Yoga for the Body Politic

The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.      James Baldwin

For a couple years now (since Trayvon was killed, really) I’ve been adapting the skills and awareness I’m developing through yoga to help me feel for patterns in the alternate pathways of shame and resources as they circulate through the body-politic. When I begin to perceive something in the social fabric that disrupts my dominant narrative, I recognize the resulting confusion and discomfort from my work in my own tissues. My web of beliefs, sensations, thoughts, and almost automatic actions is tightly woven. The shape of it is precious to me: my identity.

I ask myself: “Is this me? Or is it what the system says I must be?”

We humans depend on each other for everything, including upholding the communal illusion of individuality. As I seek to loosen my bonds, I hope that different choices will be available for me. But that is only Me.

I know there are others in my community who are working with questions of karma and dharma (even if they do not name them as such): which actions are mine to take? Which do I take merely to maintain my story of self? To stay comfortable? Which do I not take because they threaten the continuity of my ideology? How do I get this debate out of the air above my head and into the meat of my guts?

I believe Ethics are a Karma conversation: do the actions I take have the effects I desire? If my desires – along with the rest of my reality – are formed through action, can I reshape what I want by changing what I do? These are classical conversations, but the ways we have them can be very modern: with sharp attention to how the scalable, hierarchical systems of patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, and white-supremacy express themselves in every matrix, and a steady will to honor voices that alert us to our own traps.

I am beginning an experiment in holding space for these conversations. Michelle at The People’s Yoga has generously donated the NE Killingsworth space once a month for our meeting. We will practice feeling, communicating, listening, and sustaining mindfulness in community through meditation, deep inquiry, and conversation. Seeking steady engagement around charged sensations, we hope to develop skills for supporting each other’s awakening – politically, socially, and spiritually.

Through Living Yoga, I teach teens in lockup. Last week while we were talking about society, the system, and the power of mind, one of the girls said, “I don’t think it really has to be like this. I think that if we decided to, we could just stop doing all this – just look at each other and change it. Just stop! And do it differently.”

I told her I would try.

The donations collected at this month’s gathering (4/22) will benefit the Living Yoga Yogathon.


Published by Devon Riley

lately: youth work, parenting, sorcery, books, walks in the woods

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