~ by Sn Gyanhira Huberman
Most parents work hard to give their children a better life than they themselves had. I've been reflecting on this as we begin to understand that human activities are indeed responsible for the Earth's changing climate. The UN's recently commissioned Climate Report issued a code red for humanity, but the good news is they say there is still time to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change if we come together and do the necessary work. After all, what kind of life will our children, and their children, lead if they are constantly faced with unbearable heat, threat of wildfire, decreased air quality, drought and food shortage, worsening hurricane seasons, floods. Are we working to give them a better life?
Recently, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati said that the manner in which we live our lives, our lifestyle, our daily habits, is where most of our individual power lies in mitigating the effects not only of the pandemic, but also of climate change. Our daily habits, our lifestyle, when positive and constructive can benefit our own health greatly, can significantly reduce the carbon footprint this life leaves behind, and can be a great inspiration to others.
It is the same with raising children. If you are a caregiver, you know very well that what "monkey see, monkey do." Every day, our children are imbibing our values and commitment to the Earth simply by observing and participating in the lifestyle the family lives. When I lived in Swami Niranjan-ji's ashram in India for over 3 years, no one ever sat my class down and said, "here are the principles of Yoga Ecology that we live by and here are the reasons why." No. We lived the given lifestyle and we imbibed it's wisdom. We dove into the flow of ashram life, observed its guidelines, and eventually gained insight into the importance and the effects of the practices.
The ashram is a perfect model of living responsibly both with others and within nature. One acquires an acute awareness of the limited nature of Earth's resources. All water for drinking, bathing, cleaning, laundry, toileting, showering, teeth brushing, cooking, comes from the well. If the well became low, we had to manage our water usage, or there simply wouldn't be enough water to drink, to flush the toilet, to brush the teeth. I became very aware of my dependence upon nature for survival; in ashram, one is not so removed from that.
Even electrical power had to be managed. It was not taken for granted; it was very much appreciated. It wasn't uncommon to experience frequent and long rolling blackouts, and when that did happen, you just had to accept it. Power was limited and precious. "Okay, no power. 50 degree weather, and no fan to help with sleep. Sigh" What's more, one had to adapt to the temperature of the current climate. We did not spend power for the purpose of heating or cooling the buildings nor its water supply. If the weather was hot, you dressed accordingly and the water for drinking and your shower was hot. If the weather was cold, you slept with so many blankets that turning over could throw your back out, and the water for your shower was cold too (and I mean COLD). Yet, in this way, we learned to harmonize with nature, realized our total dependence upon nature, and thus blossomed a great appreciation and protectiveness of its resources.
Oftentimes, there are hundreds of people living in ashram at a time. Resources are limited, and we became very aware of the impact to our fellow residents if we took too much of something for ourselves. For example, if I took longer than a 3-minute shower, there may not be enough water left for the next few people coming in after me. If I take an extra serving of food at dinner, there may not be enough left for those eating last. And if I wash too many clothes at once, there may not be enough room on the laundry line for others to hang their clothes to dry. In this way, consideration is developed for others and a measuring and discipline develops in one's actions and behaviour.
Having this experience living in Ashram has been the most powerful teacher of living a socially and environmentally responsible lifestyle. One develops a great respect of their place within Nature, as well as a great respect for others and their responsibility toward them. This is the manner in which I strive to educate my own children about their own social and environmental responsibility. By living a correct lifestyle.
My kids are still little, so we make sure to point out and explain in simple language why, for example, we are turning the water off (instead of letting it run) while we brush our teeth, soap our hands, or wash the dishes. "If we use too much water for ourselves, there might not be enough water for other people. Because there is only enough if we all share." We even say this when we go to the toy store to plant seeds about the yogic observance of aparigraha, or non-collecting. "If we buy too many toys, then there may not be enough toys for all the kids who want to shop here. Better we are happy with just 1 or 2 today." And when we leave a room in the house, we make sure to turn out the lights. "What do we do when we leave the room? We turn out the lights to make sure there is enough power for everyone, because there is only only enough if we all share." We also find opportunities to talk with our kids about the importance of reducing the amount of garbage we create through consumer buying etc, "because the garbage has to go back into the earth, and that is not good for the earth." Finally, my kids have little jobs around the house to help reinforce those ideas, such as turning out the lights themselves when they are finished in a room, and knowing to throw their banana peel in the compost bin (versus the garbage or recycling).
It may seem simple, but it slowly begins to build an awareness, a habit and a familiarity in the child about their connection with and responsibility to others, as well as their dependence upon the Earth's limited resources. They learn that their actions have consequences, for better or for worse, for themselves and others and my hope is this will culminate in attitudes and expressions of gratitude, appreciation, and social and environmental responsibility as their generation strives to leave a better world for their kids than they are inheriting from us.
- By Caitlyn Borowsky, Student & Karma Yogi
What have we been up to so far this Spring at Niwas?
Planting, dreaming and preparing Annapourna Garden.
We began this season with planting onion seeds in mid-February followed a few weeks later with a variety of flowers. So far, we are grateful to be nurturing four types of onions, three varieties of lavender, viola, lupins, ornamental oregano, two varieties of snap dragons, portulaca, asters, chilli peppers, and petunias. On the Piscean New Moon we sowed the seeds of basil and tomatoes, which will become delicious Niwas tomato sauce in the last weeks of Summer.
In addition to planting and tending to the seedlings, we are thoughtfully setting the garden and ourselves up for success for the growing season. We are not only tending to the Land in anticipation, we are also tidying up our own actions and energies to make space for the manifestation of abundance and beauty, so we may spend this next cycle offering from a place of simplicity and full-hearted love.
We are preparing the garden beds to hold and nurture new life by clearing the remnants of last year’s crops and using those remnants to feed the compost which will cycle back to the Earth. Currently, 'Niwas feels much like a space of transformation, regeneration and preparation. Personally, I am am feeling Spring’s frequency of optimism and opportunity, especially as I walk through Annapourna Garden, hearing and dreaming of the possibilities that are on the horizon.
The Awakening of Possibility and Opportunity
Although nothing truly dies in Nature, Spring does bring about a tangible experience of vitality and life compared to the quietude of Winter, where activity is slower and beneath the surface. We see new life emerging everywhere, from the fresh tips on the fir trees, geese making their way back home, and all of the onion and lavender seedlings thriving towards the Sun. We hear the various melodies of birdsong among the treetops where silence once hung, and we smell the aroma of pine sap beginning to ooze to the surface of their bark. The potentiality of this new growth would not be possible without the offering of what has come before.
At 'Niwas this regeneration is witnessed most tangibly via…compost! Last years' pea shoots, buckwheat stems and oat straw have been broken down and mixed with a generous amount of cow dung all winter to become a vibrant heap of nutrients for this years crops. This regenerative re-cycling shows us the opportunity of letting go of what has served its purpose and to utilize the breakdown of this ‘death’ to fuel what is to come, what is to be birthed and brought to life.
Today, in Annapourna Garden there is a sacred sense of vacancy and as I walk along the dormant strawberries and hibernating garlic, the crunch of fallen pinecones and the last remnants of snow beneath dirt covered boots treading where bare feet will soon dance again awakens a sense of joy and optimism within me. At first glance, the garden plots may appear bare and empty but if we take a moment to truly listen, we can sense the vast possibilities that await. Those rows of bare dirt and rotten leaves will soon be transformed into an environment bustling and blooming with calendula, cabbage, tomatoes, honeybees, pumpkin, foxgloves, lupins, chili peppers, and bushes heavy with raspberries and groundcherries. This is what I think of when I imagine explaining what 'Niwas feels like. A home for opportunity and growth and abundance for all living beings, not only reserved for Yogis but also for the insects, the dark eyed juncos and crows, chipmunks, goats and the plants themselves.
- Compiled by Chaitanya Chase
Dear, dear people. The stars and planets are aligning for the better good of humankind. Within Aquarius, one of the largest, oldest zodiac signs, two Rulers of the Ages will be aligning and lending their symbolic energies to the earth for the next year.
It has been one thousand, five hundred and eighty eight years since Jupiter and Saturn have met within the sign of Aquarius. Aquarius being the 10th largest zodiac sign, made up of thousands of stars, star clusters, nebula and other mysterious, heavenly bodies. Saturn will move into the sign December 17th and Jupiter on December 19th; their orbits lining up to within .1 degree making them appear like one bright and beautiful Winter Star for our Solstice and Christmas season. They will be on our southwestern horizon one hour after the sun is set.
Aquarius, the 11th sign in the zodiac, symbolizes the intellectual and social individual who cares deeply for community and humankind. The 11th House helps us to define the purpose to our existence and will push us towards humane activities and choices made that consider the well being of all humankind.
Famous astrologer, Charles Harvey wrote about the influence of the two planets converging: “These two planets used to be known, as the Great Chronocrators, or rulers of the ages. Their cycle can be considered the ground base of human development which marks the interaction between perception of ideas, potentialities, possibilities (Jupiter) and their manifestation in the concrete material world (Saturn).”
The two giants shall lend their powerful presents. Jupiter’s influence as limitless, enthusiastic, leaping forward energy while Saturn’s influence is described as conservative and stabilizing; a bit of a duality for us to balance out. As our beloved Shivani-ji has taught in her Satsangs and lectures on Yoga Ecology, nature will always seek out balance, and since we are all part of nature we will also know how to balance these two powerful energies. These energies are here to help us move forward into our destiny of working together to partner with each other, and the earth for the healing of all.
Just as in a forest, the larger trees send the nutrients to the smaller trees, so will humankind begin to use this profound energy from the stars and planets to heal and feed the weaker, undernourished parts of our our people and planet.
For more information on this beautiful new beginning, visit one of our favorite Astrologers, Roland Legrand as he describes what to expect during the last full moon in 2020.
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