Waking up in a world that is in a constant state of flux is not easy. Especially when the information and visuals remind us constantly of mortality, loss of life, and impending clouds of despair and anguish. Wars of all kind – military, information, AI – are kindling and fanning flames of distrust and vigilance across communities and nations. In such a context, what would it take to kindle life?
I am not naively holding a fantasy of a world devoid of any conflict or violence. I am asking myself where can I begin and what would I do if I were to take a step towards kindling life in my own small way in a world that is constantly telling me to take a side and unleash my rage on the ‘other’.
As I stay with this question, the first thing I get in touch with is my own breath. The oft-ignored unacknowledged friend who gives me early signs when my body and mind tense up in response to a provocation. As I remember to watch my breath and allow the life force (prāṇa) to move into my body, I can feel the body and mind easing up. Often in my coaching and yoga therapy sessions, I have integrated breathwork as a critical practice for clients who are going through a challenging phase of anxiety or panic. I’ve seen it help them regain the ground from where they can act with equanimity.
Earlier this year, I was co-facilitating an intense lab with my mentor Raghu Ananthanarayanan, Steve Correa, and other friends at Ritambhara Ashram, exploring the processes of colonisation and the ways to engage with this trans-generational trauma in an embodied and experiential manner. Many experts in trauma work like Bessel van der Kork have written extensively on how our bodies hold trauma in their works such as ‘The Body Keeps The Score’. This experience was a powerful realisation of how almost all of us across communities are carrying the trauma of colonisation in our bodies and it has a real impact on our health and well-being.
Recently, when I fell sick with an intense bout of viral fever, I ended up spending a week taking bed rest. I could feel myself becoming more sensitive to how my body responded to the sensory inputs from around me during those days. Each time I watched a violent scene on TV from a movie or news item, there was a palpable increase in body pain and fatigue. Instinctively, I switched to a Hindustani Classical music concert by Kaushiki Chakraborti on YouTube and in the next hour I could feel the whole body soften up and relax, and a tangible reduction in pain.
Last week I came across a news item of a person supplying snake venom to some partygoers. Apparently many are taking up this as a way to feel ‘alive’ when regular drugs don’t do the work. Listening to this story made me think how much numb are we becoming to life to rely so much on intoxicants and literally poison to feel something. The more we buy into stories that reinforce this narrative, the world will end up being a more unhealthy and violent place where unjust acts are justified through accusations and whataboutery.
Is this the world we want to live in? How do we seed stories of possibilities and love to create a different world for ourselves? Can I make a different choice on what I consume and what I put out there for others to consume, whether it be food or content?
Indic Knowledge Traditions often use framing powerful questions as a way to nudge and prompt us to delve deeper into ourselves. Taking inspiration from this tradition, I place before you three questions that could perhaps help you kindle life and light every day.
On this Deepavali day, let us commit to kindle life and light within and all around us.