I build my life, one of them being yoga.