By Kara-Leah Grant, author Forty Days of Yoga
It’s been a power-packed day and a half in Wellington, catching up with friends – all of whom happen to be part of the local yoga community.
There’s so much wisdom and presence out there, and just sitting down to spend time with heart-open, grounded, clear-sighted people is inspirational.
In between coffees and teas and yoga classes, I’m getting stuck into organizing Global Mala. Being in flow makes this process feel effortless – I get an idea, run with it, make it happen, move on.
This morning I sent out an email to my Yoga Lunchbox database, a call to action if you like, outlining the plans that Dunedin and Wellington have for putting on a Global Mala event on Sunday, September 19th.
My intention is to inspire other yoga students, teachers and studios to create their own Global Mala wherever they are, on any scale that works for them. I’m offering support and resources through email, and through the website.
This year, all money raised via Global Mala is going to the Yoga In Prisons Trust. It’s something I’m super excited about – Global Mala is part of the UN International Peace Day celebrations, and what better way to create peace than by supporting yoga in our prisons?
After emailing the Trust and asking if they wanted to be the recipient of our donations (and the corporate sponsorship that’s my next mission to find – what businesses in New Zealand are going to want to get behind Global Mala and match our funds raised?), I experienced a huge surge of energy. It’s the surge of energy you get when you know you’re on track, on purpose, and on the money baby.
I’d been experiencing a bit of lethargy in organizing Global Mala – it was on my to do list as just one more thing in my busy life I had to get done… I knew I wanted to do it, and I could see the vision of the event in my head, but I wasn’t feeling inspired.
Until I connected with the Yoga In Prisons Trust.
All of a sudden, I had reason for doing Global Mala, someone who would benefit as a result of my actions. Energy and inspiration flooded through me and I was all go go go.
There’s a universal law in there somewhere… that when we offer up what we do for the good of another, we access effortless energy. When we do what we do for the service of the greater whole… we are supported by that greater whole. Doing stuff for me, for my personal gain, well… it just ain’t the same really.
It’s one of the main reasons why I started this website. I love to write, I love yoga, I love to connect to people and make things happen… put all that together and what do you have? 😉
When I started The Yoga Lunchbox, I had a vision of yoga being available to people from all walks of life, from all sectors of our community. In my head, I really wanted to help deliver yoga to prisons, but had no idea how I was going to go about doing it.
Turns out I didn’t have to – someone else had already picked up that ball and was running with it – the Yoga In Prisons Trust. Adhyatma wrote about her experience of taking yoga into prison in the article Broken Warriors. It’s a powerful read, and a powerful thing to be doing.
People who’ve done bad things (and who hasn’t to some degree?) get a raw deal in our society. There’s a huge gulf of separation between Us and Them. Prisoners and the Rest of Us. Criminals and Good People. Yet people who’ve spent time in prison are mostly going to come out and be back in our communities again. It makes so much sense to offer whatever support and help we can to help them transform and heal into their fullest potential as human beings – if that’s what they’re ready to do, and if that’s what they want to do.
And what better way to do that than by offering yoga? I’ve heard first hand from Wellington Satyananda yoga teacher Tyag his experience of going into the prisons as part of the Trust and delivering yoga. He’s seeing examples of lights being turned on, paths opening up, and transformation flowering into possibility.
It reminds me that life is not easy, no matter who we are, and some of us are presented greater challenges than others.
It’s difficult for those of us who have an easier ride to sometimes remember that we’re all experiencing different realities, through different filters. After all, the consciousness of the people who raise us make an enormous difference to the way we see the world.
The way that people behave around us, the way that people behave towards us – these all create who we are. It takes extraordinary people to rise about challenging circumstances and be different, do different, create different. If you’ve never been shown love, acceptance, compassion and understanding – how do you know how to access it within you?
Taking time to understand the circumstances that led us to crime and to prison allows us to see the humanity that lives within both us and the people who are locked up, because we are them and they are us.
This is something that Steve Pavlina, author of Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth is exploring in a deep way on his thirty day inspiration trial, and subsequent trip into subjective reality. He says:
Previously my favorite analogy for explaining the principle of Oneness was the cells-in-the-body model. We’re all cells in the larger body of humanity. We have both an individual identity and a collective one. The health of the body and the health of the cells are one.
But now I’m letting that analogy go because I’ve found a much more powerful replacement to help me align with Oneness.
That new analogy is that we’re all projections of the same dreamer in a dream world.
With this analogy there’s no longer a cell wall between us. There’s no separation at all. We aren’t just individual parts of the same whole — we’re different windows into the same being. (My emphasis)
Now when I see another person, I don’t think that we’re two cells in the same body. I see us as different viewports into the same being. In fact, we are the same being. You are me, and I am you.
We’re in fact the same singular being, the same consciousness. Separation is a complete illusion. We are different images of the same thing.
Yes. Yes and Yes. We are all human. And we are all a part of this community. And only in accepting all parts of ourselves, can we begin to move as a society – as humanity – towards integration and healing.
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were only necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy the. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? – Alexander Solzhenitsyn The Gulag Archipelago
Tyag says he sees a real hunger for yoga in his prison classes – the men want to know, they want to understand, they appreciate the tools that yoga gives them for managing their emotions and their minds. He says they’re some of his best students, because they need those healing messages so bad.
Having access to the power of yoga to transform and heal from within can mean the difference between coming out of prison and recreating the circumstances and reality that led one there in the first place, and coming out of prison and creating a new reality, a new way of being.
For every person that has the tools and understanding to make different choices, there are countless more positively affected by those choices – family and friends and ultimately society.
Because, lets face it, the pursuit of personal development or self-realisation through yoga and meditation is largely the domain of the comfortable middle-class. It’s almost a leisure activity. That’s not to say that the comfortable middle-class don’t desperately need the teachings of yoga – I know I did! But there’s also a huge part of our society that doesn’t have access to yoga who would greatly benefit. People in prisons are just one of those segments.
And that’s why I’m super excited that Global Mala NZ 2010 is going to be raising money for the Yoga In Prison’s Trust. We’ll be doing that in a couple of ways.
On the day, at whatever events end up happening around the country (and we’ve definitely got Wellington and Dunedin happening, and possibly Christchurch) we’ll be asking people who take part to donate.
I’m also going to find a corporate sponsor or two willing to either donate a specific amount, or match the other donations raised (Got a company you can suggest? Run a company and want to be involved?).
And finally, I’m going to make it really easy for people to donate directly through The Yoga Lunchbox anytime from anywhere just by clicking that button down below. Funds are collected securely through Pay Pal, and go direct to the Yoga In Prison’s Trust.
I’ve got a figure in my head, the amount of money I’d like to see us raise for the Yoga In Prisons Trust by the of the year. This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more news about Global Mala NZ 2010, and the Yoga In Prisons Trust.
The Yoga Education in Prisons Trust is a registered charitable trust providing yoga and meditation education for prisoners, in prisons in New Zealand.
- To provide education for prisoners and offenders in the practices and techniques of yoga and meditation with the purpose to enable personal change and development.
- To provide released prisoners with ongoing education and training in the practices and techniques of yoga and meditation.
Through yoga, people are able to find the peace and resilience needed to live in a complex, ever changing world and to discover their own deeper, intrinsic identity. Yoga provides a system for managing all aspects of our being, from our health through to our sense of purpose and meaning.
Yoga Education in Prisons Trust – YEPT recognizes that the restrictive environment of a prison may be more conducive to internalisation and contemplation. Therefore it can be regarded as an opportunity to use the time-tested techniques and tools of yoga and meditation for personal growth and well-being.
A safe supportive environment is created by experienced teachers that allows the prisoners to let go of fears and restrictive patterns, explore aspects of themselves that can enhance social integration.
- Yoga enables prisoners to live with a greater sense of autonomy within prison. Setting the precedent for life out of prison.
- Through the practices of yoga the body and mind learn to relax and release tensions and greater insight is developed as to why we behave in a particular way.
- Yoga provides techniques that empower practitioners to work on their self development and change negative behaviour and thinking patterns.
- When students are more relaxed physically and mentally through the practices of yoga, this is then conducive to working with others on self development and change, in turn, contributing to overall harmony in the prison environment.
In order to maintain a tree we need to water the roots. In order to maintain a healthy life we need to water the roots of life, the spirit. – Swami Niranjanananda