They say these are strange times we are living in. I must agree. With the ongoing political and social climate, it is sometimes tough to keep the shiny side up.
Today, I am opening my first musings post with a quote by Eldridge Cleaver:
“The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.”
He was a son, a brother, a husband, a father and an early leader of the Black Panther Party and, in full transparency, he was a convicted felon. This quote has stuck with me since I first read Soul on Ice (a memoir and collection of essays written while he was in prison); I was sixteen.
I have a deep belief in people’s ability to change, forgiveness, redemption, and the teachings, wherever they come from. Small talk has never been my forte. I am a person who is comfortable living in the weeds of the human condition, while keeping my heart open and the big picture in perspective. I hope this sets the tone for what I would like to share.
A couple of months ago, I had a beautiful walk into downtown Victoria, my hometown in BC, Canada. I was born here, 57 years ago, and I have called Victoria home now for 30 years. Getting outside when the weather permits has become especially important during the pandemic. On my journey, I bumped into an acquaintance that I see from time to time. We had a conversation about the state of our community and the world. He asked many questions; including two that normally offend me, such as the age-old suspects:
So, rather than put on my battle gear, I took a breath, connected with my heart, and did my best to respond as kindly and with much as much compassion as possible. I am still learning too. It has been said that when you know better, you do better – it was a moment to educate.
"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education." – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
You may be wondering why the first question is problematic. As if being born in Victoria, or Canada for that matter, was somehow not possible because of my skin color.
According to the Harvard Business Review, asking someone, “Where are you from?” can seem like a very innocuous question, but can quickly turn into a microaggression. It reduces someone’s identity to a social group, a city, or a culture, and that can trigger feelings of alienation. Microaggressions can also reinforce differences and magnify unequal power structures.
As for why the second question is problematic, in a word: colonization!
Colonization has systemically marginalized Indigenous people from mainstream society and has had a profound and disruptive impact on health, socio-economic welfare, and access to healthcare services, and don't get me started about the lack of clean drinking water. Enough said.
During our conversation, I learned he was from Southern Africa and was no stranger to privilege and racist ideology.
George Floyd had just been murdered. Many of us witnessed the horror of him having his innate right to breath denied, and on national television, no less.
I had recently attended my first Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally and heard the familiar cries of “all lives matter.” Of course, if all lives really mattered, we would not have been there that day. Let me be clear, I agree, life in all its forms do matter. However, in relation to BLM, saying "all lives matter" really derails the very important discussion that needs to be had about how Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and communities are affected by racism. It's like watching your neighbour's house going up in flames and saying "yes, but all houses matter." (Kris Straub). But I digress.
Toward the end of our walk, he asked me "how do you stay so positive!?"
I told him that for the better part of 25 years, I have been extremely fortunate to have adopted a strong daily Yoga practice (Sadhana) which includes Pranayama (breathing practices) Meditation, Asana (physical practice) and other Yogic principles such as the Yamas (attitudes and relationships toward our environment) and Niyamas (attitudes and relationship toward ourselves.)
This practice has been an invitation that enables me to observe my internal mental landscape in relation to my external world; I use the word “my'' because each of us have our own conditioning by which we see things.
It is from that place that I choose to live. I have a deep commitment to the truth (Satya), so I added, "the conditions aren’t always perfect, believe me it's not always comfortable being me."
We had a little laugh, but I have sat with this conversation in the months since. As a bi-racial POC, I continue to be curious (Svadhyaya) about how I remain positive in the face of all of the unbelievable suffering?
Well, the truth is, sometimes I’m not.
My teacher Baba Hari Dass always said (and I am paraphrasing) “whatever the problem, regular sadhana is the answer.”
I understand this more than ever now. The ability to remain optimistic while at the same time feeling absolutely outraged, angered, and gutted by the current political and social climate speaks highly to the transformative power of a consistent Yoga practice (Abhyasa); should one choose to take the mission. Especially when your practice has been maintained over a long period of time.
So, I invite you into practice; become an alchemist. Turn your outrage and anger into gold. Practice (Sadhana) continues to teach me that anger and outrage are perfectly natural emotions full of wisdom. I have learned to welcome and even befriend them, so as not to be pinned to the floor, and learn from them.
This is where the alchemy happens, when transmuted, these emotions can become a positive energy that can and does change the world. From this perspective we are welcomed into living a life of non-violence (Ahimsa), or at the very least, less-violence. And although sometimes it does not appear like it, we are witnessing people “waking up” to this.
I hope you will join me and discover that you are the universal elixir that is needed during these times and then go out into the world and start, or continue, the challenging and beautiful work that is reserved for you (Dharma).
1/24/2021 07:54:24 pm
Beautifully written Chetna! I so appreciate how your regular sadhana practice allows you to abide with and respond to all the aspects of living in the world; including outrage, anger and violence as well as joy and connection. Yoga offers us tools to live in the world. RS forever!
1/25/2021 08:54:09 pm
Thank you. Yes! RS forever.
1/26/2021 09:12:34 pm
Beautiful. Honest. Real. Alchemy.
1/26/2021 10:01:10 pm
Looking inward can be humbling, but so worth it...if we choose to take the mission. Here's to life long learning.
2/3/2021 10:59:26 am
" We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can't have both." Brene Brown
2/3/2021 01:23:20 pm
Thank you Gopa. I love the root word for courage which is cor, the latin word for heart. So courage is to "speak one's mind by telling all one's heart"
2/6/2021 07:06:09 pm
One of the key characteristics I admire about you is your ability to speak of pain and growth with a partnership of great vulnerability and strength. Thank you for your insights and reflections, and for your willingness to share them publicly. With much respect and love....Anila
2/6/2021 09:33:04 pm
Deep bows Anila! Thank you for your kind words. We speak the same language, you and I. Love
2/27/2021 11:57:37 pm
Beautiful musings I can relate to on so many levels
2/28/2021 10:51:05 am
Glad this resonated. Thank you for taking the time to read Gillian.
2/28/2021 08:48:12 pm
Thank you Chetna. I have been feeling the call to look more deeply at how my offerings can be more inclusive. Your words are inspiration and a nudge to get moving.
3/1/2021 10:49:21 am
Thank you for taking the time to read, but more importantly, thank you for taking the time to reflect. Much love
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Hello, beautiful people. My name is Tracy Chetna Boyd (she/her). Among other things, I am a Yoga educator and Yoga Therapist, specializing in Yoga for Cancer. Although I have many teachers, my primary teacher is Baba Hari Dass. I have a deep belief in people’s ability to change, forgiveness, redemption, and the teachings, wherever they come from. Small talk has never been my forte. I am a person who is comfortable living in the weeds of the human condition, while keeping my heart open and the big picture in perspective. I hope this sets the tone for the musings I'll be sharing from time-to-time.