I’ve been trying to find the words to process what is going on in our country right now… and well… I really can’t. It’s baffling, it’s terrifying and it’s energizing all at once. As I’m assuming we all have experienced, I’m feeling the gamut of emotions around the state of our country and what to do about it. Writing an article has scared me because of thoughts like “what if I say something wrong?” “What if I offend someone?” “What if my own biases show through my writing?”
Former PI teacher and social justice queen, Lauren Roberts, sent me this article (definitely worth the read!): http://www.wildmysticwoman.com/poetry-prose/white-women-white-supremacy-1
The author shares the following quote, which sums up why I’m writing this and how I feel in doing so:
I’m going to do this imperfectly. I’m not an expert on social justice. I am a spiritual mentor, teacher and healer who feels strongly about sacred activism. If I say something that is inaccurate, presumptious or that shows my own privilege without acknowledging it, I want to apologise in advance. However, just because I’m going to do this imperfectly does not mean that I should not do it at all. This is a problem that I see many people struggle with. Their fear of speaking out imperfectly or of being criticised stops them from saying anything at all. I’m not going to allow my fear to do that to me. So my words will be imperfect. But I pray that both the intention and impact of my words are of service.
Let me begin by saying I do not agree, nor condone the activities of white supremacists.
Noah, my teacher, often says it is our DUTY as yogis and yoginis to be socially active. When our country wasn’t overtly being ravaged by hate and animosity, I didn’t really understand this. I’m a person who does not watch the news because it “offends” my delicate Pitta nature :). I’m a person who chooses to only engage in politics when it pertains to me. . . but that’s what privilege is. I’m realizing that now.
The episode in Charlottesville has forced me out of the closet to realize that this battle, while it may not physically deal with me, has EVERYTHING to do with me because I am a citizen of this country, a lover of all people and someone who demands equanimity in whatever capacity I can manage it. To not engage would be blasphemy. So here I am, engaging, and trying to figure out my (albeit small) part in how to turn this situation around….
The issue we are experiencing is age old: we create divisiveness/ segregation because we are afraid of something. We are afraid of losing something without logic or proof that the scary THAT will actually happen (ahem, white supremacists thinking that people of color and Jews are going to wipe out their race and that it will be the end of the world)…
FROM MANY WE ARE ONE
From every major religion to the U.S. currency there is acknowledgement that our separateness is a temporary state of our Oneness. This is a Universal truth.
Almost every piece of United States currency has printed on it E Pluribus Unum “from many we are one”
The Bible states it: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Ephesians 2:14
The Qur’an states it: “And verily this Brotherhood of yours is a single Brotherhood, and I am your lord and Cherisher.” 23:52-54
The Talmud states it: “But a single man [Adam] was created for the sake of peace among mankind, that none should say to his fellow, “My father was greater than your father.” Mishnah, Sanhedrin
The Bhagavad Gita states it: “I look upon all creatures equally; none are less dear to me and none more dear.”
From many perspectives, many ideals, we are one. This does not mean we have to assume each other’s beliefs to do so, it means we need to acknowledge our differences, and then begin to search for our similarities. It DOES however assume that we all honor that ALL human life is valuable and worth something.
The Sanskrit word Bhakti at first glance means devotion, but if we look deeper at its roots it means SEPARATION. It is only through our differences and our separateness that we can appreciate our likenesses and devote to our absolving to Oneness again.
We have to see the dark to inform the light. We have to see the depth of hate so that we can move away from it. It never disappears, but we can put it in its place for now until the cycle starts over. When Krishna reveals himself as God to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna doesn’t just see light and beauty- he sees darkness, volatility and fire. We must accept that the human condition, and GOD even, is not always light and love, but rife with conflict and hate. It is the separation that makes us appreciate when there is unity and peace.
I used to love the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy” because it helped me avoid looking back and in. It helped me just focus on the ‘now’ and not compare to the rest of the journey. I now realize that that kind of perspective is ignorant. Without comparison, I cannot enjoy the clouds in the blue sky. They have to be in contrast in one another to appreciate them. Comparison is perspective.
Let us use the events of Charlottesville to compare where we have come from (slavery, racism and bigotry) to where we are going (enlightenment, oneness and understanding). I’m not going to be Pollyanna and claim that all of this is going to be resolved and we are going to blissfully skip into the sunset holding hands, but I DO think this time of stark contrast is an opportunity for us to look back and within and see where we need to go.
Taking note from the yoga practice, here are 5 ways we can begin to create Oneness in the world again:
- Karma- aka, get moving. Our karma is what we DO in the world. What you are is not only about what you think or say, it’s about what you DO. Get involved with groups like the ACLU, your local #BlackLivesMatter chapter or other organizations that appoint people of color to be the voice, and white people to encourage, support and follow. If you’re white and reading this, you probably don’t know what it is like to be black or not privileged (that’s not your fault, but that’s the reality) so allow those that have the first hand experience to lead the way.
- Ahimsa (the yogic principle of non-violence): TRUST Me when I say I want to side swipe some folks. To not react with rage at some of the misguided, misinformed and down right IGNORANT people in the world who are showing up as hate spewers and white supremacists is just not speaking the truth. We CANNOT, however, fight darkness with darkness. Do not be violent. Do not be hateful. Be CLEVER. Be KIND. OUT SMART THEM. In the end, this is a crisis of ignorance v. educated/ enlightened. Be above the low brow, bullshit tactics that lead to an eye for an eye mentality.
- Satya (another yogic principle meaning Truth): Be in search of the truth always. The moment you think you are ‘right’ is the moment that you are blinded. Speak the truth, seek the truth, be the truth. There is always more than meets the eye, so don’t settle for just what’s in front of you (news, opinions, etc.)
- Pursue equanimity and peace in your own mind: After all, this country was founded on E Pluribus Unum, from many we are one. We must pursue equanimity in ourselves, and once we find that we will be able to be more level headed with those around us. To borrow from Yoga Sutra 1.33, “n relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.” Treat those that you disagree with neutrality. Don’t feed their flame, it will only create a bigger fire.
- Fight darkness with light: The first klesha (life’s obstacles)- avidya- means misperception. It’s like a dark veil covering our eyes. Anyone that is pursuing a path of hatred and bigotry has their eyes covered. In times where we make misinformed, myopic choices, it is due to this veil of consciousness. In order to fight this, we must be the light. By acting in non-violently and in the pursuit of truth (karma, ahimsa and satya) with a level headed approach we will be able to fight darkness with light.
SPIRITUAL WARRIORS: Rise Up. Day in day out, just like bringing reusable shopping bags, do a small thing EVERY DAY. Make it a practice. Make it a habit. Call your representatives daily. Voice your opinions. Be KIND to one another, show people you care and that they are VALUABLE. LISTEN. Just LISTEN to one another. That’s worth $1 BILLION.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t close with a quote from one of my greatest sources of inspirations, and a modern day saint- Dr. Martin Luther King:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.