Dear Beautiful Human,
This is not the blog post I had planned last week. But it’s the one I am writing today. Racism and yoga? Yes. What does one have to do with the other? I will tell you.
Lately I’ve been watching the news as little as possible. The endless obsessing on fear and uncertainty begins to get to me after a while. But Friday night we watched the country come apart from city to city, coast to coast. I woke up Saturday morning with a really heavy heart. I felt on the verge of tears all day. I managed to get through the morning livestream practice and of course it helped. We focused on the heart and opening the chest because that’s where grief lies.
I spent the rest of the day intermittently watching videos and commentary from black leaders and trusted sources speaking on the current state of affairs. I talked to my kids about what was happening. They were already watching the George Floyd case and we had been talking in depth about Armaud Aubury. My youngest daughter and I made signs for a peaceful protest my neighbor organized here in Novato. It was my first protest and my whole family set out to participate.
We spent an hour on an overpass in a busy section of Novato holding our signs up high and showing the community we are not ok with racism, violence against people of color and the killing of the black community. It was the best thing I have done in months.
The response from the community gave me hope. There was an outpouring of positive support: honking horns, fist pumps, thumbs up, peace signs, clapping, cheering and more. I saw people in their cars slowing down to thank us. These people were teenagers, families, elders, white, black, brown, Asian, everyone!
The most touching response brought me to tears. A black woman I am guessing in her 60’s slowed her car down to drive by, wave and take it in. I could see she was amazed and trying to process it. She parked her car and walked the line to see the faces of the protestors. She thanked us. I said it was so so so little in the face of a gigantic problem. Her response? “But it means something, thank you”. She was crying.
What does this have to do with yoga? Well, everything. Yoga is a path of action and truth. At it’s core, yoga is a process of removing untruths, coupled with conscious action. I feel the need to say that again: Yoga is a path of action and truth. At it’s core, yoga is a process of removing untruths, coupled with conscious action. What we discover on the path of yoga is that our deepest self is beautiful, perfect and unchanging. And this self lies at the heart of every human being. At the most foundational level we are interconnected, we are the same. This is TRUTH.
Another thing we discover on the path of yoga is that our actions matter. We are either making positive karmic ripples or negative ones. There is no standing back and doing nothing- that is an action in and of itself which either has a positive or negative effect.
The untruth is that we are separate and that some of us are better than others. Society is mostly one big huge untruth telling us our worth is based on something outside of ourselves. No corner of this earth has escaped the dominant thinking that white is better. This is a lie, the biggest and most damaging lie. This message is everywhere. Think about it- we receive the message that white is better by the entire culture around us, no matter where you live.
The consequence of thousands of years of this kind of wrong thinking is serious injustice. The consequence is that black people (and brown too) live a very different day to day reality than white people do.
I have seen two problematic things happening within the yoga community on social media. There is either spiritual bypassing where the harsh reality of injustice is washed over with “love and light” minus any action or accountability. Or, yoga teachers who speak out are criticized for mixing “politics with yoga”.
Both are wrong. In fact, I am going to say that yoga teachers and practitioners should be even more accountable to take action because we understand that each of us is either contributing positively or negatively. And since ultimately nothing is separate, how could we not speak out or take action against wrong doing? There is no separation of “politics and yoga”. There is only evolution towards truth or away from truth.
What can we do? There are so many things, and each of us will be capable of contributing to positive change in our own unique way. For myself, I was amazed at how important it was for me to stand in front of my community, in full view and say this is not ok and I am willing to show you with my time and energy and voice.
Here are other ways to make a difference:
- Talk to people around you. Talk to relatives and friends, especially the ones who you know need to hear it. Tell your kids why racism is wrong. If black families have to teach their kids how to protect themselves at a very early age, we should be telling white kids this is wrong and they can speak up at school or anywhere they see bigotry.
- Donate. Put your money to work supporting organizations that support black communities or who fight racial inequality.
- Volunteer. There are plenty of organizations that need help. If you have the time, give it.
- Post on social media. We all need to see that we stand against hate and discrimination. Post images of people from all walks of life, not just “prefect white people”.
- Support black businesses. Seek out brands and businesses that are owned by people of color and support them with your dollars.
- Don’t support brands whose media campaigns only use images of white perfection. There are a few yoga clothing brands who only show skinny white, athletic, able bodied yogis in their clothing- I do not purchase from them no matter how cute their clothes are.
- Educate yourself by reading books on racism and justice. I just ordered one by fellow yogini Sonia Roberts called “White Ally”. Order it here.
If you are white, you have privilege and power, period. Use it. Use it for the right reasons. Use it to stand up for people who have been squashed for hundreds and hundreds of years. People of color are tired. They’ve been dealing with daily racism their whole lives. They’ve been dealing with real violence their whole lives.
Being white and staying silent it not ok. Being a white yogi and doing nothing is not ok. Figure out what you can do and do it!!!! You might get mad at me for saying this, I am saying it anyway. Yogis, I am holding us (me too) accountable.
Love, honesty & action,