I recently started a Meetup group here in Boulder, where there are already many Meetups and many fun things to do, but this one – BAE (Boulder Animals and Environment) YOGA – was not yet one of the many, so I started it.
Part of my motivation must be the feeling that there are others who feel as I do: that the contemporary “yoga” scene tends to be very narcissistic (despite all our prayers and lip service to the contrary) and that there must be a way to collectively combat this parasitic trend of self-centered absorption by more consistently and practically connecting our practice with the welfare of others – especially the welfare of otherwise defenseless animals and the environment.
Frankly, I am tired of seeing yoga practitioners drink factory farmed milk in disposable coffee cups that cannot even be recycled. Torturing cows and trashing the environment really diminishes the credibility of yoga as a relevant spiritual practice in our world today.
Don’t you think?
So far, over the past 2.5 weeks, this newly founded Meetup has amassed 33 members online. It has also hosted 4 events, and has had a total of 4 people (5 if we include myself) show up.
I’m not yet sure how to get more of our online members to actually show up in the real world.
The first Meetup was scheduled to celebrate Earth Hour at the local St. Julien Hotel here in Boulder. For “Earth (Happy) Hour”, the hotel bar would be shutting off all non-essential lights while offering live acoustic music with organic cocktails to inspire people to be more conscious of our energetic footprint on the Earth. When I first heard about the event, I thought it would be a great first occasion for the BAE YOGA Meetup: it is yoga practice to discern what’s essential and what’s not, to seek to lighten our ecological footprint on the Earth, and to come together in a celebration of natural light!
FYI: While Cooling (AC) & Refrigeration consume the greatest amount of electricity between the Residential and Commercial sectors in the USA, lighting is still a significant portion of our footprint! “The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2018, the U.S. residential sector and the commercial sector used about 232 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity for lighting. This was about 8% of the total electricity consumed by both of these sectors and about 6% of total U.S. electricity consumption.” – EIA.GOV Check out the diagrams here from the EIA:
Also to note: this Meetup was spontaneously announced to provide a social setting in which we could chat about what we can and want to do as individuals and collectives to better care for this planet, to combat Climate Change and stand up for animal rights, while supporting a local business who was making a practical and symbolic gesture in this regard. It was not meant to encourage the consumption of alcohol on the path of yoga.
I know many people for whom yoga has been a life changing path to sobriety. A consistent practice of Ashtanga Yoga in particular has helped people to free themselves from devastating addictions, like drugs and alcohol, and to restore clarity and more sane connections with other people in their lives. Check out The Trini Foundation.
That said, everybody is different. Some yogis and yoginis drink alcohol. Some don’t. Several revered Tibetan yogis drank a lot of alcohol, including the local legend Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This does not sanctify drinking alcohol as a suitable activity for everybody. Either way, we are all in this together: drinkers and non-drinkers, alike.
So, it was kind of exciting going to the St. Julien bar that night, not really knowing if anyone from the Meetup would actually be there, and if they were there, who they would be. Indeed, one gentleman turned up. We had an interesting conversation.
This gentleman was European and had a physical manner of speaking that could be considered more common in certain areas of Europe. I lived in Europe for several years and have been told that I myself often speak with my hands like an Italian. Even so, I felt a bit awkward at first talking with this gentleman, as if my personal space was constantly being intruded upon by the moving of his arms as he spoke. More than once, he reached out to touch his hand to my hand in the midst of expressing an idea and it made me uncomfortable. We were just meeting for the first time and I did not feel at ease feeling his hand against my hand. So, I told him exactly that. He seemed surprised and subsequently made a more profound point. He said something along the lines that: these days, especially in the USA, people are very confused about how to naturally touch each other and to comfortably make contact with each other. So much so, he felt, that people have turned to animals more than other people to share affection because people no longer know how to be casually affectionate with people. I had to question if this was true in my case. It’s true that I hug and kiss my dog more than anyone but I have known her for over 14 years and we live together!
So anyway, I tried to bring the conversation back to animal and environmental activism issues, and the vision of BAE YOGA for which we were essentially meeting. I was curious if there were any causes he felt particularly strongly about that he would want to see us as a yoga group come together to work on in the future. In fact, he said that he felt humanity was the most important issue: that humans have to first improve their manner of relating with other humans if we want to get anything else done for animals and the environment. In his opinion, animal and environmental activism was born from the consequence of humans failing to relate with each other. I argued with him on this point. I asked: what if our relationship with animals and the environment is actually the primary issue? What if we cannot improve the relationships between human beings, how we relate with each other, until we improve the relationships we maintain with our environment, including all the animals with whom we share our environments?
What do you think?
“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” – Immanuel Kant
“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” – Lady Bird Johnson