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We Can

“Every day let us check our progress and see that we grow a little better. Every day should elevate us a little, broaden our attitudes, reduce our selfishness and make us better masters over our own body, senses, and mind. This is the kind of Yoga that will really help us.”
Vidya Vonne, from the Introduction in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Can you remember what it was like to be a child? Do you remember thinking that one day you will grow up and be an adult? That somehow all the pains and challenges of being a young person will just nicely pack themselves up and hit the road once you turn 18. That by being a grown up you will have it all figured out, and all learning will cease and you will just be. Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought you became better as you got older, kind of like wine. The older I get, the more I realize this is not always necessarily true with everyone. I have a neighbor who recently became outraged because a family of African Americans moved next door to me. It has been almost two weeks since they moved in, and this family has been nothing but ideal apartment neighbors: friendly and quiet. But this unfortunate soul can not seem to find peace with their existence so close to hers. She has told me numerous times the complaints she has reported to the office, from how she doesn’t like the way they throw their garbage away in the dumpster (what??) to how offended she is that they have an Obama poster in their window –which I’d like to add, in my opinion, is another trait of a good neighbor!!! This scenario upsets me. Once my neighbor finished on her rampage I exclaimed: why don’t you assume this family is like everyone else and simply wants a safe and comfortable place to live. Why don’t you just let them be, until they prove else wise. And, my neighbor explained to me, in these exact words–that she is a racist.
I was shocked. Literally. Shocked is the word. Maybe I’m naive. But I had no idea that there are actually people that consider themselves and proclaim themselves as racists. Well you see those people on talk shows, but I always thought they were the extreme. I had no idea everyday folks actually describe themselves as racists. It saddens me, and sickens me terribly.
This neighbor lady is in her mid fifties. By then you would think she had some things figured out. By the time I’m fifty years old, I hope who I am today will have evolved into something so much more reminiscent of light.
These last couple days at school has presented numerous opportunities for me to practice being more reminiscent of light…or in other words: practice Yoga. I realize as I get my room together for a new year, that this year I would like to be a better teacher then I was last year. I would like to understand my students better, and work on ways for them to better understand me. I would like to bring peace and positive energy to the faculty and staff. I want to be more present, and less wrapped up in how things should be, or who fault it is, or where I hope to be in a few years. I want every moment to exist for what it is and for me to be present right there.

It all begins with practice. We can be enlightened. We can be like light. We can be like Buddha. We can. We really can. Because what all the enlightened beings ever do or did, including Buddha, is practice. Every enlightened being started out as normal and as everyday as us, and even in an enlightened state still stay as normal and everyday as us. Enlightened Beings still have to feed themselves, do the laundry, and buy toilet paper. The difference is that they realize that every moment is a gift to practice being a better person, and they just do it…they practice it.

When you start looking at your life, your job, your interaction with your neighbors, friends, family, strangers, your everyday existence as an opportunity to practice being a better you…it changes the entire atmosphere. Makes things actually more exciting! I’m not at work to just make money to pay bills and save for my next vacation—No, I’m there to become a better person, to find that inner peace. This jerk who just cut me off in traffic—he is here to help me become a better person–he is providing me with an opportunity to practice being a better person. My boss just told me I need to stay late and finish this project—I don’t want to, but this is another opportunity to practice being a better person…one more step to achieving that inner bliss the masters write about.

Nobody finds inner peace by escaping life…they achieve it by completely living life. Somehow I had this revelation as I struggled trying to hang a huge roll of paper on my bulletin board by myself. (To my teacher friends out there, I’m sure you understand.)
Peace & Love.
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