Sunday, January 29, 2017

sunday grace: this border is not hospitable to hatred

souvenir shop, nyc, c.2013

yesterday was a dark day (in a months-long parade of dark days) in my country.  that man, person, whatever he is who occupies the white house signed an order effectively starting a border ban based on race, ethnicity and religion.

yesterday i initiated my own border ban.  unlike his, my decision was thoughtful and purposeful and specific, intended to nurture values, rather than destroy them, while maintaining a commitment to the greater good. it was a personal boundary to keep out the hatred in certain circumstances. for months i have felt a strong desire to protect my personal spaces from the vile racism and hatred spewing forth from those who support the direction our country is heading.  my home is already a sanctuary, an environment of serenity, empathy, joy, learning, intelligent discourse and compassionate (sometimes uncomfortable) debate.  yesterday i felt a strong need to extend the border of protection to my social media space.

being inclusive and navigating diversity of thought are values i hold dear, so decisions to establish boundaries need to be based in (real, lived, truth-based) evidence and purpose, not just feeling.  i did a good deal of soul-searching and values clarification before i landed on a decision to secure my border.  i admit that i am struggling with some "all _____ are _____"  beliefs that got our nation here in the first place.  unlike others, i recognize that in myself and it disturbs me.  in order to change and prevent these biases from going further, i must set some boundaries.
  • my facebook, twitter, instagram are not my citizenship or my work, they are personal spaces.  
  • the energy it takes to internally manage others' entrenched beliefs and hatred distracts me from the work necessary to fix this shit, to stand with others for social justice and stand against racism, bigotry, human rights violations and so many other areas of hatred that are commonplace right now. 
  • i do not believe that peace, love, understanding, and prayer will solve these problems.  they have important places for many of us, but this is a fight against violence.  violence doesn't give a flying fuck about those things.
  • i do not hold the delusion that the example of my life or some kind of magical words will shift another's heart or worldview if they haven't already, especially if others are firmly grounded in fear and hatred.  
  • personal boundaries are required in life.  sometimes they hurt people's feelings.  they absolutely hurt people's feelings when they are loosely and arbitrarily established on the down-low, when one is afraid to state a boundary clearly and unequivocally.  
  • i fully understand that this level of boundary-setting, this seeking balance between the work and the rest, this component of self-care is a privilege.  and i will leverage that privilege in order to focus on getting the work done in my public spaces.
i will continue to engage in meaningful discourse with others who hold views different from my own in those face-to-face spaces where we can see each other and can begin to explore our vast and varied views on what it means to have a human heart.  this engagement is necessary for good citizenship.

and mostly, i continue my work helping others gain access to safe quiet spaces where they can rest their minds and souls from the work of being human in this world.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

sunday grace: the beauty and mess of the process

process, by lisa parks

i met a young woman this week who was strong and vibrant and creative.  she told me, "i like to do art, but i'm not very good at it."  after spending some time with her and observing the vast imaginative way she walked through her world, i told her i thought she was quite amazing at art. together we unpacked how the world judges us by our product over our process.  while she may not yet be producing (what the world defines as) art (paintings, music, literature, etc.), her life and relationships and work and the way she is in the world are absolutely art.

i once again recognized my glaring love for process over product; how i appreciate the time and effort of the planning and development and evolution, rather than the end result.

take art, for instance.  if i was attached to the product, i would have given up years ago.  because so much of what i've artistically produced can be objectively judged as crap.  but my love of fingers in paint, the scratch of the pencil on paper, and expression of layered emotion on the canvas bring me back over and over and over again.  staying present for and trusting the hard parts of art, the learning, the risk, the starting over, these are the ways we become art.  the life and love of the final product is always in the process.

and yoga?  the popular western culture of yoga is almost entirely about the product, the perfected pose.  we completely miss the purpose of yoga when we struggle and contort to nail the instagrammable crow.  we bypass the beauty and the pain of the measured process of yoga, we miss that yoga teaches us how to be in the world, how to fly and how to fall.

and this morning, i'm mostly thinking about social justice activism.  yesterday our world lit up with millions of humans marching in or in solidarity with the women's march on washington.  it was an absolutely magnificent product to witness.  but the richness, the messiness, the excruciatingly slow process of true social justice is a long game.  how can we sustain this commitment over time?  how do we keep people interested when "being a part of history" is more about dealing with our own bias and privilege (uncomfortable), calling out injustice publicly (risky), and showing up as allies when the revolution isn't being televised?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

sunday grace: the grace of the gita

yesterday i filmed a three minute dharma talk on the overall message of the bhagavad gita for a yoga teacher training assignment.  while that might sound like a moderately remarkable achievement which could take your average bear a few days to do, for me, it was a months-long challenge.

you see, once i cracked open and delved into the gita and began soaking in its history. metaphor, and meaning, i found it nearly impossible to distill its centuries-old vastness into one-hundred-eighty seconds.   so i continued to study.  i read and listened and read more.  i noticed moments in my real life when the lessons were applicable.   i wrote notes here and there, key words i wanted to communicate through the lens of the gita:  awareness, curiosity, service, presence, authenticity, integration.  i tried to choose just one as a focus in order to pare down the talk but discovered that the unpacking of one depended on all the others to stand along side it. one by itself felt incomplete and hollow.

weeks went by and still i could not imagine how i was going to deliver the assignment in a meaningful way.  and then yesterday, i tired of the struggle.  i tired of my insistence on being the slow and steady tortoise, of trusting she would always be more valuable than the race-to-finish-first hare. i tired of my need to avoid half-assness, or the ghastly fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality.

and i sat down and i did it.

and it wasn't half-ass.  or fake.  or choppy or incomplete.  it was pretty good.

it was as if krishna himself whispered to my inner arjuna, "both parts are necessary, the knowing and the doing.  and because you know, because you didn't skimp on learning or attempt to hotwire expertise, because the knowing was lived and is part of you, the doing flowed from your heart with ease.  you only had to decide to do it and sit your ass in the chair."