“Love and justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters.” –Reverend Angel Kyodo Williams
The monsoon rains have arrived, marking the threshold between summer and late summer. Their arrival marks a passing, an opening up, a looking forward: soon a new season will be here.
This past week I went with my friend and fellow Grassroots teacher Farah Nousheen to the Shambala Mountain Center in Colorado. We went to study with two teachers, Reverend angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens, whose work emphasizes the relationship between social justice and spiritual practice. The program, called Living Radical Dharma, opened up an exploration of ending white supremacy and systemic racism while, as Rev. angel stated, “abiding in the seat of love.”
Reading the above description, I fear I’ve tied it up too simply, made it sound benign. The actual experience of the week was a beautiful, overwhelming, welcome reminder that the work of change, both personal and social, is messy. It is deep. Your heart must break a little. Your heart must break almost completely, open up wide, and ask what else might be possible. And it must break in the company and solidarity of others who are putting themselves into the work of change, too.
This work gets in my face with its truth. As a white woman, it is easy for me to perform the role of “good ally” on the surface—to share Facebook articles, show up at rallies, donate money, check the boxes, tell myself I’m doing what I can. I can do these things and then go back to my relatively unchanged personal sphere, tending to my family, running a yoga studio…and failing to stay in the ongoing work for justice and equality.
At a certain point that starts to not really feel like dharma (truth.) How do I call myself a friend or an ally or a comrade or anything to people of color in my life, without taking anti-racist work into my heart to the point that not acting is not an option? The “putting some skin in the game” question has become urgent. We’re living in times that have the potential to crush us, or to wake us up.
Anyone who has gone through a process of waking up to truth and change knows: it doesn’t always feel nice. Transformation, when it’s real, is bumpy and tender. It brings up all of our resistance responses: fear, freezing, anger, confusion, self-doubt, all the things. To stay in the game, we need practices that provide stability and clarity, while simultaneously uprooting the things that need to go. Yoga and meditation are powerful tools for this.
As we move into this slow turn of season, I wonder what kind of changes you are waking up to, getting curious about, and inviting into your heart. I feel a tenderness for our shared messiness (damn, I have so much of that messiness!) I wonder what wakes you up, what steers your heart toward love and your body toward action. And I look forward to practicing all of that together.
Much love and thanks for reading,
Erin H./Grassroots Yoga
**As part of our expanding commitment to social justice, Grassroots hosts Yoga for People of Color for Healing and Empowerment, a donation-based class taught by Farah Nousheen and guest teachers. The class meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of every month. All self-identified people of color are welcome; for more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org