Archive | January, 2016

Chchchanges

14 Jan

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We are at a crossroads, the Age of Aquarius, dawning of a new world consciousness, the end of an era…all that may be true. And, it may not…

What I do know is that at the same time I see a collective heave toward changing the dominate paradigm , I see a gasp to hold on to the status quo – a burning desire to keep things as they always have been. I see it externally, like, in politics. Trump anyone? I see it internally, my students who cling to their deep identification with ideas that cause traumatic harm to themselves and others. I see it organizationally, conferences that continue to have diversity panels that are all white, or arts ed organizations that can’t bring themselves to discuss why any images of people of color are read as slavery or field, intimidating criminal intent, or simply a “cultural representation.” I am seeing the collective gasp, even from those of us that want to move a social justice agenda forward, a tightening grip on individualized issues, the reluctance to identify with other oppressed peoples, clinging to whose oppression is deeper, more historical, more painful. Just as we are moving forward we are also digging in our heels, terrified of what change might look like.

On the mat or in mediation we practice what change feels like. What habitual reactions feel like. The older I get the more I am convinced that building the muscle of resiliency should start younger and younger. That everyone should have more chances to encounter disappointment, stare at discomfort, and feel bodily limitations in a productive way. The more work that muscle gets the more it gets flexed on the pavement, the more we are able to decide when to throw our energy around. When observing internal habits, the more choices there are about kind of citizen to be, the message of art and creative expression, self identify and representation, and how much and what kind of energy to bring to a room. This allows a greater ability for empathy, seeing how others may be experiencing a situation and knowing that one limited slice of reality is not the only one.

My lovely friend Megan Stielstra (and many others) has made it part of her plan to not accept invitations to read or present or be a talking head in any environment that is not inclusive (race, gender, sexuality, ability, religion…). She has had to meet the discomfort of asking producers and coordinators who they have invited to the table. She has had to walk away from spaces that might have helped her career or increased her book sales. She has had to explain to her 7 year old why she is calmly explaining to someone, yet again, how one walks the talk. I tell you this not to make a hero out of Megan, she IS fabulous, her shoes are fabulous and so is her taste in lipsticks;  I tell you this because she is looking at the change. Megan is examining discomfort head on. Examining where HER heels are dug in, how to dislodge some cultural patterns, and what change might look like.  Folks engaging in this practice are everywhere, and, shockingly, they are less sexy than the ones that cling to old ways of being.

Maybe because we understanding clinging, we identify with it. Even when we don’t agree,  we understand wanting things to be normalized and similar to what they were when we went to bed. EVEN if the patterns and ideas and habits suck.  Because, frankly, the same is, often, just easier.

So, what do you do if you want to change? If your bones are screaming for something to be different? Allow the change to happen? Take the small steps. Stop being on autopilot. Ask some questions, not once, or twice but hundreds of times, to hundreds of people to yourself. Listen to the answers. LISTEN, without responding.

It’s good to remember that you have a choice. And at the same time it’s good to take into consideration, the outcome may not just be about you.

 

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Moving On

13 Jan

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I have started the year with a group of students from Columbia College Chicago. At the Headlands Center for the Arts, they are exploring the earth, their connection to it, the maps we create and the ones that are written in and on our bodies. As their yoga guide, I am encouraging them to uncover their deep valley and river bottoms, to unearth the parts of themselves that they are ready to get rid of and to put down the burdens that make their travel too heavy.

As my own new years unfolds, I am examining similar themes. I am finding that it is sometimes much easier to carry the burden with you, even if it’s heavy as hell, cumbersome or something that you’ve outgrown. It sometimes seems easier to continue to carry it all rather than figure out how to leave it and let go. I share the tears of my students as I am leaving behind the parts of me that I have identified with for so long. For me its those parts that give me weight with others-the titles and the organizations. The things that tell the outside world, I am worthy in it. My 20 years on my  students doesn’t make leaving the past behind any easier. In some ways, I think it may be harder…20 additional years of habit, 20 additional years of brain grooves reinforcing my survival as intimately linked to all the things that no longer serve me.

So then, what do I identify with in the mean time? What am I suggesting that my students pick up as they lay down the things that are not supporting their growth? I am suggesting space, trial and error, and creativity. As a society we are up against some major shifts in our social fabric, we are examining  race inequity, transphobia and misogyny in a different way, holding one another accountable and demanding action. What we need as a society has shifted so intensely that sometimes I have trouble seeing a day or two in front of me, let alone projecting one or two years into the future. The one thing I know today is the same thing that I have know since I was a child, yet the depth of it often eludes me; Love is the one thing worth identifying with, and that you can find love by following excitement in your spirit.

If you are buoyed by chanting in the streets, you are showing love. If you find solace in caring for your family, friends or students, you are showing love. If you sit at the feet of your deity and open your heart to the cosmos, you are showing love. You are demonstrating love each and every time you remember and act upon what is just. You are showing love with every heavy burden you put down and every smile that you gift to someone.  I have embarked on a list of 100 things to do in 2016. Those things are as mundane as getting my house painted and as exciting as solo-international camping. Each one of those things gives me space to grow, is done out of love, and excites my spirit.

What excites your spirit?

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