What Can I Do?
I am fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, food to eat, even drinkable water from the tap, which is really a luxury. I had a delicious breakfast today using tarragon and cherry tomatoes from my garden, I have two feet and can walk, can speak and can use my hands to write this, in this very moment, and eyes to read these words. And yet, even in these very fortunate circumstances, the knowledge of so much suffering in the world overwhelms me.
What can I do?
Not all of us have the same skills, or can develop the same skills, some of us seem to be born to become surgeons, or dancers, some will find fulfillment helping others, preparing food for their family, or creating a friendly environment for their children, while others will travel to far away countries, write a book, save the environment, become a teacher, volunteer at a hospital, play a musical instrument, drive a bus, fly an airplane or work at a post office. This can be what we call Dharma.
Not all of us have the same opportunities to fulfill that destiny, and we will probably never know, really, why that is. Not all of us will have the clarity to know what it is.
Some years ago I was at Rite Aid, the local Pharmacy, and a young father (I assumed he was the father) was walking in the aisles, with a baby who was crying loudly. The young man explained to the baby that he couldn’t let her crawl freely in the store, and the baby kept crying. At some point, he said, I know this is unfair, it is just not fair, and I’m sorry. Suddenly, the baby stopped crying.
Maybe it was completely random, but it seemed to me that the baby sensed that this young man wished the best for her, and that he was truly sorry that life was probably not going to be fair all the time for her.
How can human actions that are, from my perspective, inconceivably atrocious, still happen in this world? My only explanation is that the atrocities are a result of an equally atrocious and inconceivable amount of suffering.
And there is the other suffering, tragedies that just happen, hearts broken, lives to mend.
What can I do?
Sometimes, what one can do is just to be present for each other, to hold a space for each other, to bear witness. Trying to be present for others is a skill to cultivate with attention and care.
A very important aspect of the work I do is to try to find ways to be more present, to identify emotions that arise, to observe what triggers a specific behavior, to work with my own issues.
Then, of course, to share the tools of what we call yoga with students and clients, so that hopefully, they can also be happier: Conscious movement to establish functional movement patterns that can prevent injury and help to reduce or manage physical pain or discomfort; conscious breath that can help to regulate the Autonomic Nervous System and decrease stress levels; tools to develop and cultivate mindfulness; tools to get to know oneself better, to recognize longings, fears, wishes, sometimes deep buried sadness or anger; tools to manage, decrease or better deal with anxiety, grief, trauma and depression; tools to help cope with the symptoms or the impact of a specific condition; tools to be able to be more kind to oneself, more kind to each other; to forgive. Tools to prepare to live, and ultimately, to prepare to die…
The question stays floating in the air today: What can I do?
I hear the voice of my mentor, Mary Hilliker, saying: do small acts of kindness.
Also, of course, it is important to begin with, or at least include among those acts, kindness and care toward oneself.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
- Mother Theresa