Last night, I had to detach myself from my iPhone. Not only were my eyes in extreme pain from watching videos, memes, news and social media content, but my brain legitimately hurt. The combination of my headache and heartache, made me question the meaning behind our Instagram and social media culture, not to mention our wider Culture (with a capital C). I found myself easily placing judgement and being negative, and quickly stopped myself from doing so. I did go on a Facebook live “rant”, as I felt it was what I needed to do to express myself rather than just writing, which from what I’m learning gains less traction on social media these days. I also questioned my tiny presence in what could be a very monstrous and ego-centric Instagram and blogging culture. In fact, it’s been about two months that I’ve been thinking of taking a tech Sabbath or pulling away quietly. As the day progressed, before even hearing about the ACLU success, I realized I could easily shame and place value judgements to those who continued to post throughout the day, of their beautiful bikini and undewear bodies in complicated yoga poses, without any mention of what is going on around us. But, I decided not to. I decided it was not my place nor would it serve either party. Moreover, I am guilty of testing out the Instagram waters with shirtless yoga asana photos. Yes, they do get more “likes”. The absurdity! But, it is now time to take whatever influence and platform we have and use it wisely. And, yes, why not, politically too.
The #MuslimBan really got to me and I was processing it for the entirety of the day. I had the chance to sit for meditation on Saturday morning, practice a sweaty vinyasa class, then teach a class. I had the rest of the day to quietly sit, read and watch media pouring in from across the nation. I tried not to judge, but discerned instead. Not fully resorting to any set religious belief or at least classifying myself under one single umbrella, this concept of discernment, which has roots in Christianity resonates well with me. I remember, one day, my teacher told me, “it’s ok to discern Armen.”
Discernment is perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding. It is the ability to choose from right or wrong, and to judge between truth or error. Of course, here too, we bring in our tainted perceptions and perspectives, but the act of looking at all options and making decisions, with awareness and acute awareness and decision making, is already a step above judgement. What yoga philosophy, according to the sutras of Patanjali offers us is a way of living. In its crudest definition, it is culture. The yogic culture. One doesn’t need to resort to this philosophy in its “extreme” of course, but I assume most yogis who have adopted that label in the western world and who hold a strong influence through social media, resort partially to some of these belief systems. I may be wrong. A very important concept which I resort to often, is to be able to recognize where I am on my path. Without self-judgement, I attempt to offer empathy and self-compassion, recognizing that where I am is exactly where I need to be. By building a culture of compassion and inner peace, I hope to be able to extend this to others. It’s an ongoing process and one where at times, like yesterday, I put into question and have difficulty fathoming looking around me. In an effort to not focus on the negative or lack, and be grateful for what I am surrounded by, I’d love to point out 5 influencers and yoga teachers worth following who choose to use their platform intentionally and wisely. To me, it’s really not the number of followers you have, but it’s what you have to say.
In other words its not just handstands and waterfalls. Here they are: