The "butterfly effect" implies that a single event in one place and time can have ramifications across geography and time. I am fairly certain anyone reading this can think of an example of the butterfly effect in their own life. Deeper reflection may lead you to consider just how much control do we have in this life, or just how much power do we wield. Depending on your perspective, both are true.
A kind word or deed has the power to profoundly change someone's mood and actions. That could be the greatest power of all. So too can the choice of someone else greatly change the freedom or very life of another person. Both are true.
I recently had the good fortune to visit one of my favourite places; a retreat centre. As I tucked myself into bed one night, I was startled to hear loud bangs coming from the west side of the campus. I thought at first the sounds were fireworks. I looked out the window and did not see splashed of light. I then wondered if the sounds were gunshots. My mind then went down a rabbit hole of self-protection, planning the actions I would take if the later were true.
Someone enjoying a fireworks display on a late summer eve also set the stage for a troubled night of sleep and a poor mood the next day. That mood darkened my experience of yoga class the next morning and the amplified frustrations I experienced while driving toward home. Fortunately, the retreat also created space for self reflection.
Do I want my experience of the world dependent on the circumstances of the world outside of me?
My answer to that question is no. I want my actions, thoughts, moods to be a reflection of all that is good in the world. I want people to be greeted by a smile and authentic happiness when we meet. Or at the very least a sense of openness even when challenged. Poise in the face of adversity.
The past few years of a global pandemic has certainly brought into the human consciousness our interconnectedness and to some of the more horrible, discouraging parts of living. Whether we like it or not, we are each impacted by the choices of others AND we impact the lives of others. Whether we like it or not, there are things that happen that we like and things that happen that we don't like.
What we miss - I think - is that both are true at the same time.
At the same time people were coming down with Covid, people were learning new skills to work from home. At the same time people are dying in catastrophic events, new life is arriving. There is a long Covid for sure. After months of social distancing, wearing masks, business closures, unemployment and restriction from seeing friends and family, we are all breathing differently. We are all reacting to more freedom as the restrictions are being lifted and life is returning to "normal."
Reacting is the antithesis of poise.
Yoga asana, pranayama, meditation - these are practices which teach us, move us in the direction maintaining poise.
1) Yoga asana is not about flexibility. It is about maintaining awareness on balanced breath while the body is challenged.
2) Pranayama is about learning how to manage the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system response.
3) Meditation is an opportunity to witness our thoughts rather than becoming reactive to them.
None of these are easy practices which is why they are called practices - they must continue to be explored and practiced. My mind has become a very different field of experience since we went into Covid and to work with my reactivity takes more practice, and more attention to the things I eat, the people I am with and the environments I am in. Just twelve hours at a retreat centre and I was more clear and less reactive. More curious and open. No cravings to pacify my sense of anxiety or lack. More balanced.
A balanced mind, body and breath do not react with high alert when fireworks are lighting up the sky. Clearly I should have booked more time to really create enduring poise.