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The Powerful Thing We Do When We Come Together… Waiting (the Tuesday post) April 18, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Lent, Life, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Poetry, Ramadan, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who observing the holy month of Ramadān. (Keep your eyes open!) Many blessings to anyone Counting the Omer or celebrating/observing Eastertide / the Octave of Easter!

“I know I’m waiting
Waiting for something
Something to happen to me
But this waiting comes with
Trials and challenges
Nothing in life is free”

“My Lord, show me right from wrong
Give me light, make me strong
I know the road is long
Make me strong”

– quoted from the song “Make Me Strong” by Sami Yusuf

There’s a lot in my head and heart today, a lot I want to share. But, it’s a lot. So, I’m going to ask you to wait a moment and, while you’re waiting, I’m going to ask you to send me some strength… as I send you some strength.

All over the world, people come together. Sometimes physically; sometimes virtually; sometimes spiritual; and sometimes religiously. It happens a lot when Nature cooperates – and/or when people work together to overcome natural (and man-made) disasters. It also happens this time of year, because so many communities are engaged in holy obligations, observations, and celebrations. I’ve talked about such things quite a bit recently and, this week, I again focus on a holy time – this time on the holy month of Ramadān.*

However, in addition to using this time (wisely) to share information that can bring us all closer together; I also want to use today to bring awareness to how powerful we all are (and can be) when we come together. Because, there is so much power in what we do when we come together – even virtually. There is power in coming together and waiting together. What is especially powerful is what we do, in community, when we come together and wait together. People have known about this power for eons upon eons. We see it in rituals and traditions around the world: in people coming together, as a community, during different sacred times throughout the year.

What is funny (ironic) to me is how, despite years of proof, Western science is only recently figuring out and acknowledging this power.

“But if we remove the theology—views about the nature of God, the creation of the universe, and the like—from the day-to-day practice of religious faith, the animosity in the debate evaporates. What we’re left with is a series of rituals, customs, and sentiments that are themselves the results of experiments of sorts. Over thousands of years, these experiments, carried out in the messy thick of life as opposed to sterile labs, have led to the design of what we might call spiritual technologies—tools and processes meant to sooth, move, convince, or otherwise tweak the mind. And studying these technologies has revealed that certain parts of religious practices, even when removed from a spiritual context, are able to influence people’s minds in the measurable ways psychologists often seek.”

– quoted from the (09/14/2021) Wired article entitled, “Psychologists Are Learning What Religion Has Known for Years: Social scientists are researching what humans can do to improve their quality of life. Their findings echo what religious practices perfected centuries ago.” by David DeSteno

In Yoga Sūtra 2.1, Patanjali described a spiritual technology that he called it kriyā yoga: a cleansing ritual consisting of tapas (“heat”, “discipline”, and “austerity”, as well as the practices that build heat, discipline, and austerity); svādyāya (“self-study” – which is reflection); and īshvarapraņidhāna (“trustful surrender to the Divine”). I often note that rituals made up of these exact three elements exist outside of yoga – and include observing a silent retreat (Buddhism), giving up leavened bread during Passover (Judaism), fasting for Yom Kippur (Judaism), fasting during Lent (Christianity), observing the 19-Day Fast (Bahá’í), and fasting during the holy month of Ramadān, which is ending this week.

More often than not, I contemplate and talk about the power of these rituals, of community, and of waiting in a positive way. For example, this month I have talked about the kindness in the waiting; I have referenced strength cultivated while waiting; and I have focused on the positive “destinations” we are looking forward to arriving/experiencing. I have not focused (much) on the fact that there is so much trauma that many of us are waiting for the next negative.

Yes, we can be (and are) excited about visiting new places; reconnecting with friends and family; starting new jobs and new relationships; having babies and seeing those babies hit new milestones (like taking first steps and graduating, which can be their first steps into adulthood); and hitting our own milestones. However, if we’re being honest, we are simultaneously waiting for those positives and, also, waiting for the next mass shooting, the next random shooting, the next assault, the next insult, the next ban, and the next law that keeps people from accessing “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Let’s be honest: We’re all waiting for the next trauma.

But, what are doing while we’re waiting?

“Take a moment to break your mind free of any distraction that causes your heart to be shackled in anxiety or pain. Remove from yourself any feeling of emptiness or remorse that comes from having to put on a face that is not your own to gain acceptance from a society that won’t take you as you are. Let your thoughts move away from those who can’t look beyond the color of your skin, the texture of your hair, the accent that you speak with, or anything else that makes you beautiful. Don’t chase after words that are unfamiliar to you but seek and speak with words that are sincerely your own. Be with those who give you hope and courage, who help you to be bold in your prayer. Forget the judgments and harshness of any who have lead you to believe that you cannot ask of your Creator for whatever your heart wishes. Don’t inhibit yourself in anyway. God is Most Generous and Most Merciful, and we all are entitled to benefit from that generosity and mercy. You are going to stand in front of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, One who looks for a reason to accept from you, not push you away.”

– quoted from a 2012 “Ramadān Reflection” (Day 26) for Huffington Post by Imam Khalid Latif

Given that the Western science community has only recently started to catch up with the religious and spiritual communities, I should not be surprised that so many of us have taken spiritual, energetic, and psychological power for granted. Some of us scoff at people who talk about “thoughts and prayers” every time there is a shooting in the United States. But what are we doing? That is an important question: What are we doing?

I am asking that question in the context of each individual person’s civic duty, moral duty, and physical/material duty – and I am also asking in the context of energy, emotion, and spirit. Because, here’s the thing, the bottom line: Thoughts and prayers can create resistance; thoughts and prayers can create obstacles. Thoughts and prayers can create despair.

I know, I know, that’s not the way it’s “supposed” to work. Except it is.

It is supposed to work exactly like that. It is the way it has always worked. That’s one of the reasons the stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius** wrote, “Our actions may be impeded… but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting…. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

So, maybe those of us who want change need to take another look at thoughts and prayers. Maybe we all need to look at what it is for which we are praying/hoping/wishing/thinking and how that praying/hoping/wishing/thinking creates the energy, emotion, and spirit needed for people to engage their minds and bodies. Maybe we need to look at how all of that can create more energy towards the positive, instead of continually experiencing how it contributes to the negative.

We need to start believing in change for the better. And, while we’re waiting, we need to start doing the things that enable us to create that better – and we need to come do it in community.

“The Creation Equation states that when the intensity of desire, or shakti (Is), plus the intensity of the energy you direct toward achieving it, or vayu (Iv), is greater than the intensity of resistance, or karma (Ik), it equals attainment of your desire, or prapti (P). Thus, the formula looks something like this:

 I+ I> I= P.” 

– quoted from “Chapter 11. The Formula For Fulfilling Your Desires” in The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom by Rod Stryker

UMMAH [Arabic] – Community, refers to a group of people who share common religious beliefs, often used as a synonym for “ummat al-Islām” (“the Islāmic Community”). Also appears in the Qur’ān as “Ummah Wāhida” (“One Nation”).

SHA’B [Arabic] – A Nation or Community which share common ancestry and geography (but not necessarily culture, language, or beliefs).

DHIMMĪ [Arabic] – Protected Person, historically used in reference to non-Muslims living within an Islamic state and conveys certain legal rights related to life, property, and religious freedom.

Please join me today (Tuesday, April 18th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Ramadan 2023”]

Two quick notes about the music: First, while the most of the musicians featured on the playlists during these final days of Ramadān are Muslim there are some exceptions. One of the notable exceptions – notable, because she is the only female soloist and the only non-Muslim singer on the list – is Reba McEntire. Her song “Pray for Peace” is on the playlist because she re-released it during the month of Ramadān in 2014 – but not just randomly in the month, the song was released in the last ten days of the month! Second, there are some songs on the playlist that are Nasheeds (meaning they are religiously moral songs) that, in some traditions, are meant to be sung without instrumentation or only with percussion. I have, however, included orchestrated versions of these songs, because this seems to have worked best in an in-studio setting. I mean no disrespect by this choice. As far as I know, percussion or voice only recordings of each song are available (if you want to build your own playlist). Alternatively, you can practice without the music.

I remixed the playlist because I wanted to include some new songs. One of these songs is on the playlist three (3) times and was inspired by “the stories in In Baghdad Dreaming Of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming Of Baghdad by Rumi and by The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.”  The song is moving in English (and as an instrumental, which is how it shows up during the practice), but it is next level in Arabic. Let’s go. Better yet, let’s make the whole world feel like home.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

*NOTE: Click here if you are interested in the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

**NOTE: The Marcus Aurelius statement is from Book 5 of Meditations. The translation above appears in the preface of The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs by Ryan Holiday.



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