Local Yoke


Several weeks ago, the Maitri Southeast Regional Yoga Conference was held in Washington, DC, and FireFly Farms was a proud advertiser in the conference program.  The conference theme was “Yoga through Peace, Peace through Yoga.”

I took my first yoga class in 1991.  Over the past twenty years, I have moved on and off my yoga mat with varying frequency and dedication, but since that first class I have considered myself a “practitioner” – keeping to my path with as much mindfulness and as a little judgment as I could muster. 

Yoga – as most even in the western world now know – simply translates to “yoke.”  This notion of yoking – or harnessing – oneself to anything is not a notion that the western mind takes to readily.  Practitioners seek to yoke together mind, body, and spirit (or breath) through a lifelong practice. 

One doesn’t need to look very far to observe the growing disconnection with (disdain for?) our American bodies. One doesn’t need to attend many yoga classes (certainly those taught in the Iyengar tradition) before hearing an instructor calmly observe: “pull your sacrum half an inch forward,” to realize what mind-body connection is about.
This notion of connectedness or yoking certainly has meaning for our inner-selves; I will leave that to the gurus.  My “shout-out,” greetings, and admiration go to Mary Pappas-Sandonas at Unity Woods Yoga.
What has compelled me to write is the idea of outer connectedness.   What compels me is the yoking of each of us together, and the yoking of all of us collectively with our environment. 

Years ago in November 2006, on vacation in some lovely tropical locale, I read a piece by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker called “The Darkening Sea.”  It struck me deeply and has remained with me.      
In her essay, she describes the carbon-absorbing, acidifying oceans.  She describes the affect that this acidification is having on the ocean’s calcium levels.  And, as these calcium levels drop, she describes the effect on hundreds of species that depend on calcium for life: depend on calcium to form their skeletal structures.  I was left to this day with the haunting and beautiful image of these dying coral colonies: each coral “joined to its neighbors through a thin layer of connecting tissue, and all attached to the colony’s collective skeleton.”    
Not very long ago, the image of this beautifully interdependent coral was brought to mind in a very different setting.  Here in Mountain Maryland, there is great on-going debate regarding Marcellus Shale natural gas development. Inside a presentation prepared by Dr. J. Stephen Cleghorn was a quote from Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Department of Environmental Studies at Ithaca College, New York: 

“The Marcellus Shale is alive. It is more like a coral reef than it is an inert bunch of rock. We are destroying a living ecosystem without any real knowledge of what role it might play in the larger functioning of the biosphere.”

I’m honored to be a part of FireFly Farms.  I’m heartened to be at in the midst of a “local food movement” that is inspiring Americans to ask new questions about the foods they buy – to be more mindful of our “local yoke;” more mindful of the notion that any given country or region or state or county or community should – perhaps must – feed itself, care for itself, and actively work towards its own economic recovery.

Several years ago, in reading I came across the Sanskrit phrase: "pratitya samutpada."  Loosely translated: "The delicate interconnectedness of all life."  I had the phrase tattooed three times wrapped about my left arm.

I am humbled by my yoke.


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