December Nights at Balboa Park
With the winter holidays approaching, do you ever take the time to notice the world with a unifying perspective?
Are you open to beliefs from people that practice different customs than you?
Are your traditions in line with your evolving values?
Tradition refers to beliefs, objects or customs performed or believed in the past, originating in it, transmitted through time by being taught by one generation to the next, and are performed or believed in the present.
For example, only a century ago, “anthropologists at the Museum of Man and the Smithsonian Institution worked together to collect plaster life casts of different racial types. These casts were displayed in San Diego at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition as part of an exhibition about the “progress of man” that presented European Americans as racially superior (Museum of Man San Diego).”
A tradition may be deliberately created and circulated for personal, commercial, political, or national self-interest. Sometimes traditions are created in a way that creates separateness, which promotes egoistic (selfish) and violent behavior like greed, hatred, anger, lust and other human failings. In contemporary philosophy, we call this the ego. Learn more in my blog about our dark side.
It has been theorized that the formation of communities or separate tribes happened because people lived in fear. Is it surprising then that the opposite of fear is calm, assurance, love, courage, heroism, confidence, faith, happiness, and joy? Fear of other people, customs, and religions may be politically and culturally manipulated to bring more separation among the human race.
Photo Credit: Museum of Man San Diego
However, in the current exhibit, Race: Are We So Different? artists like Kate Clark strive to connect the dots between the museum’s archive of face molds to the reality of living and breathing people today. She created a series of face molds from museum visitors to break down the stereotypes from these older social constructs. Today, so many different races have blended and moved around that the results are remarkably more united.
This exhibit explains in clear, helpful language the origins of race and racism, and helps us understand how to deal with them in productive, enlightening ways. Most of what we think about race is based on myth, folklore, or assumptions unsupported by genetics or biology. No one is free of misunderstandings about race, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
According to a DNA study posted at the Museum of Man, we are much more alike than we think.
In his enlightening Television Series, The Story of God, Morgan Freeman announces “Our beliefs don’t have to divide us, they can unite us. We all share the wonder and gratitude that we are here at all.”
Morgan Freeman also recently started a series call The Story of Us. In the episode Us and Them he announces, “The whole country, even the entire world is polarizing into separate camps that disagree with one another. We divide ourselves into us and them in many different ways: nationality, religion, gender, or which team you support. Some of these differences are harmless, but others expose the dark side of human nature. Is tribalism just part of human nature, or can we bridge the gap that separates us from them? I’m embarking on a journey to find the common humanity inside of us.”
Freeman interviews an ex member of the KKK and learns that some people join these separatist groups in effort to find belonging, but end up feeling even more lost and confused. History shows the horror of what happens when we cling to division: death and destruction through wars and prosecution. He finds that when you sit down with an enemy and talk for five minutes, you are bound to find something in common. If you sit down for ten minutes, you can realize even more. Soon, minor differences matter less and less. When you open your heart to someone, you encourage them to open their heart to you. An open heart is an open mind.
These divides are not impossible to bridge. We are a species that thrives on working together. New technologies help us to connect in a heartbeat with a spirit of cooperation. It will take humility, understanding, respect for our differences, and time. There is room for everyone in the story of us.
Through yoga practice, we have the power to overcome frightful social constructs through connection with our mind and body, we can breathe through fear! Ironically, my featured quote on this website is by Leonardo da Vinci, “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects with everything else.” How can you look for more connection instead of division?
Thousands of years ago, Pantajali created a guide towards the path of enlightenment and peace. He suggested the practice of yoga. The asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques) are preparation for Samadhi, which means "to bring together, to merge." Samadhi refers to union. When we experience these moments of awakening, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences.
There is no longer any individuality of our experiences: gender, personal history, family and cultural values, education, etc. The "I" and "mine" of our illusory perceptions of reality is replaced by awareness of the oneness of the Universe blended with connectedness, forgiveness, joy and love.
Samadhi, is the ultimate goal of our spiritual journey on earth. Perhaps enlightenment is not your conscious goal right now, but samadhi is the highest state of consciousness that a human can reach in life. Some people have these moments of enlightenment after experiencing a miracle, and their life will no longer be solely about their own desires. They begin to live with gratitude, faith and trust, rather than filled with fear and anxiety.
We need the journey of yoga to help us discover what was present inside us all along. This concept of samadhi brings with it the possibility of a deep hope about our growth as human beings.
Yoga reminds us that we are more than the external body, that our souls are the light that matters the most. Feel encouraged to treat your body like the divine temple that it is, the mind-body-spirit connection. The ultimate goal of yoga is to awaken the spiritual consciousness, the divine energy that connects us all.
This holiday season, will you choose to see the unity among the world’s traditions, customs, and religions?
Do you know what the world's major winter holidays have in common?
From a magical Yuletide log, to the bright star leading the way to a savior, crescent moon as a symbol for dedicated prayers, festivals of lights with rejoicing in gratitude and family, to wreaths and halos that illuminate the way to compassion, all of these celebrations include LIGHT, which translates to joy, devotion, and love!
Winter Holidays of Light from Around the World
Every winter in San Diego, we celebrate December Nights in our city park, Balboa Park with a bright stream of lights, variety of entertainment and an opportunity to learn from 34 different nationalities around the world. The international cottages open their doors to promote multicultural goodwill and understanding through educational programs and a chance to sample their favorite cultural food items.
When we live on light, we are constantly illuminating the path for ourselves and others. The word enlightenment means to provide insight or knowledge, to awaken or free from ignorance. In other words, if you have knowledge, let others dip their candles in it.
Light has often been associated with the sacred, the infinite, spirituality, and God. Light rays specifically have and continue to be used as symbols in many works of art, from stained glass windows to gold leaf reflections, to allude to the supernatural.
Through a unified approach of physical postures and lifestyle, we can awaken our loving energy of light and unity that is resting within each of us. See yourself as the creator of your own life, the sustainer of your reality. Breathe in the light of oneness and divine energy and see yourself connecting with life itself.
As a daily reminder, you can repeat this affirmation, “I feel lightness and openness to the bigger picture. I move towards light and enlightenment.”
Mary Dunbar states, “We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”
British novelist Roald Dahl famously states, “If you have positive thoughts, they will shine off of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”