Personal Attention

While I was in Costa Rica, I had the unique opportunity to teach 1-1 to a young man. I thought it would be such an easy class! It turned out to be a great lesson for me, learning to adjust to another person’s needs, and recognizing how much personal attention we need in life.

This is what yoga teaches: that we must care for ourselves. Yoga offers massage methods for the body, meditation for the mind and soul, and asana practice for all three. Ayurveda teaches us that we are unique individuals with unique needs, and what we specifically need to attain inner peace. This helps us reconnect to ourselves and find peace within.

In my mind, peace work requires the same: even when you are in the field, working on conflict transformation between warring tribes or trying to reduce pollution and carbon emissions you must care for yourself. If you, in your body and mind and soul are not at peace, it will be difficult to bring peace to others.

Yoga is a good way to do this: you can find a moment of silence, reflection, and gain the strength to move forward. One-to-one classes are a good way to find exactly what you need because the teacher can be a mode of reflection, help you to understand what it is the unique you needs. Large group classes also help because we all need to strengthen our body, mind, and soul in some way, and all yoga does this.

What are your thoughts? Do we need self-awareness before engaging in peace work? How much inner peace do we need before we begin our work in the field?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Chelsey
    Jul 21, 2010 @ 23:44:12

    I couldn’t agree more!

    While advocating ‘self care’ and ‘stress management’ for humanitarian field workers is common practice within the sector, it seems there is an absence of discussion regarding what this can realistically entail while actually out on a mission (where one’s usual relaxation rituals are quite often logistically impossible!). While a thorough debriefing and adequate R&R may be necessary to avoid burnout upon return, I very much appreciate your thoughts on yoga as a means of self care while in the field. From my understanding, it can require as little as a few moments of silent concentration to reconnect with our selves and our breath, that life-giving force!

    On a mission we may frequently witness and encounter things for which there are no words….things that break our hearts, test our deepest held beliefs and challenge our most basic understandings of what it means to be human. Yet, when words do not suffice and actions are constrained we, still, can breathe. Although the action itself is an automatic bodily function, focused breathing (and ‘advance’ practice through various yoga postures and breathing techniques) can become a vital relaxation ritual in even the most challenging circumstances. Focused breathing importantly allows greater control over the physical effects of tension and trauma in the moment, which I believe allows us to accordingly act more effectively in our various roles.

    On a more personal note: In my own life I am finding yoga poses and postures to be a very effective way to relieve the purely physical stress of a difficult set of circumstances. Until recently, I was not conscious of the amount of physical tension carried in our bodies when we are under stress! What a relief it is to discover that there is actually a way to release this mounting tension. I am finding yin to be particularly helpful, due to the underlying philosophy of this series of poses (as explained to me by my current teacher): The poses–with varying levels of discomfort–are held for much longer than those within other styles of yoga, allowing us the opportunity to first observe our discomfort, then accept it (by remaining in the pose without fidgeting) and even, finally, to let go and relax into it.

    By consciously practicing to ‘accept and become comfortable in the uncomfortable’ physically, I like to think that I will one day also be able to do this in other aspects of my life, when faced with unanticipated challenges and disappointments đŸ™‚ The practice of yin yoga is helping me to recognize that there is also peace (and thus power!) to be found in acceptance–an idea that I hope will one day allow me to be a more effective worker in my field.


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