Lokah Samasta

Lokah Samasta Sukinoh Bhavantu
May all beings be happy and free

Lokah samasta – all beings everywhere
Lokah – location, here, region, world
Samasta – all, whole
Sukinoh – be happy and free
Bhavantu – may I contribute to this, I pledge to this, may it be so

Part of embodying lokah samasta is to fully inhabit your body – your personal region, your world of existence. Asana practice is one of many ways we deepen our ability to do so.

Seeing clearly the whole space and world in which we find ourselves, moment to moment to moment, is another part.  This is both in the larger scale of world citizenship, and also the daily scale of the space you’re in, right now, reading this.

Our ability to fully embody all aspects of our lokah samasta is limited by our edges. We all have edges. We all have parts of us, others, and the world, that we don’t want to see. Sometimes we can’t see.  We have lines drawn between what we’re willing to work with and what we’re not. What we include in our intentions and practice and hearts, and what we don’t.  Often, a large part of the path is being able to first see those lines and then to soften or shift them.

As Abbot Myogen Steve Stucky said, “Whatever you feel is right at the edge of your familiar world, that’s the edge of your deep intention to wake up with what is.”

cut out (2)This past year I’ve made a practice of a weekly morning silent walking period through my local park.  There’s a waterfall along the route, and I usually sit with it for a good while.  One day, the light, the leaves and sky behind invited a picture.

I soon noticed that I was being very careful to cut out the collection of three or four discarded soda bottles someone had left on the side.  The waterfall was beautiful and inspiring, the trash was not.  A clear line – what I was including in my experience, and what I was cutting out.

I was cutting it out because if I spent time with it, I would go on cut outa thought train of how thoughtless those people were. I’d berate the park employees for not picking it up.  Thinking those thoughts made me feel bad. So I cut all of it out.

Seeing the division enabled me to turn and actually look at the bottles. To actually include them in the whole moment of experience.  This park is special to me, my time here is meaningful.  I love the earth. Even the part of earth over there on the side that’s ugly and unusable.  If I’m also committed to yoga and dharma in action, how can I respond fully? How does all of my personal embodied world meet the needs and experience of the whole space and world I’m in this moment?  The answer for me was a new addition to my weekly walks: a plastic bag.  I fill it two to three times on my way to the waterfall with trash, emptying along the way in the park garbage cans.  It doesn’t matter why they did it, or whose job it is to pick it up.  What matters is how I respond to it.

What or where are your edges? What do you care about? How can seeing and softening those edges allow you to interact and respond to the world, to the moment? It won’t look the same for everyone. But imagine if everyone did this practice?

To celebrate one of my favorite holidays, I’ve started Pick Up & Picnic. Join me 🙂



dirtThis summer I had the occasion to have my hands in the dirt of two amazing places in upstate New York. Each time, the dirt was so dark and rich, smelling so amazingly fresh, that I just wanted to eat it (alright, I did actually eat it one of the times).

Everything grows out of something else. A tree stump can house not only moss or mushrooms, insect larvae and beetles, but also a whole new tree.

We all grew out of this earth. The more I practice, the more I can feel this. Although it still does take me by surprise sometimes, the default understanding of the earth is hard to shake.

Sanskrit has several different terms for earth to delineate the different kinds of relationships we have with it. English just has one (and a capital letter).  Our default understanding of it is often something that we’re ON, not OF. But if you spend enough time with a forest, you watch not only the mossy fallen trees become dirt, but the hearty standing trees themselves fall, become leaf and moss covered, break down to where they feel more like carpet under foot than wood, and eventually resemble dirt more than anything else. You feel in your bones that this too, is what happens with us.

It is not poetic to say that sitting in the forest, it feels like the stones and water are my bones and blood, or that the layers of leaves are my skin, and the trees veins to my heart.

enso“When we feel the beauty of the river, when we are one with the water, we intuitively do it in Dogen’s way. It is our true nature to do so. But if your true nature is covered by ideas of economy or efficiency, Dogen’s way makes no sense.” Shunryu Suzuki

What is Dogen’s way? To bring a bucket to a nearby river to retrieve water.  After filling up the bucket, he would dump part of it back into the river. Not to make it the right weight to carry, but to return a bit to the river. To have that connection. To take care of the river.

This is our practice – taking care of what’s around us, what’s right in front of us, what we’re in relationship with.

Below the flights of stairs, layers of pavement, sewers, and subways, deep down there is earth that needs us to take care of it.  Deep down under your partner, child, friend, there is something that needs to be taken care of.

In the wake of the Climate March, and the climate UN meetings, remember that it is not just (and perhaps, controversially, not at all) the government and regulations that will take care of the earth.  It is us, if the same number of people who attended the march committed to 10 small acts* of environmentalism, it would make a difference. If we practice, it will make a difference.  It is not necessary to try to be better, or to aid the environment as a mission – we all naturally want to do that – we just need to really practice. So really practice.

10 Small Acts of Environmentalism You can do for the Rest of Your Life:

*Never buy another roll of paper towels. Use small rags. It creates no greater water or laundry detergent use than I’ve always used to wash my regular bathing towels. (Ditto with paper napkins)
*Use a shower head that pauses the flow, or an adapter for your current shower head.
*Never buy another conventional cleaning product. Buy ones like Meyers Brand, or make your own.
*Spend time in nature regularly. Develop a relationship with a particular place in nature.
*Never buy another plastic bottle of water. Buy one of the multitude of refillable water bottles to your weight and aesthetic needs. If you plan ahead, and accept the small inconvenience, it becomes something you don’t even think about.
*Never buy another garbage bag. Use the plastic ones from grocery stores you get when you forget to bring your reusable bag/don’t have enough with you.
*Be educated about what is currently most sustainable to buy, and buy that. For example, cork yoga blocks came on the scene as a great alternative to the foam blocks.  Then everything started to be made from cork. Then cork trees began to be endangered. Now bamboo is best. Although I hear they are cutting down regular forests in some places to build bamboo ones. Don’t get bowled under by these kinds of situations. Make the best choice possible at the time you’re making it.
*Institute the old camp favorite: If it’s yellow, let it mellow…
*Never “print something for your records again”.  Create a PDF, and file it electronically.   As a yoga teacher, I have to itemize my purchases each year for taxes. I used to print all my receipts from online purchases. I don’t print a single one anymore.  Anything I do print, I print double-sided. Anything with one side that I eventually am done with, I use the other side as note paper.
*Compost and Recycle so regularly that when you’re somewhere it isn’t possible to do, it hurts a little to put it in the trash.

Mother_Earth caitlin taylor*Bonus: Be creative – what works in your life? What are other ways? How do you care for this one and precious earth?