Yoga People come from all walks of life, with a million different back stories and life journeys. Nonetheless, Yoga People generally share certain admirable and desirable traits: physical flexibility, mental mindfulness, and a spirit of focused discipline. They tend to possess a figurative openness of heart that mirrors the literal openness of their limbs spread wide in an asana.
They look good, too!
Yoga People, the conventional thinking goes, are slightly more conscious of the universe than the average person, more awake to reality and possibility, thanks to the power of inward-looking meditation.
This may be true in many cases, maybe even most cases. But practical visual evidence, the kind with measurable parameters, suggests that for all their advanced inquiry into the nature of being, Yoga People are actually pretty much like non-Yoga People.
To be oblivious to the world around us and everything in it, all the living creatures, all the manifestations of Nature and the sun, might be standard operating procedure for the non-practicing population, but it’s anathema to the Yoga Person’s senses-and-soul-wide-open outlook. Setting aside discussions of how eating meat and driving SUVs can be gracefully woven into a yoga practice – apparently many folks are able to accomplish this trick — we can all agree that a cursory awareness of the outside world is essential to being in a state of awakened mindfulness.
We practice yoga three days a week outdoors in Runyon Canyon, the picturesque nature area in the hills overlooking Los Angeles. Donation-based classes meet there throughout the day, and most of the hour-long sessions on-the-grass attract 50-100 students. There’s a lot of foot traffic in and out of the fenced entrance to the yoga field, and a hard dirt path has been worn into the ground. On rainy days it gets a little muddy.
Directly beside this egress stands a large trash bin, which has one of those bubble-tops, with a swinging front flap. How it works is fairly self-explanatory, even to novice litter disposers.
A few days ago, we noticed a silver cellophane wrapper sitting in the middle of the yoga entrance. As is our custom when we encounter litter directly in our path, we bent to pick it up. The wrapper turned out to be from a Clif Bar, so we surmised that whoever had dropped it had an advanced awareness of balanced nutrition, if not the environment. Since the wrapper was clearly inside the yoga area, an unavoidable obstacle standing between food-packaging disharmony and the promise of enlightenment, we hypothesized that the stray Clif Bar wrapper was an unintentional “whoopsie” mistake. It would soon be spotted and removed. Surely one of the awakened Yoga People would come along and restore harmony to their befouled practice area.
We left the wrapper there to test our supposition. And almost immediately, we discovered that we were right – about the first part. Many, many splendid Yoga People did indeed come along, including several Class Instructors, the leaders of the Runyon Canyon yoga community.
But we were wrong about the second part. The restoring harmony part. The noticing the world around you part.
That Clif Bar wrapper stayed there in the middle of the path for 48 hours. We don’t know how many beautiful Yoga People and their teachers came and went in total during that period (many hundreds?), but during the brief time we observed the migration of yoginis and yogis in and out of the practice ground, before and after our Wednesday and Friday class, 183 mat-toting, spandex-wearing, incense-lighting students of higher consciousness walked past, around, and over the soiled cellophane at their feet and willed themselves not to notice it.
This is difficult when you step on litter and it makes a crinkling sound, but Yoga People have advanced powers of concentration from doing all those challenging poses.
Those Yoga People who did allow themselves to notice the litter on their practice ground chose (consciously? or would this be unconsciously?) to leave it there for someone else to be the change and place it in the trash bin approximately two feet away.
We intended on leaving the litter undisturbed over the weekend, wondering just how long it would be until a highly evolved Yoga Person, maybe someone with years of experience in India, awoke from their fugue state and brought peace and respect to the cherished Runyon Canyon space. But the 184th Yoga Person to encounter the rubbish, a young yogini named April walking with her friend Anna, bent down at the waist (very much like one would do in any yoga practice) and deposited the unloved wrapper in the trash bin.
It took her about three seconds.
And in that short time we were reminded that every now and then there comes along a genuinely rare creature, an extraordinary person with extraordinary abilities unavailable to the average person. When such unusual beings generously share their special capabilities, the ones the Universe has granted them, when they choose to do something instead of nothing, they have the power to slowly heal the world.
And so all of us, the sleepwalkers and the awakened, are thereby blessed.