“Disappointed that none of the "famous" yoga teachers with hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, Instagram, or whatever have said anything the past two weeks. Quit your vacuous Rumi poems and pseudo-spirituality for a day and say something real. There's no sense in having power if you only use it for yourself.” Read more here...
I am most certainly not a famous yoga teacher with hundreds of thousands of followers but as a teacher I do feel that I wield a certain amount of influence, a power that I take serious care not to abuse and use with integrity. But, it may or may not shock you to know that I was very interested in politics in my teens and continued on to be a Political Science major in college. Politics stands for power in the act of governance. What excited me about politics was the aspect of social change. I was particularly fascinated with revolutionary change. How do great ideas and visions turn into action and what happens when they actually play out?
We may like to believe that revolutionary change comes from those who are being oppressed. But the truth is, if you look at history, revolutionary change comes from the educated elite, what you might call the “enlightened” educated elite. People, mostly men, who have taken their privilege and education and used their power for the benefit of mankind.
In the United States, our “Founding Fathers” as we call them were exactly this. Highly educated people with an inspiring vision for something new. In some ways though, not new. Great spiritual leaders of the past had called for a democratization of spirituality, the Buddha, Jesus, Martin Luther, suggesting that people didn't need to pay a priest to be in communion with God, a higher power, or themselves. Similarly, the men who led the American revolution said, we don't need to pay a King to govern ourselves and that each person should have a say in how they are being governed.
"There is fear hidden in the body. Clinging to the body, clinging to the mind, clinging to your existence. When you close your eyes and look within don't be afraid of the darkness you find there." - Geeta Iyengar at Yoganusasanam Intensive, Pune India December 2014
The vision for the United States of America was most certainly an enlightened one but we should not forget the darkness, the elephant in the room, on which the ACTUAL vision was built.....slavery. The prosperity of the United States could not have been accomplished without the enormous amount of cheap labor which was stolen from another continent. I believe that events such as the ones we are witnessing with the Ferguson case are the continuing residue from these past actions. And, furthermore, residue that continues to fester because it hasn't been acknowledge or dealt with, or SEEN.
Chris Rock said it well, that the progress that we have seen in the past 40-50 years is not black progress but white progress. A better way to say that might be that the educated class in power in the United States has become more and more liberal over the years. Is it really progress, though, or is it just that times have changed? There are a generation of children now who are growing up in a country where same-sex couples can are recognized and can legally get married. Surveys of younger people show that they are not more tolerant, they simply don't “get” why people care. It is a non-issue for them. In many parts of the country where there are a lot of multi-racial families, this is also true in terms of "color". And scientific instruments are proving this out -the new genome testing shows that very few of us purely “white” or “black” particularly in the United States, a country that was founded on immigrants from all over the world.
What is the darkness that we are afraid to look at, afraid to face in the United States? I believe the truth is that this is a big social experiment and it hasn't been going on for very long in the greater scheme of things. The illuminated vision of “All men being equal” was established on a bedrock of inequality. We still have a long ways to go to achieving what is a valid and worthy goal and vision. So what is the solution right now?
And, finally coming back to the purpose of this piece, why do I not choose to “get political” as a yoga teacher (although it appears that I am right now!) For me, the heart of this matter is the mistaken notion that you and I are separate, are different. That one of us is better or worse than the other. That you can hurt me without hurting yourself. The truth is that you and I are not separate, we are One. When we are able to look into the face of another human and see ourselves reflected, then and only then is true change and transformation possible.
So rather than advocate for public demonstrations or policy changes, I am going to continue my quest for yoga. Yoga means union. Yoga means dissolving the barriers between yourself and reality. Yoga is self-realization. When I say yoga, I mean it in the most non-denominational of ways. Any spiritual practice which includes concentration and mindfulness and brings you closer to your true form. That is what I am advocating for. Whether you do it with others in sangha/community or on your own. The Dalai Lama said that if all children started practicing meditation by the time they were 8 years old that we would have peace in a generation. I'm putting my faith and practice in action in this vision knowing full well that it may take several lifetimes to accomplish....