Four Practices for Navigating in Times of Change

Come gather 'round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone,
For the times they are a'changin'…

A month after Bob Dylan recorded this song in October of 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. The times were changing, all right. Dylan’s song followed me through high school and college, offering a protest against what didn’t work in our culture, along with the hope of what might. They are just one example of the eloquence that earned Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature.

So many cultural shifts have happened since those days, so many decades ago. Yet now, again, we find ourselves in a time of cultural and social unrest; the times truly are a’changin’ once more, and Dylan’s words are as relevant now as they were then.

Around us are messages of division, fear, and hatred. In direct contradiction, yogic philosophy teaches that we are all one, that consciousness encompasses us all into one living embrace. Swami Kripalu, from the brilliance of his heart and the depth of his practice, declared, “The whole world is one family.”

When confronted with hatred, how can we respond without becoming that hate? What can we learn from our yogic and mindfulness practices that can carry us through? How can we, as Bob Dylan suggests, “start swimming,” rather than sinking beneath the negativity around us? Here are some strategies to explore.

  • If ever there were a time for a personal practice of self-connection, this would be it. What reunites you with yourself? What quiets your mind? How do you unplug? This can be anything from yoga to walking, from journaling to raking the leaves, from meditation to dancing. It is essential to give yourself the gift of self-soothing renewal.
  • Consider your intake of media stimulation. Find the edge of keeping informed while protecting your personal sense of balance. It’s easy to be overwhelmed these days. Can you turn off the news? Imagine this balance of data intake to be fluid and changeable. See what works; notice what doesn’t. 
  • Practice authentically connecting with one person daily—it might be a stranger in the checkout line or your beloved. With words or in silence, notice the commonality between you. Let that sanctity of connection effortlessly captivate you. Relax into the covenant of connection that is available; imagine you can breathe together. This is the living practice of “Namaste”—acknowledging the light in one another. 
  • Prayer and meditation, visualizing the highest unfolding for all, can be a sustaining and potent practice at this time, and at all times.

Living yoga purifies the obstacles that block us from ourselves, from each other, and from all that surrounds us. Rather than building walls, living mindfully helps us to see the walls, relaxing and breathing through them as we do on the yoga mat, to return to our natural state of oneness. You need your practice, and so does the world. Individually and collectively, as a community of mindful souls, let’s chart our way through these choppy waters. Even as we practice relaxing into our separateness, we are bonded together within a community of healing.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.