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"Yehudah ben Tema said: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven. "

Pirkei Avos (Ehics of the Fathers, 5:23)

First an explanation of "to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven."*  There is a will and a purpose greater than yours. The terms "Father" or "He" are simply conventions used to talk about that strength and intelligence that many of us have a sense of, though we can neither fully understand nor explain.  "Heaven" is another conventional term that refers to "the place" where "He" abides and rules. 

​*The actual quote in bold above comes from the Artscroll Mesorah Series Hebrew/English translation of Pirke Avos.

Should we really strive to be like animals? No, to the contrary, we are trying to gain self mastery over the animal part of us that moves us to rage, demands immediate gratification, and renders us slothful.  We aim to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to do the good that we are uniquely positioned to do.  As the inner discord is replaced with calm, we naturally know how to act with peace, love, and kindness and promote a more lasting harmony. This helps repair our world.

The Leopard
While being bold is not always a good thing, there is a time to "stare the world down." Sometimes we truly need to have the quality of boldness to preserve life (often our own) and to help secure necessary sustenance. 

The Eagle
To be light like an eagle means to have, to some degree, overcome the forces of gravity. We do not want to be too earthbound, so grounded in the pursuit of our own physical pleasures that we become "sluggish".  We want to rise above our own addictions and attachments and excesses. As we do, we become  physically lighter and we may even spiritually soar. 

The Deer
When we know the right way to go, we should run and not walk. Swiftness is a virtue when we are serving our fellows and God, but not when we are racing after our own selfish desires. 

The Lion
Sometimes we need to be strong and resolute in acting upon the truth that we see and know- our truth- even though others may see things differently and not share our vision. Our vision has an important place, and we need to stand our ground with strength. 

After calming the restlessness in the mind with meditative techniques like yoga, learning, praying or just being out in nature, intuition functions as it is meant to and insight is gained. We know when to be unyielding and when flexibility, going with the flow, is the wiser choice. 

Whether our intention is to gain inner peace, fulfill  a sacred covenant guided by Torah or other scriptural learning, or just to be the best human being we can be, we can look to nature, including the animal kingdom, and be inspired. With continued practice we can be bold, light, swift, and strong as we actualize our human potential and serve  a larger purpose. Serving our families, our fellows and the One who lives within all- the Eternal One- is our real purpose. This is the essence of true yoga practice. Our growing mastery and inner peace definitely helps bring on a larger peace in the world.  May a greater peace, clarity, and harmony come soon and in our day. 

Andrew Kahn 
Copyright 2014 
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True yoga practice