Yoga Musings 20 Years After the Rwandan Genocide.

As covered by National Public Radio this last Sunday, Rwandans are entering a three month long period of remembrance of the genocide that occurred 20 years ago. Poverty, inequality, repression of women and ethnic hatred fanned by influential Rwandan men ignited a spree of murder that claimed the lives of nearly one million souls.

After the killing was over 70% of the population were women. These women were left to pick up the pieces left them by the murder of neighbors and families. The women of Rwanda have had no choice but to heal their wounds by the kind of decisive action that has now, buy some estimations, elevated their country to the status of one of the cleanest and least corrupt in Africa poised on the brink of a technological revolution.

Today, women hold more seats in Rwandan parliament than any other nation in the world. Forty percent of the president’s cabinet is female and over 50% of the judiciary is comprised of women. Women may now own property, girls and women may inherit wealth from their parents, and girls are being educated in unprecedented numbers to prepare them for future leadership roles.

Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Oda Gasinzigwa, proudly recites the rebirth of women’s empowerment in Rwanda, but admits that full gender equality is still a work in progress.

Hearing these stories about Rwanda’s rise from the ashes of genocidal holocaust got me thinking about an entry I posted on November 19 last year. In my essay, The Meek Will Inherit the Earth, I wrote about the human race as a geological force strong enough to change our climate and threaten our existence as a species. I also defined meek as not merely humble, gentle and patient, but as cooperative. One part of the inheritance of the meek that I didn’t speak about but have always held as central to my thoughts on this subject is that after the aggressive and hateful extinguish themselves in a national blood-letting like Rwanda, that the meek will be left to rebuild a society based on justice and equality rather than hate and violence.

Now the formerly oppressed women, girls and orphans of Rwanda who were brutalized, raped and tortured en masse 20 years ago are in the unique position of inheriting their native land. In the process a balance is being established between the men and women of this society that may well lead this once desolate country to become an example of what human potential can achieve when it is based on the cooperation of the meek,  the kind and the respectful.

I like to look at this blossoming Rwandan transformation as the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in the Sermon on the Mount that that indeed “the meek will inherit the earth.”

I would also like to think that the whole world could take a lesson from what the Rwandans have so cruelly endured. When girls and women are excluded and disenfranchised, when they are relegated to serfdom, when their human rights and their very bodies can be violated without consequence their society is on a collision course with disaster. When patriarchy enforces itself half the potential of the human species will never reach its potential. Any species that allows such incalculable waste will never have the tools it needs to survive much less flourish.

As I alluded to in my November post, humanity is facing multiple challenges that may well be surmountable. However, considering present circumstances and future trends, our survival as a race is by no means guaranteed. Certainly, without the genius of every man, woman and child willing to guide our troubled evolution we risk everything. Inequality, sexism, racism and hatred are no longer affordable. With nearly 8 billion souls on the planet, the margins of success grow thinner each day.

The Rwandan renewal, though incomplete, presents possibilities for us all; possibilities of a world where every one of us has an equal opportunity to contribute our best. When we get the best from everyone, we can all get the best of every thing.




Earth Shamans–Yogi Healers

Though yoga has taken root and flourished outside of its native India, there is little discussion of it ancient beginnings or purpose. From what can be gathered by comparing archaeological evidence to current practices that retain some of their archaic rudiments it seems safe to say that yoga is essentially a shamanic practice developed long before it was codified in the Vedas or by Patanjali around the beginning of the Common Era.

Shamanism as defined by religion historian Mircea Eliade is a technique of religious ecstasy in which the shaman enters the spirit realm and returns with knowledge that can be of benefit to us in the physical world. Archeologists recognize shamanism as the primary universal practice of Paleolithic times that pre-dates organized religion. Thus, the shaman/yogi is one who seeks union with the Universal Force or Mystery. The yogi, through practice then becomes a nexus or connecting point for the unfathomable energies of the universe.

One of the most ancient, and no doubt shamanic yogic practices, is the yajna or fire ceremony which represents the process of creation. According to the Vedas, or early Indian codification of yoga, yajna is a healing ritual. It’s purpose, says yogi David Frawley, is “aimed at restoring to wholeness the divine consciousness that has entered into us and become fragmented through the mind, body and senses. The purpose of the Vedic yajna is to heal or put back together the purusha or cosmic being that has sacrificed itself to become the world. The reintegration of the Creator and creation, or God and the soul, is the foundation of yoga as well.”[1] Yoga, simply translated, means “union.”

Atheists or agnostics may substitute the term energy for the word god.

For me, the idea that the central purpose of being human is to restore the cosmic balance is sobering, joyful and all-encompassing. It calls to us to use our access to the boundless universal energy source to reach our personal potential while we heal a fragmented creation. It calls us to our finest expression of what it is to be human.

This present moment in our collective history presents us with perhaps the most critical and most perfect opportunity to reach our potential and heal creation.

Current trends of great concern are now converging to get our attention. One of these trends is the rapid acidification of the ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) measures our oceans as 30 percent more acidic now than before the Industrial Revolution that began in the 18th century. Oceanic acidification is a result of the ocean absorbing the excess carbon released from fossil fuel combustion. If present trends continue NOAA predicts a 150% increase in ocean acidity by the end of this century.[2] This is a dead ocean that supports no life, including ours.

There is abundant evidence that this is already happening. Depending on which source you quote, Antarctic krill, the foundation of the ocean’s food chain, has decreased by 50-80. On the PacificCoast of the U.S. populations of scallops, oysters, starfish, sardines and sea lion pups are crashing. These same types of population decreases are also occurring globally. The ocean ph or measurement of acidity off the coast of British Columbia has dropped from 8.2 to 7.2. It may not sound like much of a change until you consider this. Normal human blood ph is between 7.35 and 7.45. A .1 variation can produce seizures, heart arrhythmia, or even coma. Shell fish cannot make shells under this acidosis disease condition now prevailing in our oceans.

In the past few years as the realization of our desperate plight has dawned on me, I’ve experienced grief, depression and despair nearly to the point of death. Thankfully, my yoga/meditation practice has healed me so that I am motivated to try to live a life of hope and activism.

As yogis we are called at this great moment to devote ourselves to use every science, art, and creative impulse to heal ourselves and creation. This is our mission. In the very near future, as the consequences of these trends begin to affect our food supply and our ability to survive, there will be a full-scale mobilization of our resources. The very bedrock of this effort will be initiated by the spiritual aspirants, the yogis of all nations, by all those who seek to weave the fabric of the cosmos back together again. As we perfect the knowledge of ourselves and our world through spiritual practice we will simultaneously inhabit the spirit realm and the earth plane and heal the dis-ease we have created. As we master human psychological and emotional technology, we will bend creativity into the arc of healing, equality, respect and love. This is why we are here now. This is our destiny. So, practice yogis and heal creation.

[1] Frawley, David Yoga and Ayurveda: Self Healing and Realization Lotus Press 1999

The Meek Will Inherit the Earth

Human evolution is now at its most critical crossroad. We are facing a world where converging crises threaten our survival as a species. Within a generation, according to the World Bank’s most recent report, temperatures will rise 3-6 degrees Fahrenheit  and perhaps seven degrees in fewer than 100 years. As oceans rise and food production becomes less dependable, mass migrations will challenge every strategy we know to maintain some kind of stability.

Our inertia in the face of climate change has caused us to sit passively by as the point of no return has come and gone.

Even at the age of 61 many of these cataclysmic changes will happen or at least begin within my lifetime.

If we face these facts honestly we return to the fundamental questions we all ask ourselves. Why are we here and what is the purpose of life? These are the questions that Roy Scranton poses in his sobering essay, “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene.”

The Anthropocene is a new term for the epoch in which we now live—an epoch that has seen human beings become a global geological force powerful enough to knock our climate out of balance.

In light of these changes Scranton asks what it will mean to be human as we respond to an unrecognizable world that is hostile to life as we know it? Contemplating our individual deaths and the finality of our extinction as a species is forcing us to answer these questions.

Who will we become and how will we behave in a world that presents humans with precious few options for survival? Scranton answered this question as an Army private on duty in Baghdad reading the Hagakure, an 18th century treatise on Samurai conduct. It’s author, Yamamoto Tsunetomo wrote “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily…. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way.”

So, how does this relate to yoga? The Hagakure and yoga both direct the aspiring human being to gain mastery of over his or her nervous system. Toning our nervous systems through meditation and conscious action helps us to face death and achieve the freedom of knowing how to live.

Jesus the Nazarene also spoke prophetically when he proclaimed that “the meek will inherit the earth.” I read this as the “cooperative” will inherit the earth.

As yogis the great mysterious creative force that gave us birth beckons us to embrace impermanence, our ultimate death. In so doing we are guided to live lives that transcend our ego driven pursuit of wealth and power. Jimi Hendrix put it aptly, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

We are being called to a higher level of existence. We are being called to face our finest hour—the hour when we, as human beings no longer pursue the eternal in the transient—an hour when we will mature and ripen into the god-likeness that is our destiny.

Thanks for reading my work. Please leave a comment. I need to hear what you think.

Here is the link to Roy Scranton’s essay: