Hi. Welcome back. Today’s podcast is about activating in the face of oppression. This episode comes to you in 3 parts: 1) Figuring out what your values are; 2) Anti-oppressive actions you can engage in now; 3) The case for liberation through svadhyaya. Thanks for being here.
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Part One: What are your heart-codes?
About a year ago, I made a commitment to myself to frequently check in around the prayer:
may my actions align with my deepest values.
It’s one thing to say we have certain values or that we are committed to “doing the right thing”, but to use one’s values as a daily code for living is powerful in a way I can’t even find words for (yet). To live your heart-codes NOW, whether it’s convenient or not, is the embodiment of yoga– as skill in action (the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita) and as clarity (the yoga of the Yoga Sutras, ultra-simplified). To live your values is to live your yoga.
So what are your heart-codes? How do we find out what they are? I found my heart-codes by sitting quietly and asking myself what my deepest hopes, wishes and prayers are; this was a long list, so I wrote them all down. As I looked over the list, I found that some of the wishes fell under similar categories, so I grouped them together. Then, I found that some of them were quite specific to a current circumstance; since I wanted my heart-codes to endure, to be long-term, I edited the wording to be more inclusive of the general tone behind the wish.
Here is the first iteration of my own heart-codes:
Over time, I felt like some of these were a little… wishy-washy, and I felt compelled to edit them to more accurately reflect my truest hopes.
The second part of this work is to frequently check-in around whether your actions match your values. A good time to do this is when you are feeling defensive, argumentative or exhausted in general. I don’t mean that in those moments you are not living by your heart-codes, but you might get some clarity on how they are showing up in your life in those moments.
If you feel open to it, I’d love to hear some of your heart-codes and how you are living by them– big and small.
Part 2: How to Activate NOW against oppression
- Educate yourself about racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia and ablism. Educate yourself about privilege: acknowledge that if you have privilege, it has blinded you to oppression. Keep learning. Keep apologizing when you are unconsciously racist. Keep doing better.
- Keep your eyes open: if you see POC stopped by the police, be a witness; if you see someone being abused, report it, be with the person, help them, tell the attacker to stop.
- LISTEN to & BELIEVE people when they tell you about how they’ve been discriminated against, targeted or threatened. Do not explain away their oppression. Listen. Ask “How can I help?” and do that. Practice active listening. Also as part of the Wildcat Yoga Club, we will have a monthly active listening group.
- AMPLIFY the voices of marginalized populations: share articles and posts; hand them the microphone; listen and encourage others to listen.
- Use your voice: speak truth in the face of lies being spread about immigrants, people of color, LGTBQs, disabled people and women. I have found it to be easier to practice speaking up when you aren’t feeling particularly threatened by the person (for example, offering an opinion about an issue you are not super fired-up about) can help. I am also here if you want to practice speaking up; as part of the Wildcat Yoga Club, we will have monthly online gatherings to help find our voice. (Request an invitation here.)
- Tell your representatives in government that these people matter to you. Make a phone call. Tell them you are concerned about discrimination and structural oppression. Ask them what they are doing to stop racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia and ablism.
- Support local, grassroots campaigns that serve and empower marginalized communities. Get involved (but don’t try to take over, white people).
This is just a beginning. We’ll continue this conversation.
Part 3: The Liberating Svadhyaya of Admitting our Racism.
I wrote a blog post earlier this week about how white fragility fits into the context of Yoga philosophy and how the practice of self-study and deep honesty can be a path toward liberation. I decided to share it here, too.
Here’s a link to the full post, and here’s a little excerpt:
Svadhyaya is the art of “checking yourself before you wreck yourself.” It’s key to the yoga of skill in action (the yoga described by the Bhagavad Gita) and the yoga of seeing more clearly what is actually happening (the yoga described by the Yoga Sutras). For a dedicated practitioner, there is no other way but through svadhyaya.
This aspect of practice requires fortitude and humility. You have to be in a certain state of mental and physical health to look at your own self honestly. And self-study is ultimately the practice of honesty. You can’t shift your focus when you are flooded with guilt, self-pity or inaction due to depression. So you have to do your daily care practice to even be in a space where you can handle self-study. Once you look around in there at your own embarrassing, unflattering, sad, scary stuff with your flashlight of awareness, there’s no going back. That prospect can terrify or liberate you. My prayer is for your liberation. It is the path out of suffering… for all of us.
Once we can hold space for svadhyaya (self-study), for real understanding and growth, for being able to see through the thought-patterns that bind us, we change the pattern. A new pattern can emerge. Our vision becomes clearer and we have a new habit of being okay with the discomfort that precedes liberation.
The more you do it, the less you attached you are to any of those stories you tell yourself about yourself.
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh.
- Why I Plan to Tell My Brown Kids That Their New President Is A Racsist— And Why You Should Too, by Margaret Jacobsen.
- White fragility is real: 4 questions white people should ask themselves during discussions about race, by Sarah Watts.
- The Sugarcoated Language Of White Fragility, by Anna Kegler.
- We’ll undertake the work of the Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita in our spring immersion (April-May). If you’re not already on my mailing list and would like to keep up to date about these learning opportunities, please sign up here.
Thank you so much for listening.
Stay in touch.