It’s not always light and love…

(This post was spurred by an intelligent and thoughtful discussion with a fellow yogini and friend following the unbearable news about what happened in Charleston and why/how it’s important to talk about it. What follows has been modified from my response to her)

There is a lack of conversation in the yoga community (and elsewhere) about the racism and discrimination we are experiencing in North America. I believe is it linked to the distorted (and, if we are being transparent here, appropriated) culture of yoga, guided by the beautiful wishes to always be inclusive, to move toward oneness, to continue to walk in (seemingly) constant peace and love – or at the very least to project that image. It is misguided, unfortunately, and based in fear of being rejected or labeled as being too harsh, too abrasive or non-inclusive. It is a product of a culture that, at least in the parts of Canada and the United States I have witnessed, is dominated mostly by white people (and, lets be honest here: it is, in my experience, still dominated more accurately by white men – though I admit this is changing. Slowly).

In the last few years, I have been working with what it means to be authentic – truly authentic. The yoga world is a very easy place to hide behind one-love-paradigms, too-sweet-too-accepting facades that, as practitioners and warriors of love, we end up believing are true, even when they are not. I have seen myself convinced (truly believing – not in denial, but honestly convinced) that I wasn’t stress, wasn’t hurt, wasn’t frustrated/angry/lonely/insert-whatever-‘challenging’-emotion-here because I was (and still am, though working on it) so practiced in gracefully being yogic, knowing the “appropriate” way to act or to respond. Instead, after years of hiding behind the yoga mask, I am allowing myself to speak in honour of my true voice, my true feelings, my true thoughts.  And I am also learning to speak in honour of the truth of the world as it is right now.

Everything is not light and love. Some of it is, yes. And if we want to walk truthfully and authentically into light and love, we have to openly, loudly, fearlessly denounce darkness and hatred.

AND we have to own our part of the responsibility.
I think that, right there, is the hardest (because it’s fucking hard) part…

I have no idea what it means to be African-American living in the States right now (or even to have black skin in most parts of the world for that matter), and I’m not going to pretend I ever could understand what that means. But I do know, from my own sheltered experience, that it is hard to have a ‘different’ last name and to be discriminated against because of it… I do know that it feels pretty shitty that 95% of the time i walk into a yoga class (as a teacher or as a student), I am the only non-white body in the room…. I do know how awful it is to feel restricted or judged or singled out or called a terrorist (!!) because of my appearance or because of the letters that form the words that were given to me, meant to define me as ‘who I am’… I do know what if feels like to be in a place where I feel unsafe because of the colour of my skin… (and i’m not even talking here about being in a homosexual relationship or simply about being a woman)

But here’s the thing. I have lived, for the most part, a privileged life in which I have been loved and cared for and provided for and accepted. So my experience cannot even begin to be compared to what millions of people are suffering now because of the colour of their skin or because of where they were born. And so it is not only my choice, but my obligation (and i believe it is also the obligations of all privileged people – especially yogis and even more so, white yogis) to acknowledge and speak out about what is going on in the world. It is our responsibility to ask for forgiveness for our mistakes, and with humility, to ask what, precisely, is needed to even begin to heal the deep wounds (and then to respect what is offered to us as guidance and answers, without trying to take the stage).

So. Thank you, each of you who have chosen to, or are choosing to step in. Thank you for the courage it takes to tell the truth of where you are at. Thank you for not shying away, for not hiding behind false pretences (like the hashtag ‘alllivesmatter’ – read more here), for acknowledging your capacity – whatever it currently is at this point, and for the strength it takes to show up and to learn and to move forward. #blacklivesmatter

photo by Blair Ryan Photography(photo by Blair Ryan photography)

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I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You


There is something I have been meaning to tell you. If I say it out loud, you’ll know. It won’t be a secret anymore. The hear-me-roar of the tiger’s teeth I’ve learned to wear around my neck won’t deceive you any longer. I’ve taught myself how to trick you, you see. I’ve tricked you into thinking I am strong beyond belief. I’ve fooled you into thinking I’ve got it under control, I’m not easily bruised. I am stillness on the lake at dusk, undisturbed beauty and calm, a three hundred year old cedar.

It’s true. Sometimes it’s not an illusion at all. Sometimes I walk in the skin of a panther. I feel my hips sway to the rhythm of my cool, powerful strut. It’s true. Some days I am fragile like dew dropping blossoms in the morning sun.

I know you understand. I can see your thoughts spill out of your sensitive eyes. You don’t always know you are sharing your joys and your pain. You do it all at once in technicolour codes. I’ve learned how to speak that same love language. Some days I am a crow feasting on your leftovers. Don’t turn away. It is still me, I promise. Don’t be fooled. I am the owl, only my wings have been tied down for a while.
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Perhaps, if you and I no longer hide, we will meet by the riverbed and drink the lovetruth serum. We’ll see our intimate fears transformed into the filaments of gold that they are, pulled up into the vastness by the moon of our eyes. We’ll know that we already are our magnificent selves. We’ll understand that our brokenness is a magic carpet ride that leads us back home to the light.

I am preparing to lose a piece of my body. The puss will be drained, the tissue will be cut out. There will be bleeding and pain and scars.

I will be forced to rest.
And I will be reminded I am not these bones.

I will be asked to choose. I could wrestle myself into un-wholeness. Instead I will step fully into my altered casing. I will learn and relearn and learn again. I am not my breasts or my curves or my sex or my organs. I will know, from the depth of my darkness, from the heart of my heart, from the fire of my belly, I am the universe inside this skin. I will see what I already see. My light cannot exist without my shadow.

And I will continue to try, by and by. I will coax myself into letting you see my fragility. I will ask you to let me in to your secret hiding places, to invite me to play and sing and dance by your side.

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