During the holidays we often hear the phrase “Let there be peace on earth.” This a beautiful sentiment, one that I pray for everyday. Unfortunately, it’s not a reality for many people. When I think about this, I often become overwhelmed. I’m unsure how to respond to all the needs within my family, my town, my country, my world. We are exposed to so much poverty, suffering, and terror on a daily basis. My prayers for peace feel inadequate.
But prayers are powerful. I’ve been actively praying for the past 10-years. My personal understanding—and my theology—of prayer has changed radically (multiple times in fact) throughout this time, but my connection to the act of praying has remained constant.
My prayers have taken the form of action and movement, they’ve been yelled, they’ve been whispered. They’ve been private and communal. They’ve been written, recited as mantra, made into artwork. In some ways, praying as become a near constant state for me. Prayers are never far from my heart, mind, and lips. Prayer has changed me. The act of praying has slowly chipped away at and reshaped who I am.
This change is what I remember when I feel helpless in the face of an un-peaceful world. I remember that I have become a more peaceful person (and trust me, this was no small feat…). My relationships, my actions, my goals, my work have become more peaceful. I have faith that this matters—that this act of personal peace leads to a more peaceful world.
I have faith that there is Truth, Light, God, Divine Energy (choose the word that speaks to you because they’re all just words trying to explain a higher reality) within me and within you. (I’ll use the word Light) I have faith that there is Light within every single being (human, animal, plant…) in the universe. The more time I spend cultivating my own inner Light, the better able I am to see your inner Light. And then the stranger’s inner Light. And then the criminal’s inner Light. This action of seeing Light—of seeing the same Truth that is a part of all of us—within the diversity of everything I see in the world changes things. It changes me.
Last week in a particular moment of feeling overwhelmed and helpless I designed a simple yoga practice themed around the act of praying for peace. I was able to share it with a few dedicated students and now I’m happy to share it with all of you.
In the practice I use a few verses from the Isha Upanishad (translated by Eknath Easwaran) as a kind of refrain. This scripture communicates the truth and mystery that while we are all different in many ways, we all contain the same Truth.
Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no fear.
Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no grief.
How can the multiplicity of life
Delude the one who sees its unity?
It is my prayer that this practice can help you cultivate your own inner Light and that it helps you to more easily see the inner Light in everyone around you (near and far).
I wish you a peaceful holiday, full of Light and love.
May there be peace on earth.
This is an audio recording of a 90-minute yoga practice themed around praying for peace that includes guided reflection, teachings, simple movement, breath work, chanting, guided meditation, silence, and rest.
- You’ll hear me refer to Anjali Mudra at several points in the practice. A mudra is a gesture and in Anjali Mudra the hands are brought together in prayer at heart center. But the hands aren’t pressed together. The base of the palms touch and the thumbs and fingertips touch, but there is space between the palms. This space leaves room for divine mystery.
- Before practice, you might want to watch a few quick videos.
- The first is a video demonstrating the flowing sequence practiced several times in the class. You might want to watch it a few times. (If you’re unfamiliar with viniyoga postures, you might also want to watch these videos for bridge pose and apanasana).
- The second is a video for the practice of Kara Nyasa, which is the practice of energizing our hands with a mantra. The video provides you with a visual demonstration of the technique and will familiarize you with the mantra we’ll be chanting.
- Remember that every person’s body is different and that there are a multitude of ways that every posture can be adapted. These videos are designed to give you a general idea of a posture or technique. Please listen to and honor the unique needs of your body as you practice them.
- You won’t need any specific props for the movement portion of this practice. We will spend several minutes at the beginning and end of the practice lying down in savasana (corpse pose). If you would like to have blankets for under your head, under your knees, or as a covering, please have them handy. We’ll also spend several minutes in a seated posture for breath and meditation. Please make sure you have something that will allow you to sit comfortably (such as a block, bolster, blanket, or chair).
The Audio Recording:
We begin the practice lying down in a relaxed posture.
Do you know someone who would benefit from this practice? Please share it with them. Help me spread a little bit of peace throughout our world.
OM Shanti Namah
Questions about the practice? Or reflections from your experience. Please leave a comment below.