Pandemics and Politics 2020

by Jan 14, 2021

An Aotearoa/NZ Ashtanga Perspective:

Now that we have finally got to 2021, I thought I’d do a review of 2020 given that it was such a momentous year.

It started for us with the Australian bush fires and the smoke haze that made it all the way across the Tasman sea and created beautiful and slightly surreal evening light. The disaster that this was in Australia created stunning sunsets for us and an example of how tragedy can also create beauty. This was all soon forgotten with the events to come.

My overriding thought with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still raging out there, is “what a blessing it is to be living in this country”. It was obvious from the start that we had leadership that was willing to listen to expert, scientific knowledge and make the difficult decisions that needed to be made based on that advice. These decisions were communicated well and the vast majority of people here rallied behind them.

In the original rahui/lockdown it was wonderful to see how everyone responded to having a little more space in our lives. In my neighbourhood, people kept their distance but somehow managed to be more friendly, open and caring. It was quieter. We could hear the birds without the background traffic noise. No doubt mistakes were made, but as the pandemic gets worse globally we are still enjoying the benefits of good leadership and a strong sense of community purpose. Imagine what we could achieve if the same resolve was applied to environmental issues, poverty, and other health issues!

And then came the politics. It’s difficult to say which engaged me more, our own election or the USA one. Ours, though postponed, was soon settled and faded into the background compared to the American one which just seems to keep on giving. Again, my main feeling is of being blessed to live here. Our MMP system has its faults, but it certainly seems more like democracy than the Electoral College of the American system.

Through all this, one of the things that stood out for me is the influence that “social media” has had. It seems like so many people are willing to believe whatever pops up on their “feed” without questioning it or questioning the fact that they are being fed what the social medai algorithms think that they want to see. I remember Guruji telling us in conference once to only believe what we experience for ourselves and I have kept this in mind in 2020 and held on to and rejoiced in that one constant, my practice.

As any aspiring yogi knows, none of what occurs in the material world affects the truth of who we are. We still have to live in and negotiate life though, so how should we do this? We can’t just retreat to a cave and meditate. Guruji called Ashtanga, “householder yoga” and in Ashtanga we are given the tools to relate to life. The first limb is Yama and the first of the Yamas is ahimsa – the non harming of other beings by thought word or deed. This is the overriding principal of all we practice. So, no matter what I believe, of course I am willing to maintain distance, wear a mask if I need to, use the tracing app or anything else to not bring harm to anyone else. All I can do is control my own behaviour and practice ahimsa.

The pandemic still rages, but I am optimistic about 2021. It does seem like we are at a cross roads but if humankind can work together to find a solution to covid-19 then perhaps we can move on to the very urgent matter of the environment and climate change. I pray that the words of the Closing Mantra – “Let Rulers rule the world with Law and Justice” are heard and that ahimsa guides us all.

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  1. Becs

    Beautifully said Mike. Namaste

  2. Annie Colebrook

    Beautiful. Thank you Mike.