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Video

Pete Seeger singing Raghupati Raghava

4 Feb

Beautiful ally, beautiful soul.

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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.

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?

Sometimes, I can’t breathe

15 Jul
© 2010 The Huntington Archive

© 2010 The Huntington Archive

I am furious. I am consumed by Kaliesque rage in the pit of my stomach. The shaking that you feel when you know you’ve been pushed too far.

When I sat down to write today, all I could think about was my two year old son. His innocence, his joy. The shaking manifest from my understanding that in a few years, he and I will need to talk about what it means to be a black man in America. My anger grows wings in my realization that I have spent twenty plus years on my mat, thinking/praying that it would be different. Believing that since I see the connection in all things, that maybe we all do. Imagining that he would somehow escape the conversation my grandmother had with me, or her parents had with her. The conversation that lays out that as people of color, we have different rules, different gazes, different demonstrations of ego. I believed that maybe by the time I had children of my own that we would have moved beyond this country’s racial sickness. And, that my little boy would not have to internalize a double standard.

Um, well, no. And, so Kali rears her frightful head. She roars at the thought of my baby keeping his mouth shut when someone calls him a racial slur, or pulls him over for driving his mother’s car. Kali swings her mace at all the police profiling him as he hangs out with his friends or walks from his campus to the convenience store. She rips off heads a the understanding that no amount of education or wealth makes it different. And after her display of anger and violence, all she is left with her is breath. Breathing and looking at the destruction, waiting for a garden to spring out of the blood soaked ground.

I can breath through a handstand, because I know it helps to changes my perspective. I can breath when trying something new on my mat, because I know it’s finite, that with work, commitment and the grace of god, I may make progress. But this, this, I can’t breathe through. It’s not an individual pursuit. For anyone that feels the internal sinking on the mention of Treyvon Martin, for those of you that hear things that make you want to swing a mace in the face of the speaker, for those you that want to roar but feel the need to keep up appearances. I ask you to stop holding it in, to take a deep breath, and exhale together.

Change this big requires the work of many, maybe all, to breathe collectively, and push through the stuck spots in our consciousness that don’t want to budge. We make progress as a society when the load to bear becomes too much for too many. Even though we can be consumed by rage, I want to use it as a door opener. I don’t want this conversation to end, because the news cycle does.

Can we use this anger, and the fear that precedes it to move into conversation? Can we challenge ourselves and others to keep our eyes open? Can we breath? And, then can we talk?

Video

Heal the World, One Word at a Time

14 Jun

“and there we were, the same human beings. It was just that he was wearing that skin and I was wearing this skin. And it was no more or less than that.”
-Baba Ram Dass

Even in 2013 we have so much work to do. Children in schools bullied by teachers and other students for not falling into line or looking different. Odd conversations on planes that leave us all feeling as if the air has been let out of our tires. Explaining to our young children of color why they see so many people people that look like them going to jail on TV and not so many people that look like them as their doctors or teachers.

Cracking the Codes is an amazing film by World Trust and Shakti Butler that goes further than your typical diversity seminar and is held in so much love that it is truly accessible, even to those that believe that racism no longer exists in the world.

Through her and her teams skillful facilitation people are encouraged to examine places where they have been othered, bringing your experience directly into the body. And once you feel an experience from your own perspective, you can not pretend that it does not exist.

I love this film for the ways it made me open my own eyes, for the window it gave me on the shared experience of wanting to belong that we all have. And, how exclusion and systematic reinforcement of exclusion continue to harm the whole world and make use sicker and sicker.

We can use words to heal the world. With one sentence at a time we can start to break down paradigms that we accept as the norm.

We all have to start somewhere, on the mat, with a piece of art or in collaborative dialogue with another. How do you want to start the conversation?

Video

Question Bridge

11 Jun

http://questionbridge.com/

This is an amazing project by Hank Willis Thomas delves deep into the norms of race in our society and seeks to explode our assumptions about people.

It gives you the opportunity to see yourself where you are and at the same time transform your ideas about the community that you live in.

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