Jewish tradition teaches “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Easier said than done. Los Angeles is steeped in rich diversity and overflowing with creative and cultural possibility, yet as we pursue our fast-paced flow of commuting and computing around the city, we develop blind spots. Most of us carve out a social, religious, or ethnic enclave to inhabit and don’t move too far from home base. How do we open our hearts to others when typically we zoom by so quickly?
Yoga serves us as we deepen our sense of self and the love and compassion we extend to others. We endeavor to see clearly by removing obstacles that obstruct our view. We slow down and breathe. We work to remove the stumbling blocks—ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, fear—that get in the way of our practice and create space to open, stretch, bend, and invert the mind, body, and soul.
At the Pico Union Project we root down in the principle that we all have a responsibility to love our neighbors as we want to be loved and rebound up through action. The key: in order to love your neighbor you need time and space to get to know them — and yourself for that matter. In this way we align ourselves with the core ideas practiced through yoga to heighten awareness, see beyond ourselves, explore practices and people that are beyond our comfort zone, and seek stability and ease with others.
As a multi-faith and cultural center in a historic religious facility outside of Downtown LA, the Pico Union Project incorporates song, theater, story, food, prayer, dance, and wellness as tools to know our neighbors and ourselves. The community ranges from Jews to Muslims and Hispanics to Koreans, and cultivates respect and awareness by finding commonalities and celebrating differences. The PUP doors are open wide to those who want to participate in a variety of faith services, cultural arts events, and social justice projects.
This year, the Jewish High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) fall in October. The Pico Union’s Sanctuary program hosts a joyful, soulful, creative, and uniquely LA High Holy Day experience. A diverse team of spiritual and artistic leaders including musician and community organizer Craig Taubman, spoken word artist Jason Chu, Rabbi Deborah Schuldenfrei, Reverend Najuma Pollard, and Rabbi Scott Westle will offer music, prayer, breathing, story, and food to create an uplifting communal experience. Those interested can opt into a yoga practice on Rosh Hashanah morning or Yom Kippur afternoon.
All who attend are encouraged to bring a new household item for donation to Angelenos transitioning into permanent housing through Welcome Home Project, an initiative of the Mayor of Los Angeles. Learn more at picounionproject.org.
Dr. Zach Lasker is the Executive Director of the Pico Union Project and a 500-hour certified yoga instructor through YogaWorks.