Not a Pretty Love

 

I’ve been crying for days, my dear community.  The two recent fatal shootings of black men by police – two more in a long line of black people this year alone – have me feeling so heartbroken, so uncomfortable, so deeply troubled. I’ve found myself tending to my children in some mundane way, and then suddenly overcome with an incredibly powerful wave of grief thinking about the children of these men and the mothers of these men.  (And then to hear about the shooting deaths in Dallas  - as I am writing - after a peaceful protest, the details of which are still unfolding. Violence begetting more violence.)

 There have been times in my life when the overwhelm of systemic racism and the pervasive glorification of violence in our culture have felt so big, so completely insurmountable that I’ve just retreated into my places of comfort. Books, music, travel. My yoga practice for a long time was a place like that. My mat was my fortress of solitude and quiet, a place where I blocked out the suffering of the world.

And then, it stopped being that. I can’t tell you an exact moment or incident, but I began to see my practice, not as a respite from the ills of the world, but my training ground to face the heartache, the despair, and the brutality of what humans do to each other within interlocking systems of oppression.  As I moved my body and breathed with other humans and sat with physical and emotional discomfort, experiencing the limits and the vastness of my being, I began to feel a sense of connection and wholeness, a sense of enough-ness.

Having spent a lifetime believing I wasn’t enough – good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, lovable enough – this was radically transforming. And once I began to not just believe but know that both in my brokenness and my beauty, I am enough, I was finally ready to face some things that felt too scary when I believed that admitting flaws meant losing love.  I was ready to receive the tools of my practice, tools that I’ve needed to face my own complicity in the perpetuation of these systems of oppression.

It is an ongoing process. I haven’t always gotten it right, and I very rarely feel sure. And while, in the past, I would have let that lack of certainty stop me from acting, I am no longer willing to let “the perfect be the enemy of the good”.  I am no longer going to wait until I know exactly what needs to be done to openly express my grief and to stand in solidarity. For years, well-meaning white folks have been engaging in handwringing, trying to alleviate the symptoms of racism rather than to heal the gaping wound. And we’ve asked people of color to tell us what to do rather than taking responsibility for the thing that is held up by our collective cooperation, either intentional or otherwise.  When it comes to the current situation in America, good intentions and meaning well matter little. The only thing that matters is our willingness to face what is present, to sit with the discomfort, to not turn away and hide from the horror of what is happening. We have to choose not to escape (the height of white privilege, since people of color cannot simply choose to escape the reality of being people of color and the across-the-board systemic oppression that it entails) but to sit with it, feel it, breathe with it, and listen. Listen to the voices of the suffering. Listen to the voices of the oppressed. Listen to the mothers and the fathers and the children.

Inherent in enough-ness is Love. Not pretty love, not easy love, not love that makes your heart sing. Gritty love. Fierce love. Big love. Love that is large enough and vast enough and spacious enough to liberate both the oppressor and the oppressed.  A love that holds us so firmly in our goodness -our unquestionable goodness- that it feels less scary to face the parts of ourselves that have been socialized to accept that some peoples lives matter more or less than others. It is a love that reminds us of our goodness so steadily that we become willing to hear and see the ways that we participate in those beliefs. And it is a love so deep and so true and so grounded that it feels safe to put ourselves out there, to say and do uncomfortable things, so that our brothers and sisters of color can know that we see them, we hear them, and we are not afraid to face the shadow of racism. It is a love that frees us from fear – fear of ourselves and fear of the “other”.

As you know, we’re in the midst of our Give Big Month here. Today is day 15, which means we’re halfway there. When we began this fundraising campaign, the massacre of mostly queer people of color had just happened in Orlando. And now this. Both times, I’ve had moments of overwhelm, feeling so heartbroken that putting any energy into fundraising – as fun as it has been – has given me pause. And then I remember the why of Yoga and the why of SKY. Yoga is our tool to create love, connection, and mutual healing – things the world desperately needs right now. We need these practices and tools to skillfully navigate this time in history.

As of today we’ve raised over $6000, which is great. This puts us just over $4000 behind our daily fundraising goal for these 30 days, and about $19,000 short of our $25,000 goal. We’re not worried, though, because our community has always come through when we’ve asked for what we needed. And right now, we need you to practice with us, to continue to co-create connection, love, and mutual healing within our community. And we ask you to share widely about SKY, invite people to join in Giving Big, and give what you can to support our continued work. 

 

With gritty, fierce, big Love,

V