As stated in my previous blog entry, theres a catch-22 afflicting yoga culture in Ottawa. Reflecting further on ways to remedy the traps of the heart we can encounter on our yoga journey, I’ve come up with the following so far. Obviously I did not come up with this alone, but with discussions, learning from and interactions with others and a personal experience. Please add to it in the comments if you see other ways we can liberate ourselves from the trap of Yoga-Perfect over Yoga-Practice! Together we grow!
1. Use yoga to discover the Perfection of the Universe, not to ascribe to and prove the idea of perfect limited to only what your mind can imagine.
2. Co-create with the Universe the connection you seek with others. Smiling is the most basic human expression of this invitation.
3. Perpetrators of violence in all its forms are suffering too. Liberate them by liberating your mind of the dichotomy of a toxic relationship. Know your worth.
4. Ignorance becomes painful to the ego when mindful forces call your awareness to the harm your ignorance was causing to self and others. Know your self worth is untouchable, then leap, with all the gratitude that will bubble up, into the opportunity to live easier and better.
5. And to the irremediably violent and aggressive (in a given instant), I love myself more than your ignorance on how to love and care for yourself.
6. Do not use the body to get into the pose. Use the Pose to ger into your Body (-Bernie Clark, “Yin Yoga”)
Social roles I have many. Those I am juggling in thoughts most recently are: Black Woman, Healer (both as a physician by training and as a vocation), Soul (it is a title now, written down, that I hope to continue to grow into experientially (ie beyond the confines of Descartian Methodology that limits most Academia these days, though gratefuly, decreasingly so).
On September 30th 2019, I took a sabbatical off being a physician. I don't dislike being a physician. I am just an advocate of workshoping my life to make conscious decisions as to how I want to spend my time on earth (I still don't feel reincarnation as a personal truth in my being, so, as far as I know, yolo). I'm finally out of the gutter of medical school debt and can take a breather to conscientiously choose my next step in life. What will it be? My longstanding aspiration to bring about sustainable systemic change to the health of my community... is a broad definition. Is the vision I had of public health, rooted in the Paul Farmer ideals of health as a human right, still it for me? My anthropology background informed me that to initiate change in a system with the intention of improvement, for their to be lesser unanticipated negative consequences, one must know the reality. Therefore, the logical step to bringing positive change to a health system, was to become a provider - be it nurse or physician. And that "logical step" took nearly a decade of my time, sweat and tears. That vision was 10 years ago. I have changed. The system has changed. My concept of wellness and health has definitely changed. And I definitely understand that well-meaning cannot be grounded in someone who is not well inside. Hurt people hurt people.
So here I am, in the gift-curse limbo of absolute freedom (with which comes absolute accountability) faced with the decision of what to do next.
Am I rushing too quickly from human being to the addictive process of human-doing by trying to find the next program of study? Am I sitting in stillness, being with myself enough, to fully grasp my own healing and hear the quiet whispers of my soul?
One thing I know for sure is, I love vulnerability. I'm on my second dose of one of my now favorite authors, Brene Brown's "Dare to Lead" (the first dose being "Daring Greatly" which I wink to my past-self at the eye-rolls I did when told that it would change my life.
Change my perspective on life, it did. To the core.)
I am no longer interested in the world of shame. I am no longer interested in people who do not know better or do not have the courage to be vulnerable. And I find it so true the saying that as my social circle dwindles, my vision becomes more clear.
This leads me to my point about my current perception on the mishaps of predominant Yoga culture in Ottawa. I loved the experience of putting my thoughts into expression on-the-fly on a Panel on Diversity and Cultural Intelligence I was invited to speak on this past weekend. What I had to say about Diversity and Yoga in Ottawa, and possibly North America is this:
While you see Lululemon's website with a perfect balance of diversity, inclusion is "not only being invited to the party, but to be included to the table to put forth your opinion on the event as a peer", to be considered a stakeholder, or to be considered, period. When I walked into Ottawa's Yoga studios when I first moved here, I had the pleasure of running into its oldest first (RIP Rama Lotus), and then the indignifying feeling of being an outsider when attending another studio I will not name, because the point is not to point fingers. I will add that that feeling I had was also heightened by the tall blond skinny yoga teacher's wet rag in her hand (why, I don't know) whipping me dead in the face as she scurried past my mat at the beginning of her class (how that even happened, to this day, I don't know, but overall, just the cherry on top of this weird experience). Maybe it also had to do with, in the months surrounding this experience, the publishing of that weird BC blog/article about some white woman's tears and discomfort at the presence of a black woman in the same yoga class as her. https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/xd5djq/a-woman-was-shocked-to-learn-there-were-no-black-people-in-her-yoga-class-twir (#whitewomantears and discomfort has a whooooole history of taking precedence over the the fact of black lives and bodies mattering. If you can bear to listen to Brittany Cooper of Crunk Feminist Collective fame talk about it in her book "Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower", she's very eloquent at expressing what I mean (though I disagree with her on the point that Bernie Sanders does not matter or that the Barack Obama did not do enough for black girls during his terms... because, well, Michelle Obama. #powercouple). I digress.
There are two pathological phenomenons that I perceive to be high-jacking Yoga Culture:
Number one, the Perfectionnism in what can be seen on the outside (ie postures) undermining the vastness and depth of the practice (there are 7 other areas or limbs to yoga, and if you are not familiar with them, its going to be a great whole new word of opportunity for you when you look them up. your welcome). When explaining the inner workings of shame culture in leadership in her book "Dare to Lead" Brene Brown explains how Perfectionism is antithetical to living a whole-hearted life... which coincidentally is the goal of yoga practice (not "yoga perfect" as one of my teacher training classmates would remind us). I love Bernie Clark's quote in "Yin Yoga: The Philosophy & Practice of Yin Yoga": We don't use our body to get into a pose, we use the pose to get into our body. So question: are you using yoga to try and prove to the universe a perfection you believe yourself to be, or are you using yoga to discover the perfection of the universe, beyond anything your mind could ever imagine?
Parallel to this first phenomenon comes phenomenon number two: the lack of accessible yoga by diverse demographics. By no one's particular fault, but at the same time, by all of our lack of awareness about social determinants of health and the dynamics of historical institutions at play behind them, that, for example, allow a middle class white person be able to have time and money to come to a Power Class, in contrast to a middle age to elderly, differently-abled mother of color.
So to all this being said, what is clear enough for me to commit to in this transition period? Yoga.Unity and Warrior Yoga. Check out their mandates. Their awesome. http://yogaunity.ca/about/. https://www.warrioryoga.network/what-we-do.
A heart warming quote by Minouche Shafik, Director London School of Economics and Political Science, captures my hope in my career's next steps, aligned with my role as a healer and the value of yoga:
"In the past jobs were about muscles, now they're about brains, but in the future, they'll be about the heart."
Thank you for your time witnessing this workshop space of my life (your two-cents below are appreciated). Namaste. Together we grow.