This Is What Whales Know About Karma Yoga
I am so happy to share that my new single “Ocean Anthem” and its music video will be launched later this summer at a special event for MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary. I will share the official launch date with you soon. In the meantime, enjoy the behind the scenes video clips and photos I have been sharing on social media platforms. And to find out more about the Ocean Anthem release, click here. If you aren’t already on my mailing list, sign up here so I can keep you posted on all the latest news about Ocean Anthem and the many other juicy, heartfelt songs that are coming soon!
As soon as I emerged from creative seclusion in my music studio over four months this winter, I immediately shifted into video production to first create an epic angel costume with the help of Sandra Bueler, who just completed the Fashion Design program at Toronto Film School (where her team won the top prize at Project Creativ Catwalk!) and Dora Rust-D’Eye, who recently retired as the internationally recognized costume director for Opera Atelier. Then we came up with an inspired storyboard working with my fabulously talented friend Adam Nathan. The process has been full on, including my first ever underwater shoot this past week. How perfect for Ocean Anthem. The shots, I hear, are spectacular.
The schedule has been intense with the goal to showcase the video at the AREDAY Summit in two weeks where I will also be giving a keynote talk on MAPS.
MAPS is one of the most important steps to take for ocean protection today. It is by far the biggest marine protected area yet established on our planet, since it safeguards the entire Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle. Because it stops the melting of the polar ice and allows it to regenerate, it helps keep sea levels all over the world stable. It stops the runaway heating of our planet that is killing coral reefs and changing fish migratory patterns, as well as generating devastating storms. And while the UN struggles to meet its target of protecting ten per cent of the world’s oceans by 2020 (they are still at just three per cent), MAPS will single-handedly double that to six per cent. And because it establishes so much ocean water as a sanctuary where the destructive behaviors of trawling, seismic testing and oil exploration cannot take place, it allows many whale populations to regenerate, which then benefits waters all over the planet as they migrate. So MAPS, and Ocean Anthem, are dedicated to all the oceans and all beings of this beautiful world.
Last week we looked at how whales, the amazing sonic creatures of the oceans, can teach us yoga. This week, let’s look at karma yoga in particular.
All of us who volunteer for Parvati.org and work towards MAPS or doing karma yoga. Karma yoga, a complete spiritual path in its own right, is the yoga of action. For a karma yogi, work is executed without ego, as a form of prayer. Actions are done as a means to purify your tendencies and return to the One state of undivided consciousness. It teaches you to set aside your preconceptions, surrender your wanting, release your attachments to the outcome of your action, and do what is in divine right order in the moment. In the early stages along this path, an aspirant may practice karma yoga in a few sporadic volunteer hours. Eventually, however, for the karma yogi, life flowers into an expression of selfless service to the greater whole. The karma yogi knows that to serve another is to serve oneself, as there is no separation.
The word “karma” is often associated with fate or consequences. Indeed, all actions performed with attachment create karma which must then unfold in this life or a future lifetime. To practice karma yoga is to extinguish this cycle by acting selflessly, that is, in non-attachment. This then speeds our return to the bliss of the One. A great spiritual master such as Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Amma, is an exquisite example of a karma yogi, one who selflessly and tirelessly serves the world without any desire for personal gain or accolade.
When I look at the lives of whales, I see an effortless, natural mastery of karma yoga. Their existence serves the greater good from the moment they emerge into the world to the moment of death and beyond.
As I mentioned last week, whales support their immediate environment through what is known as the “whale pump effect”, by which they bring nutrients like nitrogen and iron up to the surface from the depths, to fertilize plant life. This brings several magnificent benefits.
As the whales dive deep to feed and return to the surface to breathe, they naturally kick phytoplankton back up to the surface where it can continue in photosynthesis from the sun’s light, and absorb more carbon. Then their fecal plumes fertilize the phytoplankton.
Through the natural upward and downward rhythms of the whale’s life, it mixes the water vertically, bringing nutrients up from the dark into the light. It also enriches nutrient-poor water through its migration between the cold Arctic waters where it feeds and the warm waters where it breeds.
The whale’s life is of service, literally from birth to death. Whales are one of the few mammals that do not eat their placentas. When a whale calf is born, the placenta is released into the water and becomes food for many other animals. This is often a transfer of nutrients from the remote rich waters where the mother fed on krill, to a more sparse environment where she gives birth. Through a whale’s lifetime, it naturally absorbs carbon into its massive body. At death, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, sequestering that carbon in the depths. The body then becomes host to a vibrant colony of aquatic life on the ocean floor.
A blue whale can consume up to 8,000 pounds of food every day. Yet, such massive consumption does not deplete the ecosystem. Because the whale gives life to phytoplankton and other fish, the presence of a whale in an ecosystem actually increases the animals on which it feeds!
Of note, all of this magnificent service happens naturally. The whale does not deprive itself or act outside its natural healthy rhythms to accomplish these great feats. It simply does what it is born to do. It lives in abundance and all beings benefit.
No less than the great bodies of whales, our human bodies are of the earth, arising into magnificently interconnected form to serve our spiritual growth. As such, we have the capacity for this kind of abundance, quite simply by design.
Nature’s intelligence is vast. It comprehends balance on a scale that is immense beyond our imagining, and down to a microscopic detail. Our bodies are literally karmic vehicles. Nature gives them form and shape that reflect the karmas we bring into this life. What we do with this body can be in disbalance and generate karma for future lives, or be in balance and end the cycle of karma for good.
As we evolve on the spiritual path, we come to understand that our journey is in no way separate from the greatest good of the whole. Just as the whale’s life is an instrument of service for the entire duration of its form, so too we can live as karma yogis, in a way that benefits all. Though the whale takes in what it needs, its net footprint on the planet is less than zero. It gives far more than it takes. This shows that when we choose to live in harmony with Nature and service to the whole, we prosper – and so do all things.
The positive ripple created by our selfless actions extends far beyond our own lives or what we may even see. When we act without attachment, in service to the greater whole, we support the sustenance and proliferation of all of creation. Again, looking to the whales for inspiration, I have learned that as the phytoplankton increase in the water due to the whale pump effect, the plankton’s natural predators also increase. When phytoplankton are being attacked and eaten, they give off a white cloud in the water that reflects more sunlight away from the earth, acting in some small way like the polar ice that is now vanishing and that is crucial for our survival. The whale whose actions gave life to that phytoplankton might now be thousands of miles away, yet the grace of its selflessness continues to unfold.
So may it be for us. We see so little of the universal picture. We do not know all the fruits our actions may come to bear with time. But we do not need to know. We are simply called to surrender our wanting and reclaim our true nature as vehicles of service, healing and balance.
May our footprint on the planet be light: the luminosity of our true interconnected nature.
Thank you for reading! All my music, yoga and words are dedicated to MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary. MAPS is an urgently needed global intervention to protect the polar ice that keeps our planet cool and weather stable. The ice caps ensure we have the food and water we all need to survive. Please support MAPS at Parvati.org for the sake of all life on Earth. From my heart to yours, it literally means the world.