Saturday, September 21, 2013

Zuri Hears about the Violence in Nairobi, Kenya (9/21/13)-- Sutra 1.3: Then you abide in your own true nature

Zuri Hears about the Violence in Nairobi, Kenya (9/21/13)
Sutra 1.3: Then you abide in your own true nature

Zuri Hears about the Violence in Nairobi, Kenya (9/21/13)

Today, Zuri woke up to the sound of CNN on the TV downstairs. Her mom was already awake (not normal for a Saturday). She came downstairs to the sight of her mother watching CNN, tears running down her face. Her mom had a coffee mug clutched within her interlaced hands.

Zuri says, “Hey mom. What is going on?”

Sherece shakes her head, “More violence baby, more violence.”

“What happened?” she asked.

“I don’t know baby. It looks like some people shot up a mall in Nairobi. There are anywhere from 11 to 20 people killed and maybe as many as 50 injured. That is what they are saying now."

She pauses, shaking her head. "This is where our people are from, Nairobi. Your family, going way back, were coffee workers in Kenya. Your babu (grandfather) and bibi (grandmother) came here from Nairobi to find work and land here in the U.S. Babu wanted to work his own farm. Babu worked hard his whole life as a migrant farm worker *(see link below about migrant farm workers in the US).  You know bibi struggled with her mind and pombe (alcohol in Swahili). I watch this baby, and I see our faces in the faces of the Kenyans. I feel so much pain.”

Zuri felt like she knew something about Nairobi, Kenya. She remembered reading about it somewhere. “Where did I see that?” she thought. Her mom never talked about Africa or Kenya or Nairobi or her grandparents (both gone now). She felt like she had to ask as many questions as she could while her mom was open to it.

“Mama, tell me more about Nairobi. Tell me more about Kenya.”

“Ah, baby, I don’t know a lot. Babu and Bibi missed Kenya so much. Their whole life-- all of their family was there. They came to the U.S. a long time ago, before I was born. They wanted good work, land, and a nice house for our family, your Aunt Jasmine and me. I know Kenya is beautiful. There are palms as tall as buildings and elephants that live on the land. Rich people travel there now to see all of the animals in the national parks. The cities are a lot like ours. See the TV? See this violence?It happened at a mall, a lot like our malls.” Zuri’s mom went quiet and was slowly shaking her head back and forth.

“Zuri, I have a few errands to run. Will you watch out for Rashan? And don’t let Eric sleep in too late.”

Zuri’s eyes started to fill with tears. She looked down to hide them. She knew her mom was going out to drink. Ahhhh, it was still so early, not even 11:00 AM. She felt her stomach clench. “Mama, I will go with you! Please!”

“Zuri, I will be right back. It is just a few errands. And you have to watch out for Rashan. Eric is no good at that.”

Her mom set down her coffee, grabbed her car keys and her purse. As the front door shut, Zuri’s head fell into her hands and she sobbed. Her mom might not come home tonight.

After a good cry, Zuri started to settle down. She kept watching CNN and thinking, “Where did I read about Kenya?” Then, it hit her—The Yoga Bag.

I had kept some of my Africa Yoga Project (AYP) notes in the bag, folded inside one of my Baptiste books (Journey into Power, Baron Baptiste). I had taken the book to an Art of Assisting Workshop and Paige Elenson ( the founder of AYP was running the workshop with Tami Schneider, owner of Cleveland Power Yoga ( 

Hearing about the powerful work AYP was doing, I had approached Paige about conducting a research project in Nairobi the summer of 2013. She said that it sounded like a good idea. I grabbed all of the material on AYP I could get my hands on, folded them inside of my book. Zuri had found these materials.

I remember the first time Zuri opened the book. She looked to the back because that is where she writes all of her most personal stuff. This is where she might find out the really interesting stuff. It's funny, that is where I write my secrets too, in the back pages. She unfolded the AYP materials and traced her finger over the magical images in wonder.

“Yes,” Zuri thought. “The Yoga Bag.”

She ran upstairs and grabbed the bag out from its new hiding place, deep in the back of her closet under her winter boots, a blanket folded around it. She unwrapped the bag, and dug in to find the book. She flipped to the back and found the AYP materials. She read about teachers, and students, ambassadors, and mentors.

She saw all of the stunning images and broad smiles. She looked right into the eyes of a girl that looked a lot like her and thought, “Some day, I will practice with you in Nairobi, Kenya. Someday, that will be me with a big beautiful smile.”

She set down the card with a photo of a strong woman doing wheel pose (see all of the amazing images on AYP page).

She laid down on her back, knees bent, the souls of her feet flat on the floor. She placed her hands near her head fingers pointed toward her feet. She in inhaled and on the exhale; she lifted up into wheel, a full gorgeous wheel. She felt her heart beating, her breath moving through her body, and she felt, for a moment, just a moment, her anxiety disappear.

She dropped out of wheel and looked for more yoga photos. She found them. Warrior one. Warrior two. She tried them. Feet grounded, arms reaching, hands open, fingertips lifting up toward the ceiling. She took deep, deep breaths. She felt energy from her grounded feet through her reaching fingers. “Ahhhh, this feels so good.” She sat down and opened the book. “Oh, there are so many poses. All the instructions are here.” She sat and smiled and felt a warmth rise in her chest.

Zuri felt like she feels when she meets a new friend. She felt hope. The sound of the TV distracted her. She tucked the book, the AYP notes, the bag, the blanket, all back into her closet. She hollered into Rashan and Eric’s room, “Get up! I am making breakfast. No sleeping all day!”

She mixed up eggs and thought about yoga, Africa, Kenya, and Nairobi. She thought about the paths people take and how powerful choices can be. Her bibi and mom faced fear with drinking. Zuri knew her path would be different. She felt her feelings full on and then found the grace in the rubble. At that moment, she said the first of many, many prayers for the people in Nairobi and one more of the million-- already said-- prayers for her mom.

I am so proud of Zuri as I watch her making breakfast for her brothers. I am so proud of her being able to negotiate all that has happened to her already on this Saturday morning. I am so happy that she has practiced her first asanas today inspired by the AYP images tucked in the back of my Baptiste book.

Good work Zuri. You are on the path toward your own true nature, toward our true nature.

The Process:

Sutra 1.3: Tada drashtuh svarupevasthanam

1.     Looking at the Sanskrit of it (adapted from or Agora Review):
a.     Tada = then, at a time, at the time of concentration and meditation
b.     Drashtuh = the seer’s, of the soul, the witness
c.      Sva = own
d.     Rupa = form
e.     Svarupe = in its own form, nature, essence
f.      Avasthanam = stability, resting, being in a state (stha= to stand)
2.     On that day the seer comes to dwell in his own true nature (Roach & McNally, 2005)
3.     Then man abides in his real nature (Prabhavananda & Isherwood, 1953)

Roach and McNally (2005) say that this is one of the most important days in our spiritual journey- the day we stop engaging the Big Mistake (Roach & McNally, 2005). Prabhavananda and Isherwood (1953) say that this is when an individual sees how he really is, always was, and always will be-- a free illuminated soul. Our identity is just a mask that covers the soul.

Zuri’s mom, Sherece identified with what was happening in Kenya. It is horrible. I am watching on the news channels as I write. It is terrifying and I am sending prayers to my friends in Nairobi affected by this horrific violence. Feeling this pain and the compassion for others is important. Sherece was not able to negotiate the feelings. She does not trust in her own true nature, which, truth be told, could in fact handle this very scary and hurtful experience. Rather, she becomes overwhelmed by it. She lets this violence, and many other things, take her out of her self, out of her purpose, out of her role as a parent. She lets these things take her into her addiction and away from her children.

Zuri felt her feelings. She sobbed. She cried until she felt wrung out. She, then, found herself. She found asana and breath. She dug into her being—her actual sense of being present. These practices can be like a trusted friend, always there. Overtime, we become one with them, knowing they take us deep into the seeing and the being of our existence. Early in our practice we get tiny glimpses of what is possible. As thousands of sun salutations pass through our bodies and millions of mindful breaths through our lungs, we get deeper and longer glimpses into the sense of peace, stillness, and grace that is all that is.

And from that place, all things are possible and love grows.

When a tragedy happens, all too often, I know that that darkness needs is light. In each of us is this light—the one you see in me and I see in you. I re-commit each and every time darkness falls to not let this tragedy, this act of violence obscure my light. Instead, I feed my light with practice, breath, connection, gratitude, and prayer. Like Zuri, I am on my path, and like you, we will—together—bring light to the Earth—not someday- today- September 21, 2013—today.

My love and prayers go to all of my friends, fellow yogis, and the beautiful people of Nairobi.

Peace, Peace, Peace,


A link to information about migrant workers like Zuri’s Babu:

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