Shaking Up and Shaking Out

14 Apr

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As I sit in boardrooms with executives or in front of rooms of twisted up yogis, the questions are all the same. How do we create a world that is more holistic? If you’re interested in a work place approach to these questions, Diversity Collegium published Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks. This is a great tool for companies and organizations looking to examine how they are doing on inclusivity while taking both productivity and dignity into account. These are the things that I think about where ever I am. Lately, I wonder if we are capable of having these conversations without including our spirits.

My work in social justice and yoga have dovetailed even more. I find myself in spaces where we talk about spirt and demonstrate our long held physical tensions as parallels for the tensions in the world. How can one do effective public work if their internal landscape is a mess?

Join me for a short introduction to Seva with a justice lens at Leela Yoga in Alameda, Ca on April 22 from 1-5. We will practice yoga and talk about honesty and nonviolence as a starting place for developing a holistic relationship with the world you live in. Later this summer Laughing Lotus is offering a 15 hour yoga and social justice workshop. Stay tuned for the details. And, in August, I team up with Love Light Yoga, once again for a 30 hour advanced training in Yoga and Liberation. We will work with our indigenous brothers and sisters to examine colonialist legacies of harm and mediate on the dysfunctions we hold in our bodies.

As we continue to examine normalized violence and our collective capacity for self harm and dishonesty the sickness in our world becomes much more sharp.

What happens if we stopped lying and saw the world as a collective representation of history and policy that places profit over human dignity?

What would happen if made choices that supported, embraced, or encouraged growth instead of  minimizing, silencing, and erasing?

How much more responsibility would each of us have to take?

Join us in this inquiry and on the path to a more inclusive future.

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25 ways to be a revolutionary

23 Feb

in an everyday life:

84ed2-revolution-logo11. Believe in humanity, no matter what you hear, no matter what you read.
2. Believe that we will create a world that is equitable.
3. Believe that you are part of the solution, then, act on it.
4. Touch the earth, ask for her help, breath with her.
5. Open your arms & open your heart.
6. Believe in humanity’s capacity for change. Really, believe.

7. Boycott FOX, they have no ones interest in mind. NO ONE.
8.On second thought, just stop numbing your mind. TV, obsessive smartphone use, drugs, booze–it all gives someone else the upper hand.
9. Make presents for your friends, with love, even if they are silly.
10. Say thank you to someone who works in service, or a service person. Say thank you.
11. Where are you most happy? Spend some time there.

12. Take control of your body. Appreciate it, use it, if possible, heal it.
13. Use your voice. Sing, chant, dialogue.
14. Meditate, sit in silence, pray. Lend your energy to cosmic change.
15. Hug someone, kiss someone, cuddle, hold a hand. Share your space, intentionally.
16. Be there for the youth, for the elders, for your peers. Show up.
17. Prepare. And, always be prepared.
18. There’s a quote that says do what you do: if you can protest, protest; if you can write, write; parent your children; teach. Do what you do and do it to the best of who you are.
19. Pause before you speak.
21. ASK a lot of QUESTIONS.
22. Treat the earth like you love her.
23. Laugh.
24. Do some yoga.
25. See yourself in everyone.

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.

 

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?

Why we serve

24 Sep

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There is that point in every protest march where someone throws a bottle at window, or there is an angry outburst. There are those points of unchecked righteousness, the egos that turn causes into identities, the internal time bombs and make activists move away from movements.

As an activist, teacher, artist and yogi, I am always looking for a middle way, a way to find harmony while still pointing to injustice. In the yoga tradition, I travel on the path of Karma Yoga. The sense that service is done because it is a duty as a human being, a duty to serve the rest of humanity in supporting the best possible outcomes for everyone. I serve with the same love and adoration whether I am marching for the rights of those entrenched in systematic racism, building a garden for my local elementary school, or washing dinner dishes. No matter the task I bring the same selflessness, the same softness, the same love to them all.

Building alliances between this form of selfless service and the activist community can seem impossible at times. In July, I ran workshop in Vancouver, BC with a radical group of yogi’s from Love Light Yoga and we considered how these two worlds might work together. How passionate righteousness might be coupled with internal reflection and gentle love. It is tough in a day and age where we are on the constant look out for appropriation, oppression Olympics, and who is doing the best or most inspired work.

As a child I was raised to be of service, it was part of my family tradition. It came from our family paradigm. I was taught that we are here to be of service to others. This translated into a life lived and worked at the margins of society. A life that has always tried to bring margins to the center so that all people could benefit, when we serve one we serve all.

Looking at life through a systems lens, one can observe how service in one area can seem futile if not connected to another. If I work on school finance, or gentrification, singularly and don’t take into consideration the school to prison pipeline, racially unjust educational evaluation or food deserts, I miss an opportunity to support the youth and families that I am seeking to align with. Being of service in an egoless way, or without an aim for outcomes, allows work to span across “industries,” it allows a broader view.

As one person in this system I can affect small change, but as part of a whole movement, I can support system upheaval. By taking out the “I” and replacing it with “we,”  focusing on service as support and love, it becomes so much more effective.

How can holding paradox or doing internal and external work simultaneously support a more significant change?

I hate it when yogis talk about fat

26 May

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So this is the thing. I get that we live in a society that fat shames. I get that yoga was created by men and has a focus on thinness to make some of the twists and turns easier and more effective.

Have you ever tried binding in a size 16/18 body–not impossible, but the likelihood of extra space is pretty much not going to happen.

I get the idea of austerity and focus on diet. I get the health and “philosophical” reasons. But I want to address something else.

We are so comfortable fat shaming that it is almost an impossible thought that a fat person or even more ridiculous a fat yogi (think size 12 and above, le sigh) might be as concerned about their health and happiness as a thin one. I have been reading all of these articles about yogis and yoga teachers, reclaiming their right to a full figure, a post pregnancy stomach, thigh jiggle, etc.

And, I see why we want it to be empowerment. I do, I really do. We all want to be seen, we all want to say, “Hey, look at me I’m normal, stop telling me I’m not.”

The thing that makes me cringe is that in these articles, said yogis go on to explaining why it’s ok to be who you are.  Underlining that the doubt about your body is normal and that yoga is a beauty business of sorts and that others think about it so it’s ok that you do, AND IT”S OK THAT YOU’RE A NORMAL SIZED HUMAN BEING. My question, why does this need to be validated, exactly?

And on the flip-side, can we please stop shaming Kathryn Bundig for being too skinny? My sense is that if we focused less time on what we look like and spent more time extending our love, devotion, service to those around us, we might not even care…

A month ago, I spent a weekend in Oakland at a conference organized by john a. powell, called Othering and Belonging. What I took away from this experience is the deep calling we ALL hold to belong to something, sometimes at the expense of excluding others. That exclusion somehow makes us better, stronger, smarter, fitter, more advanced than all those other people–except the ones who claim to be like us–whether that means by thought or by body. All those people we are fighting for classes, students, teacher apprenticeships, adoration, love, validation. By focusing on the external we are exclaiming that there is a RIGHT (even if you accept yourself the way you are) way to be in the world and that you can measure yourself closer, or someone else as farther away.

I am wondering what would our world look like if we assumed that everyone was working toward the same goals–love, inclusion, belonging. That we all, most likely, suffer from doubt and that doubt is probably what brought us to where we are at? What would happen if we extended that hand? If we were the person that suspended judgement and really met people where they were at? What if we measured each other by our openness, how much we were willing to give, and kindness? What kind of world would be live in then?

I am challenging us all to manifest THAT world and accept ourselves and others equally and unequivocally.

Special Yin Hips Workshop in Alameda

22 May

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Yin Yoga and The Art of Hip Opening
With Dia Penning
6/20/151:30-4:00pm
$30 early registration, $35 week of workshop
Info and RegistrationDo you suffer from chronic tightness or discomfort in the hips? Are you a runner, cyclist, or crossfitter with tight hamstrings, IT band, or psoas? Healthy hips are the key to easing back pain, relieving stress in the legs and feet, improving circulation and elevating overall health in the body.

This hip opening workshop will include discussion and Yin Yoga poses. No prior yoga experience required
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