Independence Day is the day the United States chose to represent the long hard struggle toward freedom from foreign oppressors, who sought to dictate their financial, religious, and moral lives. And while the country and holiday itself can be considered to be shrouded in modern misconceptions and misuse, the lessons of the day remain poignant life. It is a lesson of equality, trust and love in others, and the courage to push on despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
What is Independence
“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons.” – Anaïs Nin
There is little more we cherish in the West than our ability to act autonomously. The ability to live life the way we see fit is at the helm of our value system, and from that, incredible diversity is born, affecting everything from our love life to our spiritual practice and everything in-between. What this is embodied in is the practice and belief that comes with the idea of independence. The independent person decides things for themselves, as is not led by arbitrary or the prevailing dogma of the day. The truly independent person recognizes the unique, multi-faceted world and loves it for allowing them to add to their own dimension to it. The independent person sees themselves and doesn’t with to compare their being to other, but rather contrast, to find differences and uniqueness, but with a shared experience of the human condition.
On this day, this is the independence that is celebrated. The boldness and vision that great people, men and women, saw, hundreds of years ago, which seem so ordinary today but were vastly revolutionary in their time.
Independence in Your Practice
“Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness.” – Indra Devi
Yoga, in many ways, embodies this same independence. As we begin our practice, we move slowly, learning to become aware of our body, but also how to control and direct it. We stretch and contort in ways only our body can, for each of us have a unique and brilliant vessel that connects us to our mats. In the same way, we progress individually. No two practitioners are the same, enjoying individual learning experiences, lessons, and epiphanies while engaged in yoga.
Beyond the mat, though, yoga does something more for us: it leads us away from fear and toward knowing. In this sense, knowing represents the very understanding that fosters the desire for independence mentioned above. It encourages us to escape the grasps of what attempts to control us – emotion, insecurity, worry, loneliness, pain, and uncertainty. The constant practice of not just hatha yoga, but also other forms, like mantra yoga, reinforce a sense of ability in our minds. We can perform that asana. We can practice that principle of non-harming. We can find faith, love, and confidence in a simple phrase, repeated and meant to focus our mind.
Finding Your Independence
July is the high time of the year, with 6 months behind us, and 6 months ahead. We bask in the long, warm days of summer, and our spirit soars as high as the temperature. But in this time of blissfulness, take a moment to reflect on your life, and how yoga has affected it. Think for a moment beyond yourself. Think of the vast world, with it’s many people, it’s many problems, and it’s many beauties. Ask yourself how you play into this grand scheme. Where do you exist in this now, and how will you choose to exist in it as the future continues to be realized? Every moment of time, from the one experienced just a sentence ago to the one experienced now, is an opportunity to embrace and cultivate the very essence of you. It’s an opportunity to cultivate you independence.