This week, I taught on the word "lila."
Lila (pronounced lee-la) is the universal model of chance, the inverse of karma. Translated as divine play, lila tells us that anything can happen at any time for apparently no reason. It is the quantum side of life.
To encounter lila is to encounter the unknown. Lila pushes our conceptions of causation, of our power over our environments, and of the precariousness of life itself. Some of us may know the experience of having the world shift beneath of our feet when we hear a loved one has received a terminal diagnosis. Right now we are seeing the devastation wrought by natural disasters in the Caribbean and in California. Lives, homes, plans for the future, gone.
The response to lila is sometimes one of excessive control, of needing to manage every variable and to create security, but even the best laid plans tend to unravel. Some people surrender their agency and adopt an overly go-with-the-flow kind of lifestyle, and that tends to not work out so well either.
Yoga, however, invites us to consider that lila may be an invitation to a deeper understanding. As a child coaxes an adult into play, lila beckons us to test our own power and ingenuity just like any really good game. Like balancing on one leg, we can use every alignment trick and every muscle fiber to stay afloat. But if the time comes and we sense the inevitable fall, we can choose to laugh on the way down and to start the game all over again.