Change Yourself, Change the World

Sep 29

by fourth-year Lauren Steffes

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

You’ll know it when it hits you. Like a shock to your psyche, it starts as a tightness in your chest or a knot in your shoulder. Like an itch under your skin, the insatiable feelings spread from your body to your thoughts. Your thoughts form words, which manifest into action. Fear and hate bubble within you until they erupt, destroying loving attempts to dissuade them, crushing every form of light that may come to bring you peace. This is your ego speaking.

I’ll never forget when I first stumbled into Rubber Soul Yoga Revolution, a locally owned, pay-what-you-can, 100% carbon-free yoga studio located in the heart of downtown Athens. The owner, Cal Clements, strives to improve the world through improving the bodies and lifestyles of his students through a series of poses and stretches timed with breath; more than that, though, he reaffirms the connection between mind, body, and spirit. By focusing on the present moment, Cal shows us how to reawaken the lost child within us who can marvel at all there is to see.

I felt the positive effects of yoga immediately after my first class. While twisting my body into silly shapes and focusing on my breath, I realized I had no excess energy to worry about the world’s issues. In accepting my body’s limits after falling down or being unable to stretch as far as the person next to me, I began to feel at peace with myself. Eventually, I began to feel at peace with the entire world around me. With every class, I learned to grow more and love more.

Somehow delving deeper into myself has allowed me to find freedom in the certainty that life is not made possible by some mistake or accident. We are exactly where we need to be. The coexistence of nature is reliant on codependency; from ecosystems to school systems, an individual plant or teacher would fail to thrive without the biological or emotional support of other living creatures. When you look at the nature of all things, you can begin to see the synchronicity of it all.

To me, yoga is about finding a love that transcends any human concept or idea regarding spirituality or religion. It’s about searching deep within you and tapping into the divine part of yourself that connects you with all other living creatures of the universe—the part within you that can’t hold back a smile when you see a child splashing in mud puddles or the feeling of mystery invading your spirit while standing on a cliff overlooking a mountainous void.

We may spend our entire lives trying to analyze, judge, or form conclusions about the nature of our existence, but when I take these questions to the mat, global issues and social stigmas fade away. After practicing yoga, I grow more and more certain that the love I show to others will ripple into a wave that can change the world. I am left with nothing but truth.

Rubber Soul Yoga Revolution is located in the Leathers Building at 675 Pulaski Street.

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photo by Christina Cannon