Those of you who know me know that I am a big sports fan, especially of basketball; it is the only sport that I, at 6 foot and 180 soaking wet, and all arms and legs, was built to play. (don’t get me wrong, I’m not very good, but I love it) I don’t bring it up often as a yoga teacher because I think that too often sports, especially pro hoops, brings out all the wrong things in its elite participants narcissism, jingoism, and in professional sports homophobia and misogyny and the like. Though many athletes (including local hero Tom Brady and recently, Manchester United star Ryan Griggs) legitimately sing the praises of yoga for athletes, I tend to downplay the sports/yoga angle in my own work.
BUT (you knew that was coming, right?) you have to read this piece by Rick Reilly about Hornets (soon to by Knicks, I think) All-Star point guard Chris Paul, and his statements on behalf of the men who killed his grandfather. Yes, you read that right, who killed his kin stupidly, in cold blood.
We in the yoga community talk about “karma yoga” (the yoga of service) and “bhaki yoga” (the yoga of devotion to the higher power), and here I see the reality of that work in the language of an NBA point guard, who for all I know doesn’t know a warrior one from “The Warriors“. (A good movie, by the way) But seems to get the larger message present in many forms of yoga that vengeance against another, even righteous vengeance, serves no one, least of all the one who executes that vengeance.
(I was also ardently rooting for Mr. Paul to translate his Mighty Mite act to a victory over Kobe Bryant and the arch-rival Lakers, but I guess you can’t have everything…)
For the record, long before I was a yogi, I ardently opposed the death penalty- I believe it demeans our society and doesn’t adequately punish the criminals who kill, but I ultimately have no skin in the game. To see someone who is a victim of the crime speak on behalf of his accusers, that is a yoga I aspire to…
UPDATE: I wrote this, unknowingly, a few hours before President Obama authorized a strike on Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and two days before he died. Like the few people I’ve talked to about it, I have pretty mixed feelings about his death- stirrings of the anger I felt nine and a half years ago, and at the same time a certain sense of relief and closure.
But none of the joy that I’ve seen from some people on news reports, that’s for sure. At the least, I consider it pretty poor taste to revel in a death. And from my point of view as a yogi, if I’m going to encourage ahimsa (nonviolence) for myself and others, it seems a special kind of violence to dance on another’s grave, no matter how heinous their actions in life. I see Chris Paul’s response as linked to above a very noble model for a humane response to the events of the weekend.
I’ve been thinking a lot today about a talk I attended by Buddhist teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn, a few months after 9/11. During the speech, he said something to the effect that if he met Bin Laden, he would sit down and listen to him, ask him to air his grievances, and not say much. He said it was only in the listening, real listening that we had any chance to diffuse the madness that he and his ilk have wrought. Even in what was certainly a sympathetic crowd, this didn’t sit right with some in the audience. He was challenged on this idea in the Q & A, and he didn’t move. (Here is a speech he gave only two weeks out from 9/11 in New York)
This is a huge event, no doubt, but it’s one that I intend to digest in quite, in private, in meditation rather than either whooping or protesting on the streets. Submitted for your consideration with all humility and love…