June 25, 2014
Sthira-sukham asanam (Yoga Sutra II.46)
The connection to the Earth should be steady and joyful.
In this Yoga Sutra, we are told that our connection to the Earth should be steady and joyful. Sthira means steady or stable; sukham means joyful, centred; asana is the seat or connection to the Earth. It is the term used to describe the physical yoga practice of taking different shapes with the body but also can be taken in the broader sense of our interactions with the planet itself and all beings we share it with.
Around 10,000 years ago humans began the great agricultural project, which has brought us to the critical juncture we find ourselves in today. We started to domesticate animals and grow crops. We stopped following herd animals and found ways to corral control them. We began to shape and control and change nature to suit our desires. What we didn’t understand is that we humans began to domesticate ourselves along with the animals we came to call livestock. We slowly became more and more disconnected with the flow and flux of nature by separating ourselves from its laws. We moved into the era of the ego and individuation by severing ourselves from the wild.
As we slowly became more and more separate from nature, the pace of destruction increased. We built systems that mean we don’t have to face just how unstable and unjoyful our connection with the Earth has become. We don’t have to kill the animals that make their way to our plates, we don’t have to cut down the trees and clearfell the rainforests that become our coffee cups, napkins, toilet paper and office paper, we don’t have to destroy the oceans ourselves in order to continue consuming the life that comes from it, we don’t have to see how coal gets out of the ground and what happens when it transforms into our energy. However, we do have to live with the consequences.
If humans have any hope of not just surviving on this planet, but thriving, we need to find ways to reconnect what is broken in us. To dismantle the ego-system we have built and take our place in the eco-system. Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in our culture and I believe it is due to our desire to reconnect, to awaken and become conscious, to begin to build a more mutually beneficial relationship to the Earth; to begin to learn, through our bodies, and the ground beneath our feet, how to give and, in so doing, receive. We take the shapes of birds, lizards, snakes, trees, mountains and take the time to pause and be present and build our awareness and consciousness.
Sadhana is a Sanskrit word which means conscious spiritual practice. This might be preparing delicious, healthy, whole, cruelty-free food, as an offering to the Earth, or it could be a daily asana or meditation practice, or perhaps daily prayer to the Divine.
Whatever it may be, its purpose is to ground and connect us. The challenging part is mustering the discipline to do it every single day, so it’s best to make it something achievable. At the moment part of my daily sadhana is to spend some time outside, observing the life around me and taking a seat in the flow of nature. Sometimes this involves a long outdoor asana practice in a park. Sometimes it simply involves standing outside and watching the birds fight and feed and sing and play.
We are each responsible for building the kind of Earth we want to see through our actions. If we can take time out of each day to plug back in to nature, to the present moment and conscious awareness, we will be in a better position to carry that consciousness over into our lives and create a more stable and joyful connection to the Earth. To take our role as healers, of ourselves and then the planet we live on.