Oṁ Saha nāvavatu. Saha nau bhunaktu
Saha vīryam karavāvahai. Tejasvi nāvadhītamastu
Mā vidviṣāvaha. Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ,
Om, May we all be protected. May we all be nourished
May we work together with great energy
May our intellect be sharpened (may our study be effective)
Let there be no animosity amongst us
Om, peace, peace, peace
When listening is absent, any relationship is at a stand still, we are worlds apart, and there is no transformation from which to keep going together in true unity. This often leads to resent, defamation, more confusion, hate and further unnecessary yet harmful divide. This weakens the cause of actually listening deeply enough to hold well to the permission to move forward and doing things differently. This is enervation.
Often speaking too much, we can speak about things we do not really know about. Assuming where someone is coming from can further divide us.
It would be dehumanizing and disrespectful to claim that I understand the exact pain, rage, fear, and sadness of another being’s story, and especially of a person of color, since I am white. I think it important right not to not at all speak about anything I haven’t had a direct experience of. It is overstepping, creates a lack of focus & further distraction.
I do know that if I am in pain, and I keep going to others to let them know, and I continue to not feel heard nor defended, let alone safe, it could absolutely feel dehumanizing.
Both making someone take us along on our journey of pain by creating more hate, nor our lack of recognition of our part in this is not life affirming.
One conversation that really moved me was one in 1973. It was a discussion between what could have been 2 unlikely beings, Maya Angelou and Bill Moyers, who, when they were young, grew up near one another, yet were obviously worlds apart. .
I was moved by Bill’s humility to “hear” Maya as best as he could, while getting that he could never, ever understand the power nor the struggle of a black woman.
Here is the conversation:
MAYA ANGELOU: You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…
BILL MOYERS: Do you belong anywhere?
MAYA ANGELOU: I haven’t yet.
BILL MOYERS: Do you belong to anyone?
MAYA ANGELOU: More and more… I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much.
In light of listening, I have asked a few other black women in the yoga community that I know and care about what “Belonging” means to them. It seem normal to me to ask someone how they are if could potentially be in pain.
I asked a few so that no one person is singled out, Nothing is edited and nothing was expected. Most importantly, I do not expect them to fix this for us.
“On belonging. There is cultural and societal belonging, both intra and inter, and personal belonging. Broadly, to belong means “to have the right personal or social qualities to be a member of a certain group or place.” This isn’t my definition. The dictionary says so. The question then becomes, not what it means to belong, but what are those right personal and social qualities that bestow belonging, and who gets to decide?
At this point it should be obvious, but I guess to many it still isn’t, that in order to belong inter-culturally and inter-societally, many BIPOC, myself included, do what we need to do to make ourselves palatable to over-culture, who have set the definition. The reality, though, is even if we’ve bitten our tongues, shrunken ourselves, or otherwise enacted or adopted the ways of the group, it doesn’t mean that we belong. To truly belong means that your authentic self is what is personally and socially acceptable, not your need-to-get-by self.
BIPOC have historically not been accepted for being themselves, and those who have fought for the right and dignity to do so, have been vilified, deemed violent and militant, and worse. Sure, you can join, but only if you are non-threatening, don’t make demands, don’t make us uncomfortable. In other words, don’t be yourself, in order to belong.
That’s why many BIPOC seek spaces that are insular, and frankly, why those spaces are so important. Within those spaces, we don’t undergo the exhausting activities of having to code switch, we aren’t tone policed, and we don’t have to bear the labor of making ourselves into the right kind of socially and personally acceptable, for the benefit and comfort of others. And it’s automatic. It’s so expected, that we do it without thinking about it. Conformity is the expectation. Belonging is the supposed prize.
So, what then is true belonging? To me, belonging is the space where authenticity lives, where you can be an entity completely of yourself. Where the need to shape shift doesn’t exist. BIPOC are required to shape shift every day, in activities of daily living, in spaces both sacred and mundane, and still are often not granted the rights of “belonging.”
Even though the blatant acts get all the attention, it’s the wear and tear of daily living and interacting in spaces expressly designed to make sure that you cannot show up as yourself that take a toll. That do immeasurable damage. These are the things that often go unexamined. The gymnastics it takes to live, move, and breathe as a BIPOC, and the reality that you still may not belong.” Camilah HIcks
“For the majority of my life, I equated belonging with outside acceptance and approval. To be a part of meant to be like the others, to be a chameleon, to blend in and lend myself to the homogeneity of the group. Being of mixed racial heritage made this tricky. I’d sacrifice parts of myself and amplify others to be perceived as black enough or less black, situation and company depending. Still, I was left with a sense of straddling two worlds, yet, never quite belonging to either. What’s worse, is after all that self betrayal, I no longer belonged even to myself.
I won myself back through radical self-acceptance, by reclaiming all the parts of me I’d abandoned and repressed. I stopped asking and waiting for permission and instead granted myself the freedom to be me, unapologetically and unashamed. I stopped searching for belonging and found it within myself in a deep sense of interconnectedness to the human race. I realized I don’t need to do anything, prove anything, or earn my worthiness or place in the world. I don’t need to choose which race to be. My only job is to choose, honor, and be the real me. The real me deserves to be here and is more than enough. I know I belong by the way I feel, by the way I am at home in my own skin, wherever I go and whoever I’m with.” Aubry Lablanc
“Since I was a child I felt displaced and different, I was confused and lost for years. Not understanding why I felt so much more than others and could see and vison what other’s could not. In the African American community anything outside of the Christian societal norm was seen as an issue. It’s only been in present times that some acceptance and understanding have began to surface towards spiritual individuals. Eventually, I began to suffer from depression anxiety. Misunderstood by my family and viewed as weird by our culture. By the time I was 18 both of my older brothers were murdered due to street violence, while living in the city of Louisville where color lines still existed. Our culture was divided by the have’s and the have nots, the streets and the those who chose a alternate direction. I was just me, raised on both sides. I carried a understanding for both and just wanted to all walks of life come together.
Little did I know that the universe was directing my steps to Awakening. By 2018 I finally met my tribe and my purpose in this world was revealed to me. I came across a yoga studio called Swan River in New Orleans. There I realized I was a empath and that my service was to assist others in their healing process. I was able to discover and heal my own trauma and use my experience to give guidance to other’s. For the first time ever I no longer felt a void or this feeling of longing. I was home, I was loved and I was glowing. My journey continued as my ancestors began to call to me and currently I’m on my Rite’s of Passage with Holistic Priestess Queen Afua. Belonging is finding peace within yourself and making any place home. You carry that love, gratitude, compassion and healing wherever you go. Eventually your aura (your light) will radiant and touch every individual that it needs to. No experience and situation is by accident and every step is meant for your greater good. You just have to remove the illusion set in place to be able to see and receive it.” Jessica Cleveland
To my teacher Namaste
To my new found journey Amen Ase, Jessica Cleveland.
We can do better, and it is exciting to do so. To learn more about some anti-racist actions we can take together as a Satsang, please attend our first series with Conscious Roots July 23rd on this topic. Go to: https://www.swanriveryoga.com/events-and-workshops
Stand in Unity.