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Shaking Up and Shaking Out

14 Apr


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.

Why we serve

24 Sep


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?

Thought for the day

9 Feb


Waking Up White

7 Feb


Please join the interview with Debby Irving author of Waking Up White

Impact Hub Oakland
Thursday, February 12, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (PST)
Oakland, CA


You SO have it

5 Sep

As Sri Chodron says the challenges in our lives and our inner flame polish the gems that already exist inside of us. When looking for peace and generosity, we don’t have to look any further than the luminous potential in our own hearts. And, you can use your shining heart to make our world more equitable for all.

Please join us for a Yoga and Social Justice Workshop with Dia Penning at Leela Yoga in Alameda, September 28, 2013

1:30-5:00 pm
1708 Lincoln Ave, Alameda, CA, 94501 to register


Yogis, Artists, Radicals: Demonstrate in Solidarity with Turkey

14 Jun

Saturday, June 15, 10 – 11am
Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland

Bring your mat and your heart for an hour of peaceful yoga practice in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Meditate, lay in savasana, do multiple sun salutations, or extend your daily ritual.

We will dedicate one hour of communal self led practice to demonstrate solidarity with protesters in Turkey.

On May 27 people peacefully gathered in Istanbul to protest the development of Gezi Park, the last remaining green public space in their district. Within days, protests expanded out to a dozen other cities and have continued for more than two weeks. The protests have all been met with violent government opposition: more than 5,000 people have been injured by tear gas, water cannons and brute force. On June 5, protesters organized a massive yoga demonstration in Gezi Park in this ongoing effort to protect public space.

Come return the love, OAK > TURKEY.

Extra mats available. Signage encouraged.

Buddha is peeking out from under the stairs.

9 Nov


Photo Credit :

I have many lives. In one of them, I am a yoga teacher. In another a writer, during the day a mommy and on Friday afternoons I am MFA faculty; that is just to name a few. As I was putting together my class outline for Friday, I pulled out a wonderful favorite article by Twyla Tharp in “ The Creative Habit.” I am opening class with an exercise challenging my students to think about their creative DNA. Where there creative impulses come from and how they best express them. The article takes them through 33 questions to answer in rapid fire and gives them something tangible to hold on to. It is kind of like a window into that place between sleep and awake. Where you can hear your subconscious or true self-speaking. Telling you to get off your duff and mediate, or that you need to continue to heal, whatever yours tells you, that’s what mine says. I try to listen, but I, of course, am only human and so sometimes I roll over and go back to sleep. Only to question what it was saying to me when I woke up. Ugh, another wasted message!

Much to my delight as I was scrolling through Facebook, I happened upon a pic of my nephew on a beach in Chicago with a Buddha head’s eyes, peeking up over the sand. The head was submerged about 6 inches, the chin and mouth covered. Just his eyes peering over the landscape, giving the impression of something buried from your past ready to emerge if you only focus on it for a moment. Just like those between state messages to love yourself more, stop drinking wine, or work harder on yoga poses that you just don’t like. Turns out, artist and cultural worker, Indra Freitas Johnson, is asking herself some of those same questions and her current project Ten Thousand Ripples is the source of that head and many others throughout Chicago.

In her bio, found on her website she says “The process of spiritual growth has been an ongoing preoccupation for me, especially as it relates to working in the community. I have found that in the search for a personal truth one discovers universal truths that bind us to each other to the past and to future generations.” Which flipped my brain back to my MFA students and their artwork. Not a strange leap for me, in my multiple identities, I change my course of thought 100’s of times a day, sometimes hundreds of times a minute.

Between you and me, it is one of the many reasons I started a yoga practice.

When putting together my class outline and thinking about the trajectory of learning, it brought me back to that greater search. We are all trying to find those universal truths, figuring the best and most effective way to express ourselves. Delving into those late night messages and sometimes hitting the mark, but often missing.  

Those eyes peering over the sand are enough to remind me that we all have the same things hidden and we are all experimenting, trying to determine our DNA and where we are linked.

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