I've been struggling lately with the images of war - soldiers, tanks, battleships,
innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, injury, trauma, death, protests, refugees and displacement. What can I do? How can I help? What do the teachings of yoga offer in this seemingly hopeless situation?
I've been discussing the situation in the Middle East with my colleagues, and I find that even within my "safe" community, there are opposing opinions about what's going on, and how it should be handled.
By a stroke of grace, I came across a yogic concept called mati while listening to a podcast yesterday. Mati is considered one of the Niyamas in some schools of yogic thought. Niyama is the Sanskrit term for a duty or observance recommended by yogic philosophy as part of the path of yoga. Mati has been dropped from the list of niyamas by most modern schools, perhaps due to the complexity and misunderstanding of its true meaning.
Mati embodies the art of thinking and reflecting with a purpose that transcends mere intellectual exercise. It beckons us to delve deep into the recesses of our minds, seeking understanding and clear seeing or cognition. It involves seeing through the māyā, the interacting creation, preservation and dissolution of the molecules of matter. It also involves the cultivation of an ability to see the world without the personalization created by our ego.
In the practice of mati, we learn to reconcile conflicting ideas, embrace the paradoxes that life presents, and forge a harmonious synthesis of seemingly opposing forces. Mati encourages us not to rush to judgment or take sides in the binary world of right and wrong but to explore the nuanced and complex shades in between. Mati guides us towards a state of inner balance, where contemplation leads to wisdom and unity, fostering a holistic perspective that transcends the limitations of a divisive mindset.
The yogic concept of mati offers invaluable tools for finding solace in a divided world. By emphasizing the practice of deep reflection and understanding, mati allows us to navigate the complexities of a polarized society with grace and equanimity. It encourages us to acknowledge and respect differing viewpoints without immediately taking sides, fostering empathy and tolerance.
In a divided world, mati empowers us to recognize that every perspective holds a piece of the truth, and it's through contemplation and reconciliation of conflicting ideas that we can work towards unity and harmony. By cultivating this open-minded and non-judgmental approach, we can find solace in the understanding that we are not compelled to be entrenched in divisive ideologies, but instead, we can stand in a place of inner serenity while promoting cooperation and peaceful coexistence in the external world.
Will mati end the war in the Middle East? Unlikely. But, imagine if the entire world practiced mati! What a difference it could make! Change begins at the individual level. Ultimately, the journey towards peace in the Middle East may be challenging, but hope is a powerful force that inspires perseverance and action. Even small steps and gestures toward understanding can pave the way for a more peaceful and prosperous future for all involved.
I offer you my deepest respect, reverence and admiration regardless of any differences in our thoughts and beliefs. I hope you are able to find inner peace in this difficult time.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti