The Path to Peace is Chaos

I’m beginning to see things in such a way that perhaps there are no true enemies, or not as many as we may think. That instead our oppressors are our pathways. A link or thread in the complementary chain of existence. Woven and compressed together as the two faces of the same coin. Necessary oppositions for strengthening resolve; a cosmic fortification of each others’ convictions. Granting us realities that help us educate ourselves about ourselves through evolution. And allowing us to come to know that we, too, are oppressive in our own right.

And so we dance together through space and time. Learning through the ways in which we harm and have been harmed. Growing through the ways we choose to love and have been loved consciously. Abiding by the state of our condition as it cycles but never truly fades. And never means to in spite of naive expectation.

Perhaps, in truth, life is the stage that Shakespeare quipped about. Playing our roles for one another. We build. We deconstruct. We move through dimensions without end. We seek a silver lining and maybe find some semblance of Self. The spirit behind the character. The “ghost in the machine”. Having only found itself down the hard road.

It becomes aware of its performance and can practice cherishing the ease.

We ascend in The Ease.

“Mirrors”

Our “mirrors” (those who reflect aspects of us back to ourselves) aren’t necessarily cosmic punishment unless you choose to receive them that way.

They’re an opportunity to see who we are from another point of view. They help us understand who we are and how we contribute to others’ life stories.

They reveal and grant us the choice to be someone else or more of the same; the choice to reject or embrace; the choice to martyr or forgive.

A chance to be with ourselves through others.

Yoga-Triggered: Pasasana

I am a member of a Facebook group dedicated to black women who practice yoga. A community space in which we get to share our collectively unique thoughts, opinions and experiences of our demographic living in a society that primarily markets this South Asian practice to thin white women. And while our cultural experiences are similar, it’s is a mixed bag of personalities.

Obvious from the posts and comments, we do not agree on everything and, naturally, are on different spiritual paths and/or parts of our paths. A woman shared a photo from Yoga Journal that depicted Pasasana which is translated as Noose Pose. Anyone familiar with Black American history knows that the sheer sight of a noose or sound of the term can be quite triggering. Heavily affiliated with the terrorist practice of lynching, nooses tend to be perceived as quite negative by the Black community, even in a neutral context. I am no different.

When I initially came across the pose, I felt triggered. I immediately asked myself, “What the hell is this?!” My feels jumped suddenly into anxiety mode as the images in my brain teleported me to the days of my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ youth and my mind flooded with the countless images of “picnics” black people strung up on trees amidst a crowd of smiling white folks. But then, my yogi skills kicked it. I stilled myself long enough to breath and gander at the posed question: “Did ya’ll know there is a yoga pose called noose pose? What is your immediate reaction when hearing that? How would you feel if a teacher used that word to describe this pose in a class? I’ve attached a photo of the pose for reference.” And just like the group itself, the answers were mixed.

A few responses were, “Should definitely update the name. It is insensitive.”, “Folks just make up poses and put asana at the end …pass.”, and “I completely agree that using the name is not mindful of trauma informed teaching.”. Others were more like, “…No, it’s never triggered me as I’ve always been taught the Sanskrit names …”, and “I personally wouldn’t care. To me thats like being offended at the word cotton.” This was my response:

“As yoga is a practice that reveals ourselves to us, I think triggers like this (while not [likely] the original intent for the pose) are meant to guide us into diving into those traumas so we can heal and learn to experience things as they actually are in the context they come.

I’d be mindful of the audience and my approach but I wouln’t let my trauma of black history stop me from teaching it ever. I see a way it can be done significantly and purposefully. So long as I could tell the instructor was on a similar page, I could respect it being taught in a class I was taking.”

To elaborate, I would likely implement my personally understanding of these negative feelings into a very specific type of class geared towards this trauma in the Black community. Even in my own practice, I can imagine the nooses that hung our ancestors from trees like strange fruit; swinging and burning in the wind. Then I imagine myself as that noose but hugging them lovingly and holding up their spiritual bodies. Not burning, but the memory of them being carried in my being in strength and courage. Understanding that they are forever with me in my work as a yogi – internally and externally.

I truly believe in the stance that I posed wholeheartedly. I’m sure that my view will not be accepted by everyone but it is my truth and I’d like to hope that anyone attracted to a class of mine will be receptive or at least neutral. It is, also, my hope that all yoga teachers – while practicing mindfulness and sensitivity – will not shy away from challenging their students and themselves to address their pains as much as they support their peace. In fact, I see these focuses as going hand-in-hand.

My 2020 in a Nutshell

Teacher certification. Collaborating. Misunderstandings. Severed connections.

A birthday at the top of a global pandemic. Lockdowns. Social Distancing. No work. New creative ideas.

Diagnoses. A surgery. New medications. Shadow work. Heartbreak. Therapy.

Brink of divorce. Losing friends. Death of family. New job. New friends. New opportunities. Reconnections.

Yoga. Self Care. Bodywork. Healing retreats. Back slides. Wellness events. Forgetting face masks in the car. Vaccine debates.

Car wreck. Whiplash. More drugs. More expenses. Long lines. Quick recovery.

Black lives. All lives. My life. Political parties. Conspiracies. Protests. Anxiety. Depression. Loneliness. Addictions. Agendas.

Existential crises. Venting sessions. Fear. Epiphanies. Growth. Gratitude.

Acceptance. Truth. Release. Love.

Namaste.

Autumn Wellness: Balancing Metal

The leaves are falling from the trees and the weather is cooling. The active summer vibes are transitioning into modes of relaxation and some species of animals are beginning preparation for hibernation. It’s the season of Autumn!

Like the macrocosm of Earth, the body is capable of sustaining itself through the carrying out of various cycles and activities that operate in an interconnected flow, vitalized by what is referred to as “qi” or “chi”. This is the energy that flows through and connects all forms of life as the animating force that ignites us beyond pure mechanical functioning and bodily existence. Within this cyclical system are five elements; metal being the element associated with Autumn.

Photo by Lukáš Dlutko from Pexels

The Fall is a natural time for slowing down, enjoying the harvest of what we’ve sown the previous year and planning to store the abundance of what we’ve gathered for the coming winter; so does Traditional Chinese Medicine recognize metal as an element of structure and organization. When molded to do so, it can act as strong foundation for connecting pathways as well as a collector of liquid (water). It symbolizes themes of purity and making space for rest before the cultivation time arrives again. This process is best represented in our bodies in the lungs and large intestines.

The lungs are considered the yin of two metal-related organs as it is receptive in nature. The crisp dry air of the season is easier for taking in. It’s important that we use this time to truly catch our breath as we recover from the high activity of the summer months. And, just as the falling leaves nourish the soil for future growth, so does the lungs work to oxygenate and nourish our cells. Beyond the organs themselves, the energy of the lungs travels from the large intestine, diaphragm and lungs, into the armpit, down the inner arm into the radial part of the hand, to the tip of the thumb and through the index finger. Dysfunctions and blockages of this channel may manifest as arm, elbow or thumb pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and other symptoms. Emotions associated with the lungs include grief and sadness which is why taking a deep breath is more challenging when we experience feelings of loss. On the other hand, healthy lung energy allows for clarity in thought and open communication.

The large intestine are considered the yang of the metal-related organs as it operates to eliminate. Just as harvesting clears space for future growth, so must our bowels clear space for the nourishment that is to come. The energy meridian for the colon travels from the tip of the index finger, through the inside of the thumb, up the outer arm to the highest point of the front of the shoulder. It then branches off in the lower gums to opposite side the nose as well as two the lungs and diaphragm. Dysfunctions of this channel include constipation, abdominal pain and cramping, toothaches and even nosebleeds. Sadness is, also, associated with the large intestine as well as worry and trouble letting go of the past. However, an ability to digest experiences well and letting shit go (both, figuratively and literally) when it is no longer serves are signs of a healthy LI.

Photo by Joshua Abner from Pexels

If you suspect that your metal element may need some balancing or you’d just like to sustain your metal health throughout the fall season, here are some practices that have worked for me:

  1. Spend time in nature and breath deeply often – this is especially important in our current heavy mask-wearing society.
  2. Stay hydrated in response to the dryer climate.
  3. Drink warmer beverages and eat foods with ingredients like apples, cinnamon, cardamom, sweet potatoes, garlic and almonds.
  4. Practice yoga poses that include twists and open the chest like child’s pose, camel pose, reclining twist and wall plank.
  5. Create your own rituals for letting go of things you may be holding to.
  6. Manage your time in a way that allows you to slow down and enjoy a healthy balance of work, play and relaxation.

May your Autumn season be full of peace, balance and abundance.

Ashe’.

Black History Month: A Personal Checkpoint

Here we are in February 2020. Happy Black History Month! It’s a time intentionally designated for the reflection of what African people have endured and how we have overcome. From the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the Civil Rights Movement, our culture has been embedded with the knowledge of our resilience. However, I’ve noticed how this has come with a price. The celebratory nature of this season aside, the revisiting of our historical trauma compiled with our individual experiences with prejudice year-round takes a psychosomatic toll on us that shows up in how we interact with the world, each other and ourselves. James Baldwin describes it clearly, “To be negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

As is well-known, African-American history is filled with devastating atrocities that have had lasting affects on the collective psyche of Black Americans. Not to mention the systematic oppression and displacement that continues to this day. I recall periods when my social media timeline was overflowing with gut-wrenching images, and stories of acts of violence against the black community, many of which were not historical at all but quite current. Still, in all forms, debates ensue over policies that govern how human existence should be valued, expressed or just how human some groups should even be considered for that matter.

The most frustrating of which are the dividing issues within our community that these matters create. I, myself, have been caught up in the back-and-forth with what there is to do and how to perceive our collective situation only to end up at tiring odds with the people I wish to stand by to achieve a common goal: peace. I first recognized this in 2014 after Mike Brown was killed. I had lived in St. Louis almost 2 years when I became consumed with outraged and took to the streets in protest for change. What I found, unfortunately, was inconsistency in our ability to organize and a well-intended group filled with mentally and physically overwhelmed individuals. I saw how it only added to the rage.

I later realized this discord was due to our personal relationship with this upset and minimal understanding of how to transmute it into sustainable positive change. Instead of dismantling the system, we’d only get stuck in our disagreement which only led to further frustration. My inner pre-Mecca Malcolm and Rev. Martin became at odds with each other, so after a while I decided to put my protesting on pause and look deeper into the bigger picture. Was I fighting for peace or fighting to fight?

“Was I fighting for peace or fighting to fight?”

The fact of the matter is, as rightfully dismayed as I was by our society, I knew that change was slow and it was up to me to take accountability of myself first. I reflected on the many years resisters before me marched the streets with their picket signs and chants, subjected to arrests, the pressure of fire hoses and the sickening of dogs. I concluded that in order to make change, something different must be done and that I could not preach love and respect to anyone that I decided I no longer felt love or respect for.

My inner journey eventually helped me better comprehend Dr. King’s point, ” …hate cannot drive out hate …”. I had to take a long, hard look at myself and become change opposed to demanding it. This brings me to Brother Malcolm’s point, “Nobody can give you freedom …equality or justice or anything …you take it. So I did. In spite of the outward chaos, I began to liberate myself by cultivating my own balance. My own peace.

Photo by Nappy

While I never shy away from diving deeper into the history and the truth of my people – the good, bad and the ugly – I, now, take more time in February to see where my heart is. I ask myself, “Am I truly practicing the compassion and mindfulness I study? Am I contributing to the chaos or to the path towards peace?”. I admit, it is the absolute hardest thing I have ever worked to do but I have found my personal world has changed significantly for the better since I’ve shifted my energy. I am not as quick to anger (although not perfect) and therefore less controlled by the things I have no control over. I observe more closely, show others more patience and understanding when I can, or do my best to kindly walk away when I cannot.

I am healthier in my body when when I worry less about who is offended by my presence. I have also found that when the times comes for me speak out against an injustice, my voice is stronger, clearer and I feel more resolve to take action opposed to just feeling anger that will eventually turn on me later.

Now, I am still a work is still in progress, may always be and this inner change may have no effect on changing the view of those who insist on being judgmental and oppressive. However, I strive to stay on the path of doing my work, being the change I want to see, gaining new perspective along the way and sharing it with others when I am able. That’s all I can do for now and acceptance of that brings me peace.

Blessed be.

A Note To Self for 2020

Dear Self,

You have come quite a ways – one decade after another. There have been plenty ups; all to remind me of the beauty in the world. There have been plenty of downs, all to strengthen me for the better. I am grateful for each hill and every valley.

Going forward, there is one main thing I expect and that is for us to becoming the closest we’ve ever been. I wish there to be no boundaries between us. No disconnects. No blending in at your expense. Like all relationships, I’m sure it will take time for us to reach the next levels just as it has taken time for us to arrive where we are today. I will grant you the necessary space to develop freely with compassion.

We both know that healing is spiral, time isn’t linear and life does not occur in a vacuum, therefore, patience and discipline is key. Continue to gain knowledge not just to know but to improve and to share for the knowing of others so that they may be supported on their journeys just as others have directly or indirectly supported you.

I know that you will always have purpose, even if in some moments that it is just to love and/or be loved. I recognize the grandiosity of your dreams and desires but remember that you save the world each day that you display kindness, share a positive or enlightening thought and take care of yourself in all the ways needed. You are a part of the world and therefore the world is you; as are we all.

Despite those that may cross your path and challenge you in the worst of ways, you are strong. Just recall that those people are also living in their momentary purpose and they are in your life at that time for a reason. Experience them but do not let their harshness linger on your soul and taint how you radiate who you are.

Lastly, never forget that you are divine. Even in your sadness, your anger and in the midst of your setbacks, you are magical being with the power to turn things around with the proper work. And, it is my hope that we will be so intertwined that every desire reveals itself to be pure and that every positive manifestation proves to be effortless.

I love you very much, Self. Continue to do great things.

Mote it be. Aṣẹ.