Small Things


Courageous Crocus

"Courageous Crocus," photo taken March 31, 2011

It has been another week for springtime theming in Anusara yoga classes, and Anusara teachers pay special attention to class themes. Of course, the courageous crocus is a perennial favorite (no pun intended) because it is so apparently fragile, and around here, one of the first to burst onto the scene, up through whatever is yet hard and cold and dry. Certainly this was the case in the weekend workshop in which I participated, and as it turns out, in my usual, though in no way ordinary, weekday classes.

The twist on this theming is attention to detail, “the small things,” in this case our toes, especially the fourth and fifth (pinky). After two classes of this, my back feet were practically floating up off the floor in Bakasana or Crane Pose, an arm balance in which one’s elbows rest on one’s knees and one’s feet lift off the floor. It also helped me greatly in Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose and in the transition to Ardha Chandra Chapasana, called by some “Sugar Cane Pose.” Incorporating balance and a backbend, it sure is sweet. Lately, I have been having trouble, particularly with my hamstrings, near the attachment point, in Ardha Chandrasana, to say nothing of moving to Ardha Chandra Chapasana. But today, with attention to the “small things,” especially those seemingly insignificant smallest toes, I was able to pull it off.

The divine is in the details, in a manner of speaking, and we may say this is true interpersonally. Are there things to which we attend or fail to attend which may make all the difference?

I personally can’t now here the phrase “small things” without immediately thinking of Arundhati Roy, Booker Prize winning author of The God of Small Things (1998), and more recent collections of essays such as An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire (2004). (I have watched her address to the 2004 Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association several times). In particular, with reference to “small things” I remember this quotation from an essay on “The Greater Common Good.”

Who knows, perhaps that’s what the twenty-first century has in store for us. The dismantling of the Big. Big bombs, big dams, big ideologies, big contradictions, big countries, big wars, big heroes, big mistakes. Perhaps it will be the Century of the Small. Perhaps right now, this very minute, there’s a small god up in heaven readying herself for us.

via ARUNDHATI ROY’S ARTICLE : THE GREATER COMMON GOOD. [emphasis added]

With regard to the small, I also think of E. F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered (2000; 1975), a treatise in “Buddhist economics.”

Today I was listening to an encore episode of  Krista Tippett on Being, one of my favorite podcasts (and weekly drivetime listen). In 2007 she had interviewed Katie Payne, an acoustic biologist who has studied whales and elephants. I was particularly struck with her comments on the impact of human habitation on endangered species (one in four mammals). Rather than fault the people, often impoverished, who live near these animals, she expressed the opinion that there is a lot that “we who have too much can do about this.” She continued that a lot of what is creating demand for minerals in the rainforests “could be called greed on the part of people in the developed countries.” She continued, “If each of us restricts our own lives to what we really need, there’ll be more for everyone.” Challenged by Tippett that this was a hard equation for people to feel, Payne turned that job back over to radio, and made a plea for the uniqueness of our planet. It seems to me, however, that we can’t align with nature without being impressed by its fragility, such that we are moved to its preservation. How else are we to enjoy it, and the many others for whom we care?

About Richard Hudak

I am Senior Adjunct Faculty in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and I have been a practitioner of Anusara™ yoga. I have completed 200 hours of teacher training within its diaspora community, consistent with its philosophy and alignment principles.
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