Yoga for the Age

I am very pleased to be here and have been very excited about this conference since its inception. In particular, I love the theme for the conference – Yoga for the Age.

As a pragmatic yogi, and one whose preference is to use yoga as a tool for being more IN the world than in retreating from it, this topic fascinates me and I have very much enjoyed thinking about it in preparation for this talk.

I also love the choice of venue for this conference. Singapore is just so appropriate – a modern Asian city at the crossroads of the world and home to such diverse cultures and populations – a place that is truly creating unity in diversity – respecting the ancient world – adapting to the modern world.

So WHAT IS THE DOT.COM AGE and what are its characteristics?

Some time ago in a book called Megatrends, Jon Naisbett suggested that one of the main trends of this new millennium would be the continuation of a rapidly increasing rate of change. And how true that has been.

I can recall my first on-line experience in the mid eighties – less than twenty years ago – logging on to a little known network called Genie (owned by the GE Company) and typing away in small text messages to be sent to one or two other electronic pathfinders of the day at the impressive rate of 3.5K/sec. There were less than 50,000 people worldwide using that form of technology. At that time cell phones were still a long way away. The compact disk had not arrived. Forty-five rpm disks were still the main form for delivering recorded music and a long distance phone call to someone in another country was both expensive and not always reliable and yet the only method for quick communication to people in distant places.

Sounds like the dark ages doesn’t it? And it was less than 20 years ago. And these are just a few of the changes that have impacted our daily lives and that have resulted in the emergence of a global economy and the makings of a global village.

In considering what this means for yoga in the age, it might first be helpful to consider what impact this rapid rate of change and advancements in technology are having on our day to day lives.

Firstly many of the barriers that kept us separate are breaking down. Our cultures are merging and as a result our beliefs are being challenged. We are also facing many many more decisions on a daily basis as more and more choices are presented to us. We live in multiple communities rather than just one local community. Think about it for yourself – how many different communities do you belong to – a yoga community perhaps, a school community, a local town community, a global community on the Internet related to specific interests that you have, and so on.

Once upon a time not so very long ago, you could learn all you needed to know for life from your parents and your school. Values were clearly defined and taught and so was your knowledge base. This is no longer true. No matter how great the school it cannot hope to educate its students for all they will need in life if it tries. School systems that have been adequately aware of the changing world, now see that its more important to teach students how to learn (process oriented education) than it is to try to define a body of knowledge and teach to it, as the knowledge one requires to navigate this modern world becomes obsolete even more rapidly than last years hard drive.

It was much easier to teach a defined body of knowledge than it is to educate people how to become independent learners. And it requires not only new skill sets to become an independent learner it also requires new ‘mind sets’. Such skill sets and mind sets also require a very healthy and awake organism or body in which to function effectively.

The time we have available to adapt to change in our world is also shrinking rapidly. We have to be able to look at old beliefs and values and evaluate quickly weather they still serve us or not and be prepared to change. The same with the foods we eat, the way we live, where and how we work, how we raise our families, our roles in various parts of our lives and so on. If we don’t adapt quickly enough we risk ‘extinction’.

Not like the dinosaur but more like extinction from a societal perspective. If we don’t adapt we have to create a small alien enclave with others who share our old and outdated beliefs and values where we hope we can hold on for as long as we can and resist that changes occurring around us – a slow death. We also have to be able to discriminate carefully between those things that will serve us and those that won’t. And the answers may well be different on different days or with only slightly changed circumstances.

Distinctions on which we base our discriminating choices are becoming more subtle and requiring greater awareness than ever before. The old days of right/wrong and black or white choices that one could depend on for life are no more.

(Each of these addressed – notes on each not included)

  • Enhance AWARENESS
  • Increase our RECEPTIVITY
  • Make us more FLEXIBLE in body, mind and spirit.
  • Increase our capacity to DISCERN and DISCRIMINATE
  • Make it easier for us to ADJUST our position on issues, our values, our beliefs, our thinking.
  • Help us TRANSITION more easily
  • Make it easier to handle COMPLEXITY including operating in multiple PARADIGMS
  • Make it easier to LEARN how to LEARN
  • Give us more FREEDOM as a result of more CHOICE so long as we know how to choose effectively.

How does our Yoga for the Dot.Com age need to be different?
(Each of these addressed – notes on each not included)

  • Broader MULTICULTURAL focus
  • Less RIGID in traditional practice
  • Less DOGMATIC and more PRAGMATIC
  • More INDIVIDUALLY oriented (what works for the individual – not one size fits all)
  • Approaches that EMPOWER the individuals INNER WISDOM
  • Less emphasis on DEPENDENCE on the TEACHER
  • Teachers who focus on PROCESS rather than PRESCRIPTION
  • Focus on being IN the world rather than RETREATING from the world
  • More compatible with modern psychology in the realms of ACCEPTANCE, DENIAL, FEELINGS, TRANSCENDING, LIFE APPLICATION, RELATIONSHIPS, etc.

What a great opportunity we have to be able to use this age old science of yoga to help us more effectively navigate life in the 21st Century. Part of our challenge in doing so is redefining what our yoga is and how it can serve us and others. And the extent to which it will or will not serve us will be in large part based on our intent. Do we see our yoga as a way of helping us to live more fully in our day to day lives and fully utilize all the wonderful benefits of modern life that our technology provides. Or do we want to be closet yogis who would deep down rather be somewhere else than in this body and in this life. Both can be valid choices. But if our desire is to have yoga be a tool for a more creative, free, and satisfying life we first must make the choice so simply expressed by the wonderful modern day yogi Ram Dass who suggested we might choose to “Be Here Now!”

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