Drishti–Where to look?

Morning Practice

We all come to yoga for many reasons. Sometimes we want to get a little more flexible and fit. Sometimes we want to let go of stress and relax. Whatever the motivation that draws us to our mats, most of us find that our initial draw to yoga deepens and evolves over time.

I was talking to one of my children recently. He started watching a PBS series on the rise of Nazism in Germany. He did not know many of the particular details that lead to the rise of Hitler and those who supported him. As he shared what he was learning, I recall my trip to the former concentration in Dachau some years ago.

My heart shattered the few hours that I was there. The mathematical precision of the design of the death camp to optimize efficiency of murdering human beings took me aback. There was nothing out of place and not planned.

The educational building that now displays many of the artifacts of the killing showed images of the people who survived. They were skeletons with some flesh holding the body together.

What was most disturbing, however, were the images of the liberation of the camp, where townspeople were forcibly brought in before the bodies were buried, before the ovens were cleared of human remains.

Over and over again, you can see men and women trying to look away. These same people were interviewed at the time and all of them said that they just did not know. They would see the trains full of people coming into the camps and the trains leaving empty.

They could see the smoke coming from the chimneys of the furnaces incinerating the bodies. They could smell the burning of the bodies, but they just could not make the connection that it was mass murder going on, right in their backyards, right in the places where many of these same people worked everyday.

Denial and looking away is such a human thing. What was disturbing to me about the pictures of the men and women forced to watch was that I, too, could have easily been them. Let me restate, I, too, am them. I look away and maintain my sense of normalcy while death and destruction is showered upon the innocent, helpless, and broken.

In yoga, drishti is the practice of training our seeing so that we can experience the oneness of all. Drishti takes in everything. It leaves nothing out.

On January 5th the federal government will execute Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to executed in 70 years. It will be the first time a lame duck president orders an execution in over 100 years. Lisa Montgomery killed a pregnant woman and ripped out her eight month child from her belly, took the corpse home and held it in her arms in her room.

Her crime was heinous. But what is even more heinous is the fact that Lisa Montgomery is mentally ill. She was raped over and over again by her father and his friends. Her father built a room next to their trailer so that she could be raped. Her mother sold her to the plumber and electrician to pay for services. She was married to her stepbrother and sterilized without being able to consent.

Her legal defense did not bring up any of the trauma she experienced and allowed the prosecution to claim that doing so would just be an easy excuse for the murder.

On Christmas Eve of this year the Trump administration will change the rules for federal executions allowing death by firing squad, poison gas, electrocution, and lethal injections. It’s easy to look away and pretend this is not happening. This is his Christmas gift to the nation.

But getting on our mat means looking and training our vision not just on the Menorahs and Christmas trees of the upcoming holidays.

I share this longish reflection with you to invite you to practice drishti, to look with intention and to do so in community. Although we may not be able to stop a failed administration on its last days of its four years of barbarism, it’s important to bear witness and not look away and never forget.

Join me for community yoga every Monday and Thursday night from 7-8:15pm. It is free of charge. All are welcome.

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