I’m still looking for the right words to describe how seeing this blog post in my inbox—and then READING—it made me feel, so bear with me. I just want to get this OUT… imperfect as it is.
I’ve been wondering what to do with “my yoga.” I’m teaching and I love that. But I’ve hesitated to promote my vision and “put myself out there.” Partly it’s because I’m uncomfortable with what I see being promoted as yoga, and HOW yoga is being promoted. I haven’t wanted to contribute to that. And, I’ve wondered if I’ve carved out too narrow a niche for myself. Two years ago I thought that teaching yoga to advocates and activists and building community in that way would be one way I contributed to the social justice movement (see the home page!). But the more I tried (or thought about trying) to make a “business” out of it, the more insincere it felt, and the more discouraged I got.
I’m turned off by the VAST majority of yoga marketing I see. Yoga to sell beer. Yoga as part of the happy hour party routine. Woo hoo! Yoga!!!! It all seems so shallow. Within the context of a real need for real action on many fronts—gentrification dislocating poor people and old people from their homes, the Black Lives Matters movement, real discussions of anti-capitalist alternatives, important local and national elections—pushing yoga has actually just seemed like a distraction.
Ok. AND… I must admit I’m still a little gun shy after being chewed up and spit out after my last real professional effort at advocacy and civic engagement. But I’ve been watching important movements from the sidelines and justifying it as a white woman feminist stepping aside, trying to be an ally instead of the star.
Last week, a teacher I respect very much took the leap to bring the Black Lives Matter movement into the yoga community. She is encouraging study, discussion and action within this — let’s face it — even-in-San-Antonio, predominantly white community.
I am inspired by the vulnerability she displayed by sharing briefly how she got to this point:
I have been involved in New Age circles since I was eighteen years old. I can not tell you the number of World Peace prayers, mantras, visualizations and ceremonies in which I have participated. I have listened to countless charismatic teachers talk about “ushering in a new paradigm” and being part of an “evolution in consciousness” and so on. Gathered in small and large groups, armed with mala beads and good intentions, I have felt inspired, uplifted and buoyed by the notion that I was part of a larger process of awakening.
Of course, I don’t have to tell most of you that 99.9% of the people in those rituals and gatherings were white. And perhaps I don’t have to tell you that my own relationship to said “new paradigm” and said “consciousness evolution” was somewhat vague and, if I am honest, largely centered on my own current and future well-being. I am not saying that I am a total asshole or that I am completely self-centered. I needed to dive into the sources of my personal suffering and to get a handle on my own inner workings. I needed to invoke a positive future for myself. In fact, my life depended on it. Up to a point, personal work on self is essential. After a point, working only on self may have some serious downsides.
One of those serious downsides for me is that I was living in ignorance of larger social issues and failing to see that my ignorance kept me unconsciously participating in an unjust system of institutionalized racism that feeds on fear, blame and inequity– the very things I was praying would come to an end. By being focused on the ways my personal consciousness was patterned from childhood conditioning, I missed the obvious– the ways the culture in which I was brought up created patterns that kept me blind to racism, hatred and various forms of de-humanizing cultural norms.
In short, there’s a LOT of shit between your small or capital S self and the “universe.” And it all needs changing. In the hard work of yoga, we (can) learn that reality is something we create and agree to. Unfortunately, often we agree to a lot unconsciously. In this case, systems of power that benefit some over others. It’s not personal! But we have a personal responsibility to do something about it. Something real that includes breaking the unconscious agreement NOT to be part of the solution.
I’m going to participate in this webinar today, and join the discussion. I hope you will, too.