I have a lot of friends and family whose political views are quite different from mine. In normal times, that might be barely noticeable. But during a contentious election and several highly politicized national crises, these differences in views can come to the forefront and even overshadow the wonderful relationships I have with them. If I’m not careful.
Enter Swami Asokananda, the Spiritual Director of the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City. I recently received an outstanding message from him via the Institute’s newsletter.
His message made me consider to what extent I’m really listening to those whose views are different from mine. Where might they be right? And aside from correct or incorrect, how can I listen to them in a way that conveys respect and care? I cannot change the overall situation, but I can work for unity rather than division in my own personal relationships. Maybe if I can do that, it can start a chain reaction of respect rather than divisiveness.
Some key points:
- “Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.”
- “How am I reacting to points of view different from my own?”
- “Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity?“
- “To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder.”
- “We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.”
I have included his entire message below. You can get more messages like this by signing up for the Integral Yoga Institute’s newsletter here.
Message from Swami Asokananda
The election is over, but we are still undergoing
turbulent times in a divided nation. And it won’t
take much to polarize us even further. When Sri Swami
Satchidananda (Sri Gurudev) arrived on the shores of
New York City in 1966, our country was also going
through seismic cultural shifts. I know that, for me, the
teachings and practices of Integral Yoga arrived at just
the right time to guide me in a positive direction and a
One of my main sadhanas (spiritual practices) at this time is to be more
aware of what energy, what intention, what motive I am bringing into each interaction. Why am I speaking with this person? What outcome am I looking for? Have I thought about it? As I watch more closely, I’m
discovering that there are different forces at work within me that are going on in pretty much all my conversations.
Even in our own sangha (spiritual community) there are people with very diverse points of view—as is often the case in any family. How am I reacting to points of view different from my own? How well can I listen and take in what the person is saying? What can I learn about myself from this interaction and my own behavior? Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity? If I want to bring about positive change during these turbulent and polarized times, then first I’m going to have to deal with the turbulence and polarity within me.
It is important to remember that we are all products of our experiences.
Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.
To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder. One of the
reasons that Sri Gurudev founded the Integral Yoga Institute was this
recognition that spiritual growth is difficult without a supportive
community. As we watch our own thoughts and try to live with integrity, sangha means that we are also looking for ways to support and lift up one another. Also, our being a part of the IYI gives us the field where we are able to move from a small self-interest to a larger, shared interest. We come together so that we can connect to something bigger than ourselves. We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.
COVID-19 safety precautions have changed how we connect with each
other and share the teachings. There are still plenty of ways you can be of service to IYI and deepen the benefits you can receive from coming
together as a sangha. Think: What can I offer? What skills or experience
can I bring to the table? If you can’t think of what would be useful, reach out to me or our interim executive director, Hamsa, or any board member. We will find just the right Karma Yoga for you, according to the time you have available.
Through this mutual caring for this beloved organization, we will bring out our own potential and keep IYI shining bright for our city long after this pandemic ends.
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