"The purpose of yoga is to facilitate a profound inner relaxation that accompanies fearlessness. The release from fear is what finally precipitates a full flowering of love."
– Erich Schiffmann, Moving Into Stillness
In a recent meditation training, I had the privilege of taking part in one of the most constructive and compassionate discussions about race that I have ever experienced. The topic specifically focused on the issue of race and inclusivity. It was not an easy topic for myself or anyone in the room to broach; in fact, during the discussion my heart was pounding so much I was sure everyone in the room could hear it. Yet by the end of the morning, through skilful guidance by our teachers, I felt a rare softening and relaxing around the thorny and intractable subjects of race, identity and racism. If I could describe the feeling, it would be similar to doing something like the "Yoga of race-relations." People willingly explored uncomfortable edges and stayed open to being vulnerable, clumsy, embarrassed, awkward and hurt. They listened to one another's experiences without making assumptions or asserting their opinions. They did what yogi Richard Freeman describes as Yoga, which, he writes, "...begins with listening. When we listen, we giving space to what is. We are allowing other people to be what they are, and sanctioning our own bodies and our own minds to fully manifest." As people listened to each other on the issue of race and racism, I glimpsed the purpose of Yoga: to elicit a profound inner relaxation that accompanies fearlessness and that precipitates the flowering of love.
The timing of the discussion on race and inclusivity couldn't have been more appropriate. Much of the turbulence, shock and violence happening this summer reflects degrees of racism and racial identity. Like most people I know, these have made me tense, sad, angry and fearful. And yet, alongside each tragedy stood powerfully life-affirming experiences: people reaching out to each other and extending greater kindness to others. It's hard to remember when things are messy that care and sensitivity are happening in equal measure. When we do remember this, though, it helps us slow down, soften and listen.
The German philosopher Paul Tillich wrote "The first responsibility of love is to listen." These days, people's viewpoints on divisive issues such as Brexit, racism or Clinton vs. Sandars vs. Trump seem to be generating greater tension and anger. Reasoning and debate seem fruitless in affecting viewpoints. Few people seem to be listening anymore. The question now is how to change this and create common ground again before more divisiveness, fear and hatred take hold.
I am inspired by what is possible to change through practices such as Yoga, qigong and meditation. I have witnessed myself change and countless people's consciousnesses transform through these practices. However challenging the anger and discord, I'm determined to hold Erich's vision close to me. In small or radical ways, we can nourish our capacity to listen, to be inclusive, compassionate, and less fearful and more loving.
I hope you'll join me for some events this summer and autumn where I'll do my best to share practices that helps us listen, release from fear, and bring greater love into this world. I've included some other teacher's programmes that I'll hope you'll also consider.
- Yoga Garden Party – Saturday, July 30 at Bore Place (formerly Commonwork Farms). I'll be teaching a Qigong Flow class at the annual charity event organised by Simon Low and the Yoga Garden Party.
- Workshop with Richard Rosen. August 15 - 21, 2016. I worked with Richard last year and he has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. Highly recommended.
- Toward Greater Equanimity: A Yoga, Qigong and Mindfulness Meditation Late Summer Immersion. Saturday, August 20, 2016 at triyoga, Camden. We will look at the Earth element ways to work toward toward balancing opposing forces in the body and in life.
- Integration and Efficiency in Arm Balancing Sunday, September 25, 2016 at triyoga, Camden. A workshop to explore innovative ways to do arm balancing. 18 months of regular yoga practice suggested.
- Yoga, Qigong and Meditation Retreat. October 19 - 23, 2016. This is my annual retreat with Jodi Smith in Normandy at the Mill Retreat Centre. We have one space left!
- Exhale: A Yoga, Qigong and Mindfulness Meditation Autumn Immersion. Sunday, October 30, triyoga, Camden. Explorations on the element of Metal, breathing, the lungs and large intestines.
- Gourmet Yoga Weekend November 4 - 6, 2016 with Kate Walker. She has a few spaces available for her November retreat in Norfolk.
- Hands-on Adjustments: A Teacher's Workshop. Sunday, November 27, 2016, at triyoga, Camden. This has been offered for years as a half-day workshop, but the feedback is always, can it be longer? Now a full day programme, this workshop will focus on learning how and when to touch as well as the energetics of touch.
p.s. For anyone interested, you can read an article called "White Fragility" that was assigned reading for my meditation training. The link provided above is the abridged PDF version; the full academic version can be read here... Beware, it's not an easy read but it's one of the most powerfully written pieces on understanding racism I've ever encountered. The teacher training is also highly recommended, one of the best programmes I've done to date.