The Dude abides. ~The Big Lebowski
“Son, I’m goin’ all the way, ’cause I wanna see how it ends.” ~Brother Meadows, quoted on NPR’s “All Things Considered”
Lately I’m thinking a lot about obstacles, steadiness and presence. The Yoga Sutra Conversations with Kate & Jenni have afforded me this opportunity, and the timing, for me, is particularly poignant. Today the United States of America will Inaugurate our 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama.
The well of emotion tapped by this uber-symbolic event has geologic depth and age. American news is rife with recounting of prejudice, division and outdated beliefs that sound as old fashioned as stone wheels, but are younger than, well… me, and Obama, and a great many of the world citizens who shed a tear in this moment.
Those stories are uniquely American in that they are the particular growing pains of our democracy, with villians defined by our national pantheon and heroes with roots in the same. But they are not ours alone, because the division, opposition and otherness they have as themes are part of human consciousness and lives. The very ability to name, to reason and build an identity assume the need for distinction, and once lines are drawn we are free to use them for multitude purposes. And universally, every culture, every time, every class has at times used them in pain.
At bottom, what the Sutras speak to is our ability to abide. To abide is to love, is to remain, is to watch, is to bind, is to be in it for the long story, is to stay, is to witness, is to weather the storm, sit in the sun, drink in the rain and so grow to the sun and through the clouds. To abide is to be whole, to be steady, to be clear. Our ability to abide depends upon that which underlies the distinctions, that which can be distinguished but remains whole.
The obstacles and distractions which lead to suffering are the current topics of the Sutras we are discussing, but the reason to wonder & care about them is to learn to abide. One abides by the side of a river, one abides mistreatment, one abides sickness and health, one abides in the light of love. The abiding bridges all, and what it brooks, it brooks because there is something bigger, more important, and maybe, in the end, as Brother Meadows alluded, just something more interesting.
What allows us to abide is that which is bigger than us all. For the Civil Rights activists it may have been their faith, and for many it was the Law. For a particular person on a particular day, what they did to stand up to or simply outlast mistreatment may have been fueled by Love, for family, for life, for dignity or even for their foe.
The techniques outlined in the Yoga Sutras are ways of abiding, of fostering our consciousness of and unity with that which encompasses all suffering. Sometimes just knowing there is a “Bigger” is enough.
And sometimes we need proof. We need to feel the connection. And symbolic but real moments such as the inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States is both: A reality that was beyond possibility so very few years ago. This is history because it is evidence of what abides. Abide on.