July's Newsletter: What does it mean to be free?

A few years back I decided that I love the Fourth of July.  Not because of burgers and blowing things up, mind you.  Rather, I claimed it as an opportunity to remember and appreciate that I am, above all things, FREE.  Not in the sense of rights and privileges—although I do also feel great humility and gratitude to have won the birth lottery that landed me in a nation where I have many (and now even more, thankfully, after the recent Supreme Court ruling on marraige equality).  But more than that, I mean FREE in the sense that my very being originates and dwells in the state of pure freedom which is always present when I am willing to turn my awareness to it.

In yoga speech, its called Sat Chit Ananda (or as the compound word: Saccidananda)

Here’s the break-down:
Sat means Truth/Reality/the Ground of Pure Being
Chit means Consciousness/Awareness
Ananda means Bliss(a word I sometimes find a little annoying, so I generally prefer to translate it as Unreasonable Happiness)

With their powers combined, Saccidananda is a statement of our pure essence of Freedom.  It suggests that when the mind is calm enough to rest into what is Real and True, without resistance, and when we recognize ourselves as waves on the ocean of the unifying presence of Love that is always there, but often concealed, a natural state of Unreasonable Happiness effortlessly arises. This is our original and purest state of being.  This is the experience of being free.

Children know what it means to be free.  So did Jesus and Ghandi and Sojourner Truth.  So does the yogi who can let go of her striving for the “right” pose, and relax into her own innate Goodness, already always present.  

Because we are innately free, we always have choice in how we respond to what the world is handing us.  Because we are innately free, we can access the experience of freedom, characterized by an open quiet space of possibility, at any given moment and under any conditions.  When we remember that we are free, we have the space to respond rather than react to the ills and injustices of the world.  

We are still in process as a global family in actualizing true freedom for all beings, as the church shooting in Charleston last month demonstrates.  We still struggle with the collective and ancestral wounds of systematic oppression and violence. And what does this have to do with yoga?  In our humble opinion: Everything.  Because the yogic path teaches that The Light resides in All Beings Everywhere.  And that our inner alignment to our own sense of Self has a rippling effect out in the world.  So true healing happens when we can fully recognize and honor the pure, free nature both of ourselves and of all other beings, and act accordingly in harmony. 

Consequently, we at SKY aim to provide those moments of stillness where one's inner freedom alights. For survivors of trauma, being free to discover and re-experience choice in one's body is a particularly potent aspect of the practice.  Consider theses words from a participant of our Trauma Sensitive Yoga program:

I really enjoyed hearing reinforcing thoughts like “in your own time”, “when you’re ready”, etc. and being able to go at my own pace. Reinforcing choice seemed like a simple idea at first but I really came to appreciate how it translates into my healing process and overcoming trauma.

Re-experiencing choice in the body means that, no matter what has happened, you are still free--your essence of Saccidananda is never destroyed. 

It’s for students like this, for hundreds of others, and for the continued emancipation of our planetary family that for five years running now, we do Yoga in the ParkYoga in the Park is a community celebration and practice of 108 Sun Salutations.  We practice to be together in community and to raise funds for SKY to continue to grow as a presence where all are free to come home to themselves and be who they are; where all are offered the space and tools to discover their truest, most free, vibrant and thriving self.  

Plus, there is something so freeing and right about doing yoga outside.  I know, there’s bugs and uneven grass, and our first year out there we got totally rained out (remember that?  If not, watch this!) But really.  100 Warrior Yogis in one place under the sun?  Tree pose standing next to a REAL LIVE TREE?  It’s so good.

You don’t have to do them all yourself, and you don’t even have to be there to donate or to set up a monthly pledge.  You can also give directly to the TSY program here.  Or consider donating on our Give Big Day, Tuesday July 14th, where all donations will be matched up to $3000, thanks to the generous gifts from several key donors, including the dynamic healer-partners Daniel and Rachel Cargill Martin!

Or if you scanned this e-mail and want the short version of what's going on and why, watch this.

In the meanwhile, let Unreasonable Happiness arise from the Truth of who you are.  Live in peace, work for justice, and celebrate that you are FREE.