A hundred times a day
I remind myself
that my inner and outer life
depend on the labors of other people
living and dead,
and that I must exert myself
in order to give
in the full measure I have received
and am still giving.
~ Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice
I drop it all the time. Sometimes it’s a deflection. Sometimes it means I don’t have all the words together to describe how I really feel. Sometimes it’s just the easiest thing to say.
The f-word I’m talking about? It’s “fine” and I use it like this:
Person: How are you?
Me: I’m fine. (translations: I’m keeping it together, I could be better, I’m functioning and really need a nap, I need space.)
Can you relate?
There are lessons in the river - I think of this since Sacramento is at the confluence of two rivers. We show our children the smooth, glistening surfaces of the rivers and warn them to be wary of the depths. It may look peaceful on the surface, but there are strong currents underneath. Each year people are swept away by the current and caught in snags. Each year, the river takes lives as bodies become tangled up in branches and detritus that lie underneath the smooth surface of our rivers.
What does this have to do with the f-word?
Saying “fine” just keeps us moving, showing only the smooth, glistening surface without acknowledging the currents and snags that need acknowledgement and untangling. Without opportunity to rest and reset, without safety to ask and receive help, the snags just get bigger and bigger.
We run the risk of drowning in ourselves. We run the risk of snagging our unsuspecting loved ones and acquaintances. We run the risk of staying on the surface, a beautiful yet false smoothness.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be better than fine. I don’t want to walk through life just being okay or just using the f-word. I want to be well. I want to honestly say, “I’m doing well,” with a feeling of wellness in my heart and bones.
When I find myself overwhelmed, what I often need is quiet time to simply untangle my thoughts and emotions. It is hard to find the space and permission to simply check in, slow down, and untangle myself. This has always been why I go to yoga and guides the way I teach.
This leads me to the question:
Does my wellness start and end with me?
No. Absolutely not. One of the foundational teachings of yoga from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, is Asteya, non-stealing. Simply focusing on individual feel-goodness is a type of stealing. It is a stealing from our community and, as a result, ourselves.
We are not truly well if our standard of living is detrimental to our community.
Like it or not, we are part of a vast ecosystem on a biological level as well as a social, ancestral level. Our individual wellness is directly tied to the wellness of our community and world.
Though we may not be responsible for the actions of our ancestors, we are responsible for using our positions and opportunities to untangle the messes that have been made and the harm that has been inflicted. We are responsible for continuing work that is healing and repairing harm that has been inflicted. Every moment, we are called to be aware of privilege and power dynamics, it calls us to be mindful of the impacts of our decisions and actions.
Consider this - if our neighbors do not have the same access to wellness as we do in things as basic as clean drinking water, public safety, education, fresh food, access to health care, isn’t it stealing to not acknowledge and act in ways to lift one another up?
Is it enough for this world to be fine?
What currents are flowing under the glistening, smooth surface?
What snags need untangling?
What can we do together to be well, to be a thriving vibrant community?
The world needs you well. The world needs us all to be well.
When we are well as an individual, we are grounded and clear. We can respond rather than react. To heal ourselves and our world, we need clear responses to challenges and clear commitment to continued healing. We must take care of ourselves so we may take care of others, be of service, in ways that challenge us without depleting us.
So take care of yourself. Find the time and space to untangle your thoughts and feelings. Take care of your body. Be well, not just fine, and be of service to our community.
May our efforts and commitment to wellness help end suffering for ourselves and our community.