Recent events in the Seattle yoga community have created a huge and much needed dialogue about race, privilege and yoga in the Western world. In my opinion this dialogue is long over due, and what we are all learning is that it is uncomfortable to talk about and we're all sitting in it together. My hope is that as we all sit with the discomfort of recognizing the inherent privilege and power dynamics in the westernized yoga we practice, we start to break those down, one incident at a time.
Here are some things we can thing about moving forward as we start to claim or own actions and their impact within our yoga community and beyond:
This year's winter solstice marked the darkest day in over 500 years. For many of us, this feels like an accurate representation to what we're
both in our outer and inner worlds. There is a sense of darkness that feels insurmountable and unshakeable. I have spoken with many people who feel overwhelmed by our current political and social climate and feel immobilized by their feelings of sadness and grief. And yet others I have spoken to have been mobilized by their anger and struggling with where to direct that energy.
It feels like many of us are looking for tools and frameworks of how to work with what we're feeling. For me, I have turned to my yoga community and its teachings to help me bridge the gap of action with intention. And yet as I’ve started to watch what is unfolding in the community I've seen a lot of interesting dialogue around "being positive," "focusing only only on love" and I have seen many teachers and students alike coming down on one another for negativity or the righteous anger they are expressing. I have to say say, as student of yoga and human being I am troubled by this.
Today I shared in a beautiful gratitude practice to 33 amazing yogis at Aditi Yoga. Preparing for this class, I had a challenging time as I thought about gratitude. For me gratitude as long been associated with positive and optimistic thoughts. And this year, in the light of the political and cultural climate that we're in, I found myself struggling to touch into this energy of gratitude. As I sat with this, I realized that I needed to accept and welcome the vulnerability, darkness and fear I was experiencing, and that if I could, I could actually have gratitude for all the difficulties I was experiencing and seeing around me. Turning to embrace this I found the following poems that helped ignite and inspire me and I shared with our group today. Enjoy!
After the events of Orlando I felt myself confused by my own feelings and searching for a way to bridge what I was feeling with my yoga practice. For me yoga has often been about love and surrender and allowing, but in this instance I found myself angry, hurt and confused. Love and compassion didn't feel like enough in this case and I found myself drawn again and again to the Buddhist philosophy of right action, samyak-karmanta.
What does right action mean? "This means that when we act "rightly," we act without selfish attachment to our own agendas. We act mindfully, without causing discord with our speech. Our "right" actions spring from compassion and from understanding of the dharma," writes Barbara O'Brien. And one of my favorite teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh writes "The basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness."
Yoga teacher, sound healer and explorer of the inner landscape. Join me!