Today marks the first day of Black History month, which honors the African Americans who have persisted through constant struggle, violence, and persecution through the history of our nation up until the present day. It is also an opportunity to look at what the future of our country could look like. Can we imagine an equitable and inclusive America? Talking about race today still brings up many of the same emotions that it brought up 50 or 100 years ago, and it almost seems that we are moving into a time of deeper racial tension than less. If that claim made you feel uncomfortable, try to notice where in your body the discomfort arises, and make the commitment to read on. Sometimes to be strong and create meaningful change we must sit with our feelings of discomfort and mindfully work through them until we get to the other side.
The longer we practice yoga the more obvious it becomes that yoga isn’t always a walk in the park. This practice often asks us to search deep within ourselves and find things that aren’t pretty or pleasant. On the slip side, just as often on this search we we can find beauty and vibrancy inside of ourselves. We can find out when we need to dig deeper, and when we need to rest. It’s all about balance, and balance is not easy to find.
Pushing ourselves can sometimes be an important part of our dharma. We can equate this to going through a very physically demanding practice and turning the heat up. To push ourselves past the limits of what we believe is possible, or to feel that we have used up the last of our energy reserves yet still somehow jump back in to take care of what needs to be done, to remain in the strength of a warrior pose until the sweat begins to drip down our bodies. We still do not have equality or true diversity in our community, or in our nation. There is important work to be done. If you are doing this work in your daily life you already feel the pressure, the exhaustion, and the urging inside of you to keep going. Honor your fire while it burns. Throw in whatever materials you can find that will help that fire burn hot, but remember to protect yourself from the heat.
Our culture is one of overwork, and it is common to bring ourselves to the point of exhaustion in an effort to do the work we feel we need to do. Therefore, there are also times in our lives that are meant for restoration, ease, and letting go. In an asana practice this can mean staying in completely supported restorative poses and allowing the nervous system to calm down and the muscles and connective tissue to take a well deserved break. This can also mean saying no to excess commitments, stepping back from roles that don’t bring you peace or satisfaction, or choosing to honor all of the hard work you have done in your life thus far and knowing that right now you need to slow down in order to sustain your passion, resistance and prana. When we come out of our time of restoration we often have a new perspective to bring to the table, a new idea, or a new direction. We may choose to step back into the fire that once called our names, to fight the battle of our time, or we may realize that something new is calling. Participate in restoration with the intention of coming back to a greater purpose, with the understanding that rest can further our resolve to mindfully fight injustice.
We all need something different at various times of practice and life. It is challenging to find a balance of what we want and what we need. If finding your balance can feel uncomfortable you are not alone. If thinking or talking about race and inequity feels uncomfortable you are not alone. Do not let discomfort dissuade you from the struggle at hand. We are all finding our balance and that process can sometimes mean fumbling and messing up. If we truly listen to what we hear inside we know the right answer. So as we find our balance as individuals and as a nation we can choose to honor the triumphs and failures, the good and the bad, the fire and the ice, the yin and the yang. It is all a part of history, and hopefully it will help us to grow into a true sense of balance–one with a foundation of justice. The growth of our country starts with the growth of ourselves: make equity and antiracism a part of your practice, remember your own equilibrium, honor those who have fought before you, and we will see you on your mat.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.