Yoga teacher Les Leventhal looks at the importance of truly connecting with others, and teaches us how we can learn to pay more loving attention to ourselves, our loved ones, and our Earth.
SUMMER TIME, green, eco … takin’ it to the streets … for me, this means tapas, the third niyama. Tapas is living with less and recognising how full our lives really are with less clutter. Tapas also represents heat, as in ritualistic fire, or burning of old patterns of speaking, acting and behaving, in order to create space for the new, brave, bold and beautiful to move in. I teach all over the world and so, sometimes, I am not completely connected to the seasons.
I am reminded of this right now, as I am writing this article from the United States where summer is coming to an end. So, how does any of this relate to eco anything, going green and tapas? I came to the States on a workshop and teacher training tour, and I stayed in the States because some very dear friends have passed away and a family member is soon to depart. She knows. We know. When someone says they don’t want to eat any longer because what’s going on with them makes it more painful to eat than not to eat, we know
and we understand … or do we?
This is one way that she chooses to finish her life with less. I could spend time telling you that I am sad, feel lonely, am confused about the ageing process, the debilitation of the human, physical body and then about my anger with God. Wait, okay, I just did, but honestly, that’s enough, and I do want you to know me. But, more than that I want you to take something away from this article that you can cultivate in your own life. I want you to question what is important to you and I want to guide you to that very divine place we call the edge or the mountain top. This is a place where you can begin to question all the things that have been important to you but now they might just be distractions or they might be relationships that have become familiar and are no longer supportive to anyone in any way.
So, let’s jump in. Over the past eight years, I’ve been travelling regularly to Australia to teach, and one thing I have learnt is that whether you are on the east coast enjoying sunrises, on the west coast enjoying sunsets, on the north coast, the south coast or somewhere in the interior, Australians love to escape and comb the outdoors.
Do you ever take the time to pause and think who are you going to do these things with? Do you always only do these activities with family members? Do you ever think about the people who really need a break more? Are there people who you keep promising to call, promising you will go out with and grab a strong flat white (with honey), and yet you never seem to get around to it? Do not judge yourself, please.
None of this is good, bad, right or wrong. Simply learn to become curious about what you are doing and why you are doing it. As I grow older and witness the passing of friends and family, I have been given great pause to realise there are some people whom I have not been in face-to-face contact with in a while, and now I would like to pay respect to the words friendship and family. So the tapas piece is two-fold.
First, it is choosing to make that circle of influential friends and family more tightly knit, meaning some of the social butterfly-asana, or bopping around, slows down. So, this means fewer people but more intimacy (hello bramacharya, intimate relationships).
Then when we ask, or are asked, “How are you doing?” we can contemplate the overused replies, “fine” or “yeah, good” and aim to remove them from our conversations.
We feel safe to trust in the person asking the question, or we focus on being the type of friend who truly listens when we ask someone how they are. We realise that we are asking them how they are because we have the love, compassion and care to stick around for the answer and give the person as much time as they need to answer.
Second, as I walk through this very interesting time of change and transition in my life, it feels as if the entire world is also seeking answers on how to navigate moving in a direction no one could have predicted. People are dying and there are so many homeless people in San Francisco right now … it’s alarming and shocking. This means fewer people are in our lives. I noticed a desire in myself to try and fill the voids and became a member of various recovery programs; I also witnessed a desire to mask emotions. Of course, I turned to my recovery community for support, but I also always turn to yoga when I am seeking answers.
What I have found is tapas, living with less, where old patterns and old beliefs no longer serve me and something useful can move in. My expectations started to rise and then came my meditation practice. Over the last few days, I sat down and just said, “Tapas, living with less, tapas, living with less.” I watched my mind and what a show it was. The revelation was everything that yoga continues to show me in every situation where we experience struggle or dukkha, which means suffering.
That revelation is love. There is a deep undeniable, interconnectedness with all of us, and that is to give, receive and provide love. It is important that we allow ourselves time to grieve, to acknowledge when people are struggling and to say to others, “I see and hear that you are going through a rough time and I am here if you need me.” This pattern of thinking that we need more in our lives is the opposite of what we are seeking.
It has been with these passings that I have recognised and seen more clearly the relationships that I want and need to nurture more in my life. From this recognition, which is a seed ingredient for love – we could even call it desire – we are gifted the experience of feeling truelove in our lives, a knowingness that we meet God in our daily lives when we connect to this love.
The eco, green piece/peace is when we are connected to that love, we are not running around the world trying to fill any perceived voids. We spend less money, use less fuel. We can pay attention to what we are buying and using and we can understand why.
When we are with loved ones, we tend to waste less and our lives transform into a place of caring for everything and everyone, including our environment because we want the ones we love and spend time with to be well taken care of This Earth, our planet, is one of those loves.
As you go out exploring, pause for a moment, and think about whom you are going to spend time with and what you are going to do with them and the effect which that will have on those people and those around you. Think about the effects of your activities and their contributions to the wellbeing of this amazing Earth we’ve been gifted and please tell people you love them and honour their lives while they’re alive.
Our social media honourings when someone passes are always amazingly filled with love, but make sure you tell them those same amazing things, face to face, while they are still alive. The gift of passing is the love of presence.
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