It seems like everyday I wake up to a world that is more chaotic, bleak, and filled with hate. Is the world changing or am I slowly waking up to what’s been happening all along? Many people have always lived in a world full of hate, discrimination, violence, and disadvantage. I’ve had more than my fair share of trials and tragedies, but they seem to pale in comparison to many who haven’t had the luxury of transportation, shelter, safety, or opportunity due to miniscule genetic differences that have become the crux of the hierarchy of society at large. I have lived through and felt the weight of many of the same upheavals, but I have done so from my ivory tower. I watched the riots happening all over the country and I felt something, but I was more apt to push it away rather than truly feel it. Each time it happened, a piece of my sheltered ego fell away. Then it happened in my city. Last September, an officer-involved shooting rocked my sweet southern city of Charlotte, NC. I was out of town co-leading my very first yoga retreat, yet my heart, soul, and attention were on my city. I was obsessed with watching my friends, through the lens of Facebook Live, take to the streets and stand up for injustice. While I was living one of my dreams, I couldn’t focus on it due to my inability to be there for my city in a time of upheaval. For the first time, I truly understood the Black Lives Matter movement, the message, and how my silence was compliant with my inherited privilege. I wanted to help, but felt helpless. What could one person do? As most yogis, I turned to the idea of love and light. I focused on the positive and tried to be the best person I could. I made a conscious effort to be involved in communities that were different than the normal yoga world, and to understand how the world I perceived was the same world that was sending hurtful messages to others outside of my bubble.
Fast forward to now, almost a year later and hate has erupted in Charlottesville, a mere 4 hours away, and I can’t ignore the churning inside of me to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, or for those who are unsure of how to take action. Being a “good person” and hoping my positive light will radiate out to others is no longer enough for me. I am still just one person, but I have enough fire and passion to send the whole world up in flames. The question remains, what can I do? I’ve read so many lists lately and I want to share just a few of the highlights of ways to impart change through action, not just meditation, prayer, or being a “good” person.
1. Talk to each other. Talk to people in your cultural group, but also the people that scare you, the ones you feel you should lock your car doors when you see them, the ones who you think are different than you (pro tip: they aren't), and the ones who piss you off until you feel your blood boil. Talk to them to find out your differences, commonalities, hopes, and fears.
2. If you hear someone making a comment that is out of line, correct them. Too many times I’ve heard people say something that I didn’t agree with and I’ve remained silent. My silence was a missed opportunity to educate. My silence could have been misinterpreted as agreement when in fact it was just the opposite.
3. Get uncomfortable and dive into those icky conversations. But dive in honestly, openly, and with pure intentions. One of the purposes of yoga (which, if you are unaware, is way more than the physical shapes you see on social media) is to uncover that which is hidden. It takes going into our own darkness and rooting around in the muck to notice those deep seeded, and often ugly, parts of ourselves.
4. Educate yourself. Here are a few resources I’ve found to be helpful:
Teaching Tolerance https://www.tolerance.org/
5. Do you feel angry, sad, and/or guilty? Use those feelings as inspiration to ignite change. Get involved in your community, and not just the organizations with which you may have a personal connection. Find the organizations that are on the ground and take action. Bring your yoga to the people that can’t afford the studios or the fancy clothes. Donate your time, resources, and kindness in the neighborhoods you were told to avoid because they are the “bad” part of town. Here are a few amazing, local Charlotte organizations that could use your help:
This work isn’t easy and it’s not for the complacent, comfortable, or faint of heart. This type of work is for the yogi who is ready to take a stand and truly live their yoga off the mat. It takes courage, commitment, and drive to dive deep in our unconscious and not run from what we find. Once we wake up, it becomes impossible to go back. So I understand if this path is not for you. It wasn’t for me for a long time. Through this work, I find connection, support, and love from communities I never even knew existed. It may not be easy, but it’s so worth it!