Finding, or feeling, what my purpose is something that I revisit on almost a daily basis. When I finish my morning meditation, I ask myself:
- Who am I?
- What is my purpose?
- What do I value in my life?
- How can I bring my purpose out into the world?
The answers that rise to the surface of my mind can be anything from sensing my deepest desires as a human being to basic things I want to get done during the day. At least once per year, usually around the time of my birthday or the New Year, I like to have a purpose overhaul, and check to see if I am really attending to the things I really think I value, that I claim in my mind to be important.
For example, if I say I value practicing yoga and feel that a big purpose in my life is to practice, but I am not practicing everyday, then I have to check and see: do I really value practice? Perhaps, there is something I value more, or I am not managing my time well enough. These are not New Year’s resolutions, but rather an authenticity check-in. Am I adhering to that which I claim to hold true?
So, I make a list of three to five things that I value (but not more), then I look through to see if I am paying attention them. If I am not, but I want to, then I see what changes I need to make in order to live up to my values. It’s a simple thing, a little tweak, but it works and it makes me feel better about my life. Some things I value appear on that list year after year, and I always feel I can make improvements on them, on their importance in my life. The list does not have to change, but over time, I like to see that I do.
It is a way of reconnecting and re-committing myself, to what is important in my life. Otherwise, it is easy to lose sight and get lost.
This year, I have already made my list. The first are personal, but the third is public because it is about our planet, and sometimes I feel that I am not living up to the duty of protecting and caring for our planet as much as I should: I travel a lot on airplanes, I use a computer and a cell phone, I drive a Vespa, and I buy clothes that are made in other countries. So, for my 50th year, I decided to choose one thing as my re-commitment to Mother Earth, and that is to support the important work going on right now to save elephants. Elephants are one of the most majestic and amazing creatures on our planet. Also, I worship Ganesh and have a Ganesh temple. Ganesh is the elephant-headed God and it seems contradictory to worship an anthropomorphic deity, who has a deep symbolic meaning, and not at the same time worship and protect the very animal who the manifestation of Ganesh is inspired by.
Here are some facts elephants:
- They are just about the world’s largest vegans.
- They are a keystone species, which means their very existence helps to maintain the structure of ecological communities and without them, the ecosystem they live in would be dramatically different, or cease to function altogether.
- They are matrilineal, which means “The Future Is Female” is already a reality.
- They exhibit mirror cognition and self-awareness.
- They communicate largely by touch.
- They show empathy for the dying and dead of their own species.
- They are among the most intelligent of all mammals.
- As humans are typically right- or left-handed, elephants are right- or left-tusked!
- They are cooperative problem solvers.
- An elephant is killed every fifteen minutes for their tusk.
- The population of elephants in Africa has reduced by over 100,000 in the last decade.
- There are only 30-40,000 Indian elephants left in the world, down from over 100,000 just a decade ago.
- If poaching of elephants is not stopped, there will be no elephants left on our planet in a few decades.
My friends, David Bonnouvrier and Trish Goff, co-founded the “Knot On My Planet” campaign that supports the work of the Elephant Crisis Fund (ECF) in Africa. The ECF’s goal is to stop the killing of elephants, stop the trafficking, and end the demand for ivory. If the sale and trafficking of ivory stops, then elephants will no longer be killed for their tusks. Ganesh is traditionally shown with one tusk that is broken and the other unbroken, which symbolizes non-duality. When we recognize that we are all a simultaneous, non-separate manifestation of consciousness, then we don’t cause harm to others. When we transcend the illusion of a separate self—the broken tusk—then anxiety disappears, and we don’t use other beings as objects. In the meantime, we have to stand up to those who don’t view the world this way, and protect those who cannot protect themselves.
For some of you, this protection may be to work against human trafficking, or fracking, or animal rights. I am going to try to support ECF throughout this year by speaking about their group, and doing Ganesh pujas where all donations will go to their organization.
It’s my 50th birthday on December 21st. I don’t like receiving gifts for my birthday (it’s a weird yoga thing), and I don’t usually ask for things for myself, but this year, I would like to ask you for one and that would be to make a donation in any amount to the ECF through this link: http://www.knotonmyplanet.org
You can check out this video below to learn a little bit more. We all have causes and they are all noble; among animals, the elephant is indeed one of the most noble there is. Kittens, of course, are the cutest.
Thank you for reading, and I hope that you have a very happy New Year. I look forward to continue posting on yoga philosophy throughout 2018. Until then…