Climate isn’t the only thing that’s changing…
Western civilization can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Philosophy, art, debate… They spearheaded the way from autocracy to democracy- the belief that the common person not only had the right but the responsibility to participate in the decisions and direction of the state. Unlike autocracy, where the rules are hard and unmovable, democracy is a live, breathing, experience that shifts with the overall cares and goals of a specific people. It is more nuanced and therefore like balance, tougher to hold on to. It is still today a revolutionary idea and blueprint for our current government. Well, at least until very recently.
For the Greeks, partaking in larger governmental decisions came hand in hand with debate. Dialogue and democracy are interdependent like Prana and Chitta- where one goes the other follows. They cannot be separated. Debate is the keystone that holds democracy up. In fact, debate was so essential that the Greeks allocated a special place for it- Parlaiment. In these times where all our information is delivered through dictums via tweets, I had somehow come to overlook this connection. Until I stood in Parlaiment Square in Athens, just a few days ago, looking at the mammoth building that is Parlaiment. Then it felt so obvious, so undeniable.
In debates, opposing arguments were set forth and examined from all sides and then a vote was cast. Opposing- being the operative word. The ancient Greeks knew that learning happens in the space of discomfort. They were willing to look at things from different angles and learn from that process. Even if it meant things would get messy. They had built a taste for the disagreement. Much like when you travel to Latin America and you rediscover the art of bartering. Sometimes you find people merely bartering with you for the play of it. Sometimes, they are even happy to lose for the sport of it.
In yoga, we study that opposition can make us lighter in our physical bodies. It must also hold true then, that opposition can also help us land in more of a middle path mentally. If you were to distil the schools of meditation down, for example, you would quickly find that there are vaguely two approaches- accepting your thoughts, or as in a lesser known and taught version of meditation, the neti-neti, where the work is denying all your thoughts. The complete opposite.
We have become so scared of offending each other that we’ve lost the taste for opposition in debate. This is a problem. A one sided debate does not a debate make. The conversation, politically, has turned in the last decades toward equality. And yes, there is definitely strength in recognizing our sameness. However, it seems this approach has run its course and fallen somewhat short.
It was like the whole equality movement for gay marriage. We never really wanted equality. We are different and our families though having some of the same challenges as a “traditional” family, also have their unique challenges. We just wanted the right to fall in love and have the benefits that everyone else was enjoying. Within the structure that existed, the only way to make it understood was to use that word. But it wasn’t ultimately about equality. And I’m not even sure it was about marriage either, when you got down to it. We were just not able to come up with a better descriptor that would still get the job done, which is why the whole common law marriage proposal was on the table for a while. It just didn’t afford us the same rights everyone else had, which made it a bad option since we would’ve been settling for less.
We are not equal. We will never be equal. It’s simply not possible. I’ve had my set of advantages and disadvantages. Which have both sharpened me in ways and given me personal blind spots that will always be different from yours. It’s ok. We can be different. It’s not a bad thing. We can even be opposites and still find a way to thrive in each other’s company. We can turn our differences into an advantage.
I fixed the dishwasher the other day. Why? Because I’m a baller. Aaaand because I’m bazaarly good at it and somehow understand how to do it. It runs in my family, what can I say? C can tell the length of someone’s inseam and the correct neck size for their dress shirt just by looking at them. Amazing, right? Different skills, both important and they make us better together. We can look great and have clean dishes. Boom!
Privilege isn’t referring to the things we’ve earned. Privilege is the things we get to enjoy just for being ourselves. The fact that I can wear a hoodie without fear of getting shot for example. In order to start to disarm our own privilege, we have to be willing to listen to people’s stories and believe that what they are saying is their truth. That creates empathy and respect. And respect is a form of understanding.
Understanding only happens in the space between you and me. Like yoga, it’s about relationship, not positioning. It demands a tenacity and true staying power, which I believe, is love in action. People talk about radical compassion. We are being forced to move into an era of radical love. Maybe it’s time to lean into our differences big time. As everything not white and male continues to be under attack including our planet, as fatigue sets in and the walls creep up so high and so hard they not only lock the other out but us in, we must dig deeper than we have in the past. It feels like something is awake under our very feet, you can feel the spa day (pulse) under your feet if you just pause for a second. A revolution is underway and we are at its heart. Keep dreaming. We are exactly what they fear- our differences makes us strong beyond our imagination. Stay engaged. Keep reaching over if it feels like there is possibility and occasionally even when there isn’t. Maybe something great will come of all this. It can’t happen if we don’t dare to dream it. Shine bright!!!
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– Bhutan Early Bird registration expires Oct 1. So it’s time to get that deposit in if you’re coming, grasshoppers. If you miss the early bird, you will have to decide before Nov 15. if you are coming in order to get visas and travel squared away. So keep that in the back of your mind.
– Classes: Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are now at 6:30pm instead of 6:45pm and starting next Sunday Sept 17, when I am back, the Jam will again be two hours (from 12:30-2:30) and you will still be able to pay to drop in if you’re not a member.
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