Post Pandemic Ashtanga — Sitting in Silence

by Sep 19, 2022

It is starting to feel as if we are finally coming out the other side of the Covid pandemic and I’ve been thinking about how it has changed things and how I am dealing with those changes.

Our response to the pandemic and our government’s handling of it has been interesting to track. It all started with the first lock down. We were a “team of 5 million” and we seemed to beat it. This brought us together and showed the best in us. We took on the “be kind” message and were nicer to each other. Covid is trickier than we thought though because it mutated and then it mutated again. We had more lock downs but the turning point came with the the advent of the vaccines. No, not with the vaccines but with the “vaccine mandate”. This was divisive and the trickle of mis/dis-information became a tsunami. Instead of the “team” it became “us and them”, the pro-vaccine and the anti-vaccine.

Most alarming for me has been the rise of reactionary, conservative, far right rhetoric. There seems to have been an increased willingness to look at the world through a political lens with no regard to facts. More and more people seem unable to move beyond their own opinions even if the facts show them to be wrong. This has led to the undermining or flat out denial of facts and the mistrust of those we usually look to provide us with them.

In this country, as in many others, much of this seems to be driven by conservative religious/political groups. I find this really difficult to understand on many levels but particularly from the perspective of having been an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practitioner for 30 years. As a way to cope, this has led me to spending time just sitting in silence and breathing. Not thinking, just breathing. And in the silence I have become aware of an energy, a presence, a sense that I find impossible to adequately describe. For want of a better term I’ll call this energy God.

This God that I am coming to know is different from the God that is being presented in the media and being shouted about in the street. I hear about the Christian or the Muslim or the Jewish or Hindu “God” and it seems to me that there is a contradiction there. The God I am coming to know is boundless, unchanging love. Whatever your gender, your sexuality, your colour, your church, this God has no favourites, and loves all, equally.

This God does not sit in judgement. We all exist under the law of action and reaction, of Karma, so there is no need for judgement. You will eventually get the life that you build for yourself by your actions. There is no “Hand of God” in the floods, the fires, the plagues of locusts or the pandemic we have been experiencing. These are all the result of our own actions and no amount of “thoughts and prayers” will help. We can only change what is happening by our own actions. I try more and more not to judge others, not to define or validate myself by comparison to others. I try by my actions to be a better person and to treat everyone with kindness.

This is where my Yoga practice provides the best support. How can I learn to just love? How can I maybe touch the boundless love of God? I start with my āsana practice, taught to me by Peter Sanson and Guruji and Sharath. Through the practice I have sweated out the toxins in my body and at the same time sweated out my resistance. My body has slowly opened and the prana, the energy starts to flow unhindered. I am slowly learning to be able to sit comfortably and in silence.

Every thought we have is biased, is affected by our past experience, by our circumstances, by our upbringing. To know love we need to stop thinking, to quieten the voice that keeps talking inside our head. To be truly silent is to touch the love that is God and to let that love in.

Sounds easy but it is not. To let go enough to sit comfortably in silence is very, very difficult. If the covid pandemic and the current state of the world tell me anything it is that the effort is worth it. The world will be a better place when more and more people make the attempt to stop thinking for long enough to let love in, to stop judging others, to stop trying to force opinions on others. We are all in this together. We all share the same energy.

For me, it all starts with putting down my mat and doing a Suryanamaskara and then maybe doing another one. Try it. Just put a mat down and practice and practice and practice. See if Guruji was right. See if “All is coming”.

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  1. Deb

    Thank you Mike for sharing these wise words with us and for offering us the opportunity and support to practice Astanga with you here in Wellington. I am forever grateful to you for your deep generosity and constant support and kindness

  2. trish

    Thank you Mike – strong and useful thoughts from you, again.

    Travel with great enjoyment, reflection and renewal.

  3. Eileen

    That is the definition of yoga I believe.

    You are an inspiration Mike.
    Travel with joy and love.

  4. Fiona Johannessen

    I enjoyed reading your blog Mike and can relate the the thoughts and process you have been through during the covid pandemic. I likewise am spending more time practicing meditation as a means to create space around my thoughts and feelings. If is tremendously helpful. The TAAY community is blessed to have such a wise and committed teacher. Go well in India