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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Love’s Year

The moon will show herself one last time this year. She begs me to do the same, calling my name in that sweet soul-whisper only she and I can hear. It is a hushed riddle she requires me to answer before opening the door to the unmistakable truth. She only uses it to beckon me when I’ve been hiding too long. She’s quick to remind me it’s been a while.

Don’t worry, sweet one, she murmurs. We’ll wait for you if we need to, and we’ll love you voraciously all the same. But it’s been long enough now.

I can hear the indisputable thump-thump-thumping of my heart… or is it hers? There is no difference, 491ef5df644db602d3142dd48662a3acI feel, but I cannot know for sure. There is an unambiguous anxiety that builds as the clock tick-tocks it’s way to a new calendar. The moon has orchestrated a mesmerizing rhythm of waves crashing over each other like the days of the past year, muddled and messy and powerful; and this cold, salty air pleads me to look back as though it carries all of my secrets, disappointments and revelations. I can feel it right down to my marrow. I’ve been stretched in a way that cannot be unstretched. I’ve learned things impossible to unlearn. I know it is a good thing – it’s been a formidable few months. I’ve taken giant steps only to (momentarily) fall back tenfold. I’ve brushed myself off and seen the ferocious beauty of my universe-sized soul only to hold a mirror up to where I’ve conveniently been hiding a small speck of darkness. More, always more, she urged of me. Each time, managing to force me into deeper knowing, added forgiveness, and continually expanding grace. So now this head of mine begs for some spacious silence, a patch of warm ground to rest on for a while, a few spotless moments to piece together the puzzle of sagacious wisdom gained and not yet fully understood.

I will draw a bath in these last hours of the year. The salts will leach the worries out of my precious bones, one by one. The water will soak away the impossible expectations I’ve come to have of myself. I will replace them all with lists of laugher and smiles and sweetness past. As the hourglass drops her last grains of sand, I will set the unresolution to just be. I will deepen all of my cracks and wrinkles until they become grooves, prayers that hold an infinite capacity for love. I will meet your eyes with unconditional softness and trust that you will do the same for me.
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Forgotten Language

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Sometimes your head gets in the way.
Strong and stubborn,
steering you right when something is clearly tugging left.
Sometimes your body holds you in it’s protective casing.
Just stay seated a little longer, it begs.
But if you listen,
and I mean really truly listen,
your heart speaks a language so clear
even the moon understands.
It’s a sweet whisper.
A language of it’s own.
Unspoken sounds that make up words
your soul knows by heart.
Give in.
Close your eyes and learn how to see.
Listen to silence and learn how to hear.
Your eyes and ears will lead you astray.
But your heart,
your heart will always take you
where you need to go.