Sustaining Alertness

Sustaining Alertness

Sustaining alertness For the duration.

Memory is necessary to see
whether we are regressing or progressing.
If you use memory to live in past experiences alone,
it becomes your foe and hinders progress.
Memory is a friend when used for progress.
B.K.S. IYENGAR

Today is the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This will mean little or nothing to most of you who are reading this newsletter; but to those of us who lived through those six years it will have great significance for as long as we live.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic I am constantly finding links and remembrances from this time. I was young then, seven when it started and thirteen when it ended. I am old now and living half a world away from my native London but those six early years coloured, and, in some instances, scarred my life.

One of the significant things I learned from that time was the benefit of staying informed. Newspapers and BBC News on the Radio were daily rituals and two important resources for those of us on the Homefront. The other was the need to practise discrimination. Rumours abounded fed by know-it-all’s and scaremongers. Perhaps, most important of all, we learned that we had to sustain this alertness for the duration—however long that might last.

This is where we find ourselves today facing a threat we know very little about for an unknown duration. Lacking direct counterattack weapons such as an effective vaccine we have to rely on common sense in ourselves and others. We also have two potent weapons at our disposal: Yoga and Discrimination. The practice of Yoga will strengthen our ability to discriminate and make the best choices for our own well-being as well as that of others.

In British Columbia, in Dr. Bonnie Henry we are fortunate to have a public Health Officer who communicates clearly and compassionately on a regular basis. Sometimes what she has to tell us is not what we want to hear. This also brings back memories of wartime Britain where the BBC Evening News was listened to regularly and reverently in a majority of households in the UK. Oddly enough we often found humour in our predicament. Humour can be a potent tool for navigating a crisis but only if we are still able to hear and follow the recommended course of actions to safely navigate this pandemic.

In the maxim quoted at the beginning of this article, Guruji speaks of the atrophy of dwelling too much on the past but qualifies this by saying that memory becomes your friend when used for progress. How to make progress in this time of Covid? One of the skills a regular practice of yoga hones is discrimination. Discrimination shines light on ignorance at the same time as it reveals a path ahead.

Last night as I went to bed this article was in need of a final paragraph. Today as I made my early morning cup of tea it came to me. There are many jokes about the propensity of the British to make a cup of tea as a way of coping with almost anything. Each day as you wake up to live another day in the face of this pandemic, make your equivalent of a “cup of tea”, drink it, do your yoga practice, then be grateful for and live this day.

The past can teach us but we can only live in the present.

Shirley Daventry French