“I love you, me!” Campaign for Compassion

“This is ourselves… Under pressure”

The self-care establishment is always talking about loving yourself and practicing self-love. I hear that and think it’s so obvious. And yet…Over the summer, this idea of actively practicing self LOVE became a recurring theme in the conferences and classes I was taking online. I took it as a sign and tried starting a Self-love Journal.For someone who has never had any trouble cranking out words when putting pen to paper, I found this exercise of simply writing — and FEELING — “I love you” to myself surprisingly challenging, achingly revealing, and ultimately powerful. I could easily tell myself:

  • “I love how you try.”
  • “I love how you care about the animals.”
  • “I love how hard you work.”

But, simply to write and mean, “I love you,” forced me to confront my inner critic in a way I never really had before.I’ve been thinking a lot about love, lately. As we begin to see a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel we’ve been in the last four years, I feel strongly that our continued fight for justice MUST be fueled by love.

I’m talking about the love that works actively to support the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of each other, our community.

I’ve argued in the past that we need to expand the concept of “self” to include our community, otherwise all efforts at personal growth come at the expense of recognizing our place within systems of power.

But if it’s this hard to tell myself, I love you, and mean it, how am I going to fight for the broader community from a place of love? How am I going to overcome the demons of racism and white supremacy that live on in me, that lurk beneath the surface as fear of perceived others?

Perhaps my difficulty saying, I love you, to myself, and meaning it, is in part about my own shame and guilt, the recognition that those OTHER white people I call racist are also me (along with my other shortcomings).

Well, guess what? None of us is perfect. So I figure we could all start by learning to love our own imperfect selves, and support each other in the process. Perhaps through this process we will gain compassion through community.

We’ve all been under a lot of pressure these past 8 months… 4 years… 400 years. We need to heal and move forward with love. There will be many paths forward, different for each of us. But I see the unifying factor as love and compassion for ourselves and each other.

This week, I invite you to join me in the practice of simply saying to yourself —either verbally, looking in the mirror, mentally, or in writing: I love you. Acknowledge all that you are struggling with and give yourself credit for persevering through this crisis. Do this for just 1 minute every day for 5 days. Let’s see how we do. #iloveyoume

This is ourselves… under pressure

Catharsis: an emotional discharge through which one can achieve a state of moral or spiritual renewal or achieve a state of liberation from anxiety and stress.

Once when I was visiting my mom in Katy, I heard her listening to opera late one night. She had been sick with a complex of chronic autoimmune diseases for more than a decade. Her life had been constricted to the walls of her home and her backyard. She made the most of both, creating a glorious garden with something in bloom year round, and filling her house with music. That night I went out to join her and she was sitting on the couch crying, overwhelmed by the extraordinary gift of their voices.

Now, there were probably a lot of other emotions mixed in with that overwhelming sense of wonder. But the tears were like a release valve.

I’ve been moved in this way a few times in my life—blown OPEN and blown away by the magic of seeing Nina Simone from the front row singing songs from Porgy and Bess; exploding with joy at feeling the baritone of Leonard Cohen’s voice singing his exquisite lyrics. I balled my eyes out watching Eddie Vedder, and—not gonna lie, witnessing the completely out of his mind Kris Kristofferson croak out Take the Ribbons from Your Hair. (OK, now you know a lot about me, just from that list.)

We all have something that makes is feel this way. This week I invite you to go to that thing. See it, hear it, play it, cook it, eat it, touch it, do whatever it is.

As Leonard said, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. It’s also how the pressure gets OUT.

A little theory

You can think of that pressure as our own divine creative spark resonating. It pushes back against the oppression of our spirit. Sometimes it feels like righteous anger. Sometimes it feels like love.

In yoga shakti is the divine feminine and creative potential with which we are all endowed, and which must be EXPRESSED.

Our innate desire to create is expressed in a number of ways—one of which is kama, defined by master yogi Rod Stryker as “the desire for pleasure of all kinds, including closeness and intimacy, beauty, family, art, and friendship, as well as sex.”

It’s what Audre Lorde was describing when she spoke of the power of the erotic.

THERE ARE MANY kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change.

In the world of science and cultivating the potential of our inherent neuroplasticity, our buddy Rick Hanson discusses the need for excitement and enthusiasm. Excitement is energy plus positive emotion. Enthusiasm is being moved by something extraordinary, even divine. You may find that this is a time where these things feel stifled, tamped down. The principles of neuroplasticity mean that we can create these FEELINGS for ourselves and help rewire our brains and bodies more conducive to these states when they’re possible.

I know it sounds a little like fake it until you make it, but it works!

Remember: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REBEL!

A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a challenge to boycott buying all new clothing for a year in the name of the climate crisis. My friend is part of an international movement called Extinction Rebellion. They are artists and activists and parents and regular people who are taking on the climate crisis from the level of culture.

I am taking the challenge! (for the most part… I still want to be able to buy activist t-shirts that support local artists and groups and candidates I support).

According to an article in The Guardian, this effort is about reducing consumption overall. The fashion industry (along with advertising) is an enormous promoter of our culture of waste and over consumption:

  • the industry is set to grow by 63% by 2030;
  • 100 bn items are produced each year, “far more than we need”;
  • fashion is a contributor to about 10% of carbon emissions;
  • it is one of the biggest polluters, responsible for the release of a huge amount of microfibres and plastics into the ocean.”

And, there’s a lot that could be said about the fashion industry’s exploitation of women and children as workers.

But there’s another angle to this that I want to shine a spotlight on: the role of compulsory fashion consumption in body shaming and the development of poor body image and self-esteem. Our clothing becomes a source of comparison for all children very early. I’m inspired by the story of a middle school teacher who wore the same dress for 100 days. Part of her motivation was to demonstrate what could be done with the energy we might otherwise be spending each morning deciding what to wear.

Climate and environmental warriors have been promoting alternatives to “fast fashion” for years. If you’d like to support a Texas-based organization doing great work, AND have a FUN, creative night out (in Austin), check out Texas Campaign for the Environment‘s Trash Makeover! It’s always for much fun, and supports a fantastic group doing the hard work on cleaning up our state. Check out this cool video!

 

Because WE are the weight watchers…

Gotta agree whole heartedly with this op ed from The New York Times, Our Kids do Not Need a Weight Watchers App. 

And this wonderful piece, Weight Watchers is harming kids for money by the amazing Regan Chastain. Get this:

“Their most recent, and possibly most horrific, attempt at a money grab is to launch this app aimed at kids ages 8-17. The app starts with a seven-day free trial, but for kids to continue with their personalized coach, the monthly subscription fee starts at $69 a month. (The adult version of Weight Watchers online with coaching is $54.95/month)

Emphasis added. This really gets to the heart of it, doesn’t it?

Chastain sites some more scary stats:

  • 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25 (SAMHSA)
  • 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming overweight. This concern endures through life. (Smolak, 2011)
  • Among high-school students, 44% of females and 15% of males attempted to lose weight. (Serdula et al., 1993)
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. (Shisslak & Crago, 1995)
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors (ex, skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, purging) (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005)
  • In a decade we saw a 119% increase in eating disorder hospitalizations in kids UNDER TWELVE.

Now, I doubt that most kids who end up subscribing to this app are paying for it themselves. We as the loving adults in children’s lives are implicated in this disease. This app plays to the fears of moms and other adult women that their children might be or become “over” weight, which carries so much more meaning than just having a fuller figure. Do we fear they will be unloved, bullied, unsuccessful, unhappy? Just what WOULD we pay to prevent these outcomes? $69 per month doesn’t sounds so bad.

Or, perhaps even worse, do we fear what it says about us? That we produced or raised a child that is lazy, unhealthy, sloppy, doesn’t care, isn’t good enough—that we somehow failed?

Wow. What a weighty burden for those children to carry!

And they do. Because we do.

I would guess that most people in our culture carry a lot of subconscious assumptions about body size and shape. We apply them to ourselves, and to others. It is PERVASIVE, and often wrapped in a veneer of concern for health (which is challenged rather persuasively by DeAun Nelson, ND in her podcast, Do No Harm). And, as I’m learning, fat phobia and fat oppression are intimately entwined in our other major systems of domination and oppression—and not just sexism/gender oppression, but also racism. There is a LOT to unpack.

As I’ve turned more attention to this issue through my work with Embody Love Movement, I’ve had to confront many of my own ugly unconscious ideas about weight and health. It’s going to be a journey for me, but the first step is catch the thoughts as they arise, question them, and perhaps most importantly, challenge my own rationalizations. I’ll continue to share resources here. Comment or contact me to get involved in this work locally through San Antonio’s own “chapter” of Embody Love Movement.

Please don’t mistake puberty for a health or weight PROBLEM

The statistics about pre-teens and body image are staggering, really:

“According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Pediatrics, over half of 9-14-year-old girls desire a thinner body shape. This matters because body image plays a key role in the development of healthy habits. Girls who have a poor body image, for instance, are less likely to eat a nutritious diet or exercise and are more likely to experience problems with their emotional health. They are at higher risk for dieting, eating disorders, accelerated growth, internalizing unrealistic media images, and engaging in risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol.”

This quote is pulled from an article, “Your adolescent daughter doesn’t have a weight problem. She’s going through puberty” by family nutrition expert Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen.

It really makes me sad to think of girls spending any time or energy at all worrying about their weight or shape as something that determines their value as human beings. But, they are responding to very real pressures and strong messages, both implicit and explicit, coming from the media, their families and friends. We are all part of this seemingly perpetual cycle of self-denigration and shame, and we gotta start being a part of the remedy as well.

What could you be doing to make this change? Be a part of the Embody Love Movement revolution! Check out what we’re up to in San Antonio.

 

From the (he)Art of a young woman

About once a month I teach a free yoga class for the instructors and staff of a local arts organization called Say Sí. Say Sí’s mission:

SAY Sí ignites the creative power of young people as forces of positive change. We value artists, empower marginalized communities and advance culture.

Every year they do an exhibit of their seniors’ work, and put those works up for sale. I often purchase works from this annual show. The money goes to the students who are now off to college or art school, or adventuring into adulthood with other endeavors.

This year, I was struck by the work of Lee Ortiz. Lee is a mixed media artist born in Harlingen and moved to San Antonio to pursue art further within North East School of the Arts and SAY Sí. As she says in her bio, her “work expands on feelings, ideas, and troubles that she feels are not addressed enough in our daily lives, tackling topics such as eating disorders, self image, mental illness, fatphobia, friendships, relationships, family and how to deal with these issues in a social and political way.”

This tender heart is doing all she can to fight the hurtful messages — both implicit and explicit — about what it means to have a certain kind of body… what it MEANS about our value as a human being. She screams in her work: I am not gross! 

Let’s support this powerful young artist as she launches herself out into the world. She is a brave fighter! Lee will be attending Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design as an Illustration major, and I’m sure buying her work will help her a lot. If you are interested in purchasing anything, let me know. I can buy it and ship it to you. We can venmo. 

I am not gross (above) $150

They’re not Gross $150

Things I see online (Skip Dinner) $150

The Calorie Count Grows $200 (SOLD)

You can find Lee for further questions and commissions through these: Instagram: @eeelbee Email: aleahlouiseortiz@gmail.com Artstation: eelbee.artstation.com

 

What could we have done instead?

Ladies, what else could we have done with all the mental energy we’ve spent:

Counting calories? Counting carbs? Reading labels?

Craving and denying a simple pleasure?

Hating ourselves for giving in to a simple pleasure?

Dissecting ourselves into body parts we hate?

“Hating” other women?

Staring sideways in the mirror and hating what we see?

Staring at our own (and each others’) faces too closely, examining every detail of an eyebrow, a lip line, the size of our pores, and feeling somehow that those things actually MEANT something about our SELVES?

It’s complicated, I know. And I’m not blaming us, or each other, or even “society.”

I’m not blaming, but I AM going to try to do something about it.

MBS Yoga, with the support of Trinity Healing Foundation, are working to expand women’s and girls’ horizons, to pay more attention to how they FEEL than how they LOOK, and to value themselves for all they can DO and BE.

Learn about the transformative Embody Love Movement workshops we are offering at our information session Sunday, August 4, 5 pm at MBS Yoga.

On the matter of birthday donations

Many years ago (in the last century)—1992—I got to meet one of my childhood sheroes, Gloria Steinem. Mom and I went to the Brazos Bookstore in Houston and she signed our books. During her talk, Gloria gave a piece of advice that has always stuck with me. She said your checkbook (remember, 20th century) should reflect your values. Ever since then, I have always given MONEY to causes I care about, regularly.

I really appreciate that Facebook encourages people to give, bundle and promote their favorite causes and charities for their birthdays. However… and please educate me if I am wrong… I gave to one this morning for a friend’s fundraiser, and I got my receipt from Facebook, not from the organization I gave to. I believe the money we give that way gets to the groups. BUT, what it means (or might mean) is 1) the group doesn’t get my contact info and I lose the opportunity to be more involved in that group, and 2) Facebook gets the tax deduction.

I’m not opposed to tax deductions… but with all the millions of donations Facebook is bundling, IF they are getting the credit, they are getting ONE HELL OF A TAX DEDUCTION.

And… I kinda think Facebook actually owes our country a little, after 2016.

So… I’m not doing a birthday fundraiser through Facebook.

If you are in the spirit of giving, though, here are some Texas groups I endorse for your ongoing (or one time) support (with links to their donation pages:

 

On Immigrant Rights: Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV,  RAICES

On SO MANY things: ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network

Environmental Justice: Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter, t.e.j.a.s., Texas Campaign for the Environment

Reproductive Justice, Rights, Access: Lilith Fund, NARAL Prochoice Texas

Quality Nonprofit Journalism: Texas Observer, Texas Tribune

Worker Rights: Workers Defense Project, Equal Justice Center

 

There are so many… Please give to someone if you can! If you want to tell me you, great! 🙂

I really can’t believe the news today…

We now have a pretty solid deadline for turning things around on climate change… and we’ve passed it. Private corporations are making millions, as immigrant children are dying in US detention centers and we warehouse a third of African American men in prisons. The states have begun unilaterally striking down essential rights and freedoms. We have a president that lies, whines and rants and despite it all, may still win re-election.

The problems feel insurmountable—but we MUST face them. We must not look away.

I have always felt compelled to respond to the crises of the day, to do something with my life that made a difference on a broader scale. Even as a little child, I had a keen sense of injustice and wanted to fight to right the wrongs I could see all around me. I wore a button that said “Be Nice To Each Other.” I thought that would be a start. As an adult, I made a pretty good run as a professional organizer and policy advocate, working at many levels to secure basic health care for low income women, adequate and equitable public school funding, worker protections, environmental protections, voter protections, safe schools, streets and homes.

I gotta admit sometimes I feel a little conflicted about not doing more now, about my turn to the “Be” category of activism, while there is so much still to Block and Build (see Block Build and Be). But, “Be” it shall be! BeCause it is necessary. And BeCause it is intimately connected to the Building and Blocking. As Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” And, as the estimable Mavis Staples said, “who’s gonna do it if I don’t do it?”

Yoga has become pretty comfortably nestled in within the lucrative (for some) markets of Fitness, Wellness, and Self Care. And that is fine, depending on how you want to define being well, and being a self. I believe — and the teachings of yoga (as well as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam) affirm — that we must be well within communities; that we can only be well within communities that are well; and that we are indeed, each in some way implicated in the injustices and inequities we see in our communities. That’s what Karma is all about. We have work to do here in this life that is about more than feeling good about our “little s” selves.

Inspiration abounds. Here is one of my godsons, Climate Justice Warrior Zayne Cowie, as featured in The New York Times, doing what he can. And he is 9!

Here are some groups doing great Build and Block work in S A N  A N T O N I O,   T E X A S  and   B E Y O N D  if you want to get involved on climate change and environmental sustainability.

If, for now, you’re keeping your yoga on the mat, that’s a great place to Be! You can always catch me Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, 6 am for Rise Strong, or Tuesday and Thursdays at 9 am for Yoga-ahhh Yin Yoga and fascial release at MBS Yoga.

If you’re interested in learning more about the karma path of yoga, check out my 6-week summer series, Foundations of Yoga: The Karma Yoga Path, which also comes as a 3-month mentorship version in the fall for yoga teachers who want to earn even more Yoga Alliance continuing education credits.

Hope to see you soon — on or off the mat!

 

 

Excerpted from my newsletter! See the whole thing here.

Why is yoga politics?

Because politics is about change. And yoga is about peeling back the layers of illusion, even if for just one hour, to experience the most radical power on earth: the power of CLARITY that is the wisdom of your heart; clarity, the heart of this practice and the IMPETUS for all change.

If only for this one hour out of your day, you can FEEL what YOU feel, KNOW what YOU know, you touch the power to act on that foundation of strength whenever you need to. Yoga opens you to possibility and empowers you to see beyond the agreements we are living under, agreements we may never have consciously chosen to accept.

I mean the agreements that constitute the assumption that things just are the way they are. The ways in which we unquestioningly proceed through life. I first questioned these agreements when I was 16 and became a vegetarian. Who said I have to eat meat, just because “everybody” does?

Yoga can be a personal practice of checking in with yourself — what feels right for you? What does your body tells you it needs? Paying attention to that for yourself can be an act of radical resilience and self care.

But we end each class saying “Namaste,” acknowledging our sameness, our connection—this in the context of a culture that prizes individualism and competition, both of which require us NOT to see our sameness, our connection. For me, that’s one of those unspoken agreements that needs to be challenged. Our lives, and our fates, are intricately connected.

Yoga creates personal transformation that makes action in the world possible. Politics is one way we make change happen collectively.

Do what you can today.