FROM CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE PRACTICES TO A CONTEMPORARY LIFESTYLE
The goal of Yoga as a Peace Practice (YPP) is to turn contemplative life practices (CLP) into a contemporary lifestyle (CLS). From CLP to CLS. While the concept of contemplative life practices appears strange and alien to people today, in several ways they provide an antidote for coping with the exigencies we face daily. As noted in the YPP workbook, actual violence and a culture of violence have deleterious effects on African Americans. Contemplative life practices were developed at a time and over time to deal with difficult life circumstances. We can learn lessons from these traditions and adapt them for the circumstances we face today. Based on the traditions presented in the YPP workbook, a contemplative life style can be organized around the eight limbs of yoga. One common definition of “yoga” is a practice that unifies mind, body and soul. Another popular definition is that yoga is a set of practices that brings the mind, body and soul into “stillness.” When the mind, body and soul are unified, or they are brought into stillness, we abide in rest and relaxation, and we rejuvenate ourselves. So, what are these eight limbs: beliefs (ethics/values), behaviors, physical exercise (postures), breathing (connecting to one’s lifeforce), withdrawal of the senses (momentarily detaching from all forms of stimuli), concentration, meditation and transcendence. These eight limbs provide guides to “self-care.” And, the purpose of self-care is not to retreat from the world. It is to remain fortified to engage the world, and to change it. We can better care for others if our self-care is optimal to the best of our abilities, and we can foster improvements in the conditions we and others face.
FROM CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE PRACTICES TO A RE-SPIRITUALIZATION OF LIFE
Regardless of whether we are theist, atheist, or non-theistic, being human includes our physical and non-physical natures. Contemplative Life Practices awaken in us, the importance of integrating all aspects of our being – the good, the bad, the ugly. Paraphrasing Jung, wellness means being “whole” — integrating our “lightness” and our “darkness.” Contemplative life practices awaken in us the call to heal ourselves, so we can attend to the healing of others and our world.
YOGA AS A PEACE PRACTICE AS A TRANSLATION OF CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE PRACTICES
One way in which our spiritual life grows and the “care for the self” develops is my reading a body of teachings and reading the commentaries on those teachings. The commentaries often translate the profound understandings into the common language of the period of the commentator. One of the most profound translations — for both good for — bad was the translation of the Bible known as the King James Version. We gain insights into Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras by reading the commentaries. YPP continues this tradition of translating what often appears as the esoteric into language that makes the teachings accessible. YPP is a translation of the Contemplative Life Practices into an urban, Afro-centric, contemporary language and lifestyles.
YOGA AS A PEACE PRACTICE AS PERSONAL, SPIRITUAL AND SOCIAL REALIZATION
Teachings and practices that have been around for thousands of years can become very ornate and esoteric. As a result, they can be less and less accessible. However, fundamental to Contemplative Life Practices is the “direct experience.” We no longer see “through the glass darkly.” We break the “chains of illusion.” YPP helps remove all “mediations” of experience. Consequently, the personal becomes a direct experience of the Profound. With a realization of who/what we really, we act and live from a place of genuine authenticity.
YOGA AS A PEACE PRACTICE AND THE ART OF PEACEFUL LIVING
I’ve read once that the way the Zen Buddhist in Japan addressed the problem that everyone didn’t have the time or inclination to live a monastic life was to bring Zen out of the monastery to the people. Some ways in which this was done was by infusing everyday practices with Zen. Forms infusion took were:
- Zen and the Art of Archery
- Zen and the Art of Tea Ceremony
- Zen and the Art of Flower Arrangement
- Zen and the Art of Calligraphy.
In the U.S. there is poplar set of teachings by Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen: Love and Work. So, another way to think about Yoga As A Peace Practice is as Contemplative Life Practices And The Art of Peaceful Living. “Peaceful Living” is a form of living that allows us to engage ourselves, others and our world in ways that enhance overall well-being. Peace every day. Peace moment-by-moment throughout the day, even during the midst of the storms of life.
• • •
Publisher’s note: Yoga As A Peace Practice was shared at the Yogaville Satchidananda Ashram in August 2018 was a “had to be there,” experience. The 65 people who attended made granular to seismic shifts in awareness and consciousness that will inform and inspire them.
We thank BYTA member, supporter and volunteer, Dr. Jerome Paige, for his insightful musings to contextualize and clarify the abstract nature of contemplative practice and the contemporary application of Yoga As A Peace Practice. If you wish to communicate with Dr. Paige, he can be reached at email@example.com.