As signs of spring blanket the landscape, gardeners, farmers and stewards of both inner and outdoor environments are contemplating how they can contribute to the great unfolding, the blossoming of life that takes place as weather warms and seasons change.
Observing the temperatures, feeling the soil, noticing which plants have returned and which will no longer be rebirthed, gathering seeds, seedlings and saplings, we begin to pull together a plan for how to use the fertile ground in order to grow our sustenance and souls.
Determining what we want to nurture and grow plants the seed of intention, a yogic principle also known as sankalpa. Our sankalpa is an idea of the heart and mind that leads us to make a vow to ourselves and the Creator to perform an act according to Divine will. This resolve influences the course of action we will take to seek union with the Divine, while the yogic principle of vinyasa krama helps us to decide how to order our steps in the Lord.
In order for yoga students to build a home practice and teachers to develop a class to fit the needs of their students, we develop a strategy to link our intentions, movements and breath in an uninterrupted sequence of events from beginning to end. This plan, established before we engage in our practice, helps us to take the proper steps to progress toward the goal of our practice.
If vinyasa krama is the blueprint for our practice, we are the architects, those responsible for setting a plan for how to use our materials — asanas, pranayama and meditation techniques — to build an experience that supports the mind, body and spirit in becoming unified in their efforts to channel energy towards one point – your intention.
Dhyana, or meditation, is the practice of concentration on and increasing awareness of a single point of focus, be it an image, feeling, idea, word or phrase. Practicing mind/body movements and conscious breathing relaxes the body and calms the mind in preparation for meditation.
Vinyasa krama helps us carefully construct a road map for our journey to the final destination of samadhi, a state of being where you, the meditation practice and the object of meditation becomes one and you experience illumination and moksa (liberation).
In our movements to find freedom from physical, mental and social illness, it has become absolutely essential that we create a plan for how we will fight against oppression. Many moments in our people's histories reveal our ancestors' recognition of and reverence for deciding, describing and documenting the actions they would take to achieve a personal or collective goal.
People the world over still ponder how the Great Pyramids and other massive spiritual monuments were built. Surely those who put their time and physical, mental and spiritual energy into constructing these elaborate temples had a vision for what the sacred space would look like, instructions or steps for how to build the space, and an idea of which tools, skills or labor was needed to complete the construction.
During the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, The Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) held regular meetings to create strategies — numerous plans — for the protests and marches they lead, while the Panthers Ten Point Program detailed the demands the group made and the vision and values that shaped the actions they took to get those demands met.
Planning is a powerful ritual that helps bring our vision in line with the vision of the Divine, and which keeps our vision clear and focused on the intention that lies like a seed in the soil of the vision. Creating a plan based on our intention prepares us to take the right actions to experience union with the Divine, the ultimate sankalpa of the sadhaka (spiritual seeker).
The yoga margas are the four paths or approaches to yogic study a student might travel upon to better understand and engage in the practice ashtanga, the eight limbs of yoga, those practices and principles we use to experience union with ourselves, each other and the Divine.
Practicing awareness and accepting responsibility for our intentions and actions is karma marga, the path of right action. To walk a path of right action requires a guide for where we want to go, a vinyasa krama. It also relies on an attitude of selfless service (seva), a deep desire to understand our own needs as well as the needs of others, and to engage in activities that encourage collective upliftment.
Such a mind state can be maintained when we stay detached from the fruits of our labor and avoid identifying as the one who is doing the work. Seva and karma marga teach us to recognize the ways the Divine dwells in and expresses itself through us, sowing in us seeds of vision and intention that sprout into plans for actions in accordance with Divine will and for the good of all beings that are suffering under the weight of injustice.
Even more importantly, these divinely ordained actions and their results are our offerings to the Creator, a form of worship in appreciation for life itself. Taking time before our practice, prior to our protests, preceding our organizing projects, to plan ways to implement the processes and systems we will use to help us realize freedom is an essential means to justify our ends.
The end goal in our efforts to end oppression is liberation from domination, violence, poor physical and mental health, and spiritual and literal death. Justice is achieved when we plan ways to restore equity, morality and peace through healing and community organizing.