As a yoga teacher, I look to our world and the people in it for inspiration for my teaching. Looking for the lessons, the connections, and the powerful words to express that which someone else most likely said a bit more eloquently than I can muster. On this day, the birthday or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am so very honored to have his teachings from his short 39 years on this earth to draw from.
He was undeniably a great man, a powerful leader, and truly the embodiment of a true yogi! Each of his messages speak of qualities such as peace, love, freedom, devotion, purpose, equality, and compassion. All themes that run continuously throughout the teachings of yoga known as the Yoga Sutras. One of the foundational concepts in the Sutras are the Yamas and Niyamas. These 10 principles for living begin with the concept of Ahimsa, or non-harming, which was one of MLK's most powerful themes. His quote in the photo above, "I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear", so beautifully sums up the concept of Ahimsa. One of my favorite translations of the Sutras by my guru Nischala Joy Devi defines Ahimsa as "embracing reverence and love for all". Truly that was the essence of the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Another wonderful quote of his on love and hate is, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hat cannot drive out hate, only love can do that".
As I was preparing to teach my classes today, I read and re-read many of my favorite quotes from MLK Jr. seeking that perfect inspiration for my message for my students. I happened upon one that I had never read before, but spoke to me immediately.
“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Those are the words of a man who truly knew his life's purpose, or Dharma, and was willing at any cost to live his truth. We can live in safety, hiding from our fears, protecting ourselves from the worst case scenarios we create in our minds. Or, we can cast them aside and stand up for what we know to be our truth and the TRUTH. Only in doing so are we truly living. Is this scary? Heck yeah it is! BUT anything worth truly living for requires us to step off that ledge and test our wings. In the words of MLK Jr., “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Mary Baker - ERYT-500 yoga teacher, adventure lover, fitness junkie, doughnut snob, whiskey & wine sipper