Archive | January, 2014

Being other: In yoga, art, and life.

31 Jan

Ok, first you must peep this nonsense:

There are no Black People in my Yoga Class and Suddenly I am Feeling Uncomfortable.

I am absolutely sure that Jen Polachek (she received such a virtual bashing that she has changed her byline to Jen Caron) had all the best intentions in mind. In fact, in her last paragraph she breaks it down by saying “…And while I recognize that there is an element of spectatorship to my experience in this instance, it is precisely this feeling of not being able to engage, not knowing how to engage, that mitigates the hope for change.” The problem is that in her attempt to connect to us, the reader, she failed to see that there are many, many lessons in this experience (really yogic lessons, worthy of about one hundred and fifty dharma talks).

The ones that I take away, for myself, after wanting to ream her out royally, is that the world is an oh so complex salad bowl of racial stereotypes and interactions. That we are all full to the brim with wanting to effect change and playing the victim when things do not go our way. And, that the most yoga lessons I learn are not on my mat, in a class, but in my interactions with people on the street, people very different from me. That the room in my body, cultivated by asana, makes space for breath and gives me the room to see things differently. That breath allows me to slow down and develop a connection to so many living things around me.

Today, I spent about an hour at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland. I met a great group of people to talk about next possible steps with a stellar exhibit the Griots of Oakland (check it out really, it will blow your mind). We talked about gender, we talked about age, we talked about the complexity of working in collaboration, and we talked about race. And, we talked abut how race is so very complicated. In brain studies we have found that many people do not even register people of color, that their brains act as if they are staring at a blank screen (there’s a little bit of reality for you).

As “good” liberals, living in “good” liberal parts of the world or the country, we think we are having open and honest dialogue about race. We try to engage in something that we think will make a difference. We try, as Jen did, to comment on our own f*cked up experiences and feelings in relationship to race. But the thing is, we are all so scared to really pull up some floor and pull it apart. Not just a dialogue on a national level, or tet-a-tet on a personal level, but to really talk.  Talk and risk being stupid, in the hopes that someone may have something to teach us.

What are we to do about all this race inequality in the world, let alone a yoga class, if we can not see others as fundamentally human? If we cannot extend ourselves and open our mouths and risk being vulnerable. Not to place ourselves as a victim but to be open and empty, willing to know nada and to learn from others experiences. Recognize, it is OK to be angry, it is OK to be panicked or stressed, or confused. All of these things are OK because we can use our cultivation of breath to support us through them. To Jen and anyone that feels like her, in a yoga class OR even walking down the street, can you use your yoga to recognize your human connection, please.

Just breathe, ask a question, and find out if your assumption was true. And then do it again, and again, and again, each and everyday.

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Valuing Evaluation

26 Jan

ExplodingHead

In my copious amounts of spare time, I also write curriculum for an organization called World Trust. My current focus of research and study is evaluation, and the bias implicit in the process. We often think of evaluation as being held by someone out there, someone with more information and intelligence, an Evaluation can be formed in any environment by “the expert.”

My partner in this endeavor is a small not for profit from San Raphael called E3 Ed: Education, Excellence, Equity. Working with them is amazing after all these years in education because they look at evaluation in a different way. They have developed a method of examining an individuals propensity for collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving and how that measurement can predict their success, not only in school but also in life.

This idea is so radical. Imagine a world where we believed that if you have these skills and are supported in your achievement, you can learn the math or science or vocabulary that is tested in traditional assessment, like SAT’s or STAR. All it takes is the realization by teacher and student that there is ability.

Sitting down with their Executive Director, my mind exploded a little bit.

We push ourselves so hard to look like or be like our perception of the expert. In yoga or in art, there are stars that we all try to emulate. What would happen if we recognized the completeness of each of our experiences? What would happen if we allowed a more open interpretation of what makes greatness? Danielle Hogenboom of Love Light Yoga is honest about being able to do a handstand, though she is a master teacher, an exceptional translator for yogic philosophy and a somatic healer.  She is willing to meet her self where she is at.And (another mind blower) she encourages her students to do the same.

Sometimes we forget the message of yoga,
To sit with oneself,
To recognize and unite the god and human consciousness that reside within each of us.

We are so busy evaluating. So busy turning outside of ourselves for the measure of success. We encourage our students to be whole. Can we allow ourselves to be as well?

Marathons

22 Jan

marathon-10281

2014 has been off to a wow of a start. My kid just turned three, I found myself sick for 5 weeks, I am working more, the house next door is being rehabbed….

I find myself sitting a lot and staring into space, also I find myself exhausted tired. So tired that I fall into my bed (after putting my kid to bed) at, like, 8:30 and sleeping there, in my clothes and shoes until 1:30 am, when my dog licks my hand. How did it get this way?

My teacher Emily said something in a class once about not being so hell bent on the destination. Of course she was talking about yoga and the path that is so much a part of my life. But, it really translates to so many things. I am a doer, a mega doer. I want results, fast and efficiently. I want loose ends tied up and things in straight lines.

Recently Yin Yoga has entered my life, that luscious practice of sitting with discomfort, using your body to facilitate meditation and allowing things to open that honestly I didn’t even realize were blocked. This morning, as I walked outside to move my car, with no shoes on in 41 degree weather, because workers were tearing up the sewer main. I took a depth breath and actually heard Emily’s voice. “No sprinting, just marathons.” I moved my car, took my kid to school, smiled at the construction workers, answered some emails, and got back on my mat.

I think I may be at mile two.

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