Off the Mat into the World


The first time I really felt strongly about something was just after 9/11. I was living in NYC at the time and will never forget the terror I felt at finding out that the trade towers had been hit. In the weeks that followed the government took the opportunity to go to war, curb our civil liberties and establish, “ homeland security.” Even though I wanted to turn a blind eye and just do my Yoga I felt I had to take a stand. I’ll never forget my teacher Alan Finger sharing that we shouldn’t hate the people who had done this. It would be like hating your own arm.

As part of a global peace demonstration I was moved to write a piece for The Nation, an online and in print magazine that offered alternative and meaningful news. 

peacevigil too

“My husband and I met [author and prayer leader] James Twyman and joined his e-mail list. He wrote that he was going to be doing a major peace vigil on the 9th of February with a mix of Israelis and Palestinians. He wrote, “Rather than pushing for peace, we’re going to bepeace. We’re going to bend the world toward peace.” He asked for everyone to gather, so I started, two months before, sending e-mails: “If you’d like to join me in spirit or physically, please do.” On the day, I had invited a lot of people to be with me. I said, “At 12 noon, I’m going to lead this meditation.” There were forty-five of us there. A lot of people sat with us, and a lot of people joined us in spirit. They e-mailed me afterward and said, “We could feel it.” I had felt ineffective. I had thought, “How can my voice be heard?” For me, to be able to share this is a way to take action. We were being grateful for the peace that already exists on this earth.”

Back then I felt that joining together and demonstrating peace was enough. Now, 11 years later I have learned that there is no need to “ demonstrate peace” all that is needed is to know oneself then we discover that in the creation there is never anything but peace.  

Rachel Zinman YogaMoving off the mat, being open to dialogue and taking a stand for what you feel is right is important. At the same time the real issues run deeper then climate change and collapsed economies. Do we ever stop to question ourselves? Do we ask who is creating the mess in the first place? and what does this messer upper hope to gain? In the end it all comes down to thinking we have to do something to get something. Why can’t we just get that being is enough. In fact we can’t help being- it’s happening effortlessly whether we know it or not.

As a society we think that someone or something has the power to bring us happiness? Why? Because through our conditioning; our education and up-bringing has made us feel powerless, empty, wrong, incomplete in some way and that there is some hole that we have to fill and when we fill it we will feel complete. We have all become excellent hole diggers. We dig the hole and we get in.

Rachel Zinman YogaOf course this is a yoga blog, a blog that people read to find out more about yoga, its not a place to talk about politics. Or is it? If you practice yoga then there’s something you want to change in your life. Maybe you want to be fitter, able to stand stress better or perhaps as a yoga teacher you want to help others change their lives. When I was a kid growing up in America we were taught all about our founding forefathers and how they wanted to make a difference “ freedom, justice and liberty for all” was their catch cry. Isn’t that also why we do Yoga? To be free?

In philosophy the understanding is that we all strive towards “ Moksha” (Freedom) But see how crazy this is; already free, already whole and complete-we just don’t know it. The only thing standing in our way is conditioning born of ignorance. It is conditioning and ignorance that prevents us from knowing who we truly are. And this is not the fault of the society. If we were not born ignorant and knew everything then what fun would it be? But if only our politicians and leaders, heads of corporations could start questioning themselves, and see past their own conditioning and ignorance and know the truth of who they are, then the world we live in would be a far safer and better place.


Seeing things as they are and yourself as you are is to step to freedom. Eliminating our own self ignorance fills us with absolute empathy and compassion for one another. Knowing that we are inseparably part of the Whole – That Consciousness – which alone exists, makes even death and dying a joke. The practices of yoga by lifting our conditioning momentarily of course bring us peace, happiness, and completeness BECAUSE THIS IS ALL THERE IS. Yoga helps prepare us for this understanding momentarily removing our normal and habitual preoccupations. But yoga too can become another form of conditioning. So watch out! 

But if for a split second – we are able remember ourselves as the yoga-the Consciousness itself-then what happens as you step off the mat can only be filled with Love and Compassion. Empathy-spreading Joy, Happiness, Peace, Love.  

So what does it mean to step off the mat and into the world? 

I’ll let you decide.

Want to hear more ? Join Rachel Zinman and John Weddepohl for Intensives in Sydney, Berry, Wollongong, Byron Bay, Brisbane and Darwin throughout March , April and May 2014

Thanks to John Weddepohl for contributing  to this blog

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