I wrote the bulk of this letter about a week ago when I, along with so many others in our country, was glued to my computer reviewing current events, comments, social media posts. And, I felt the heartache. The pain, the anger, the judgement that’s flying from all corners of the internet (heck our living rooms).
Can I be honest? I really, really wish I was with you in the studio to talk [respectfully] about what’s going on in your head and in your heart. And, current events aside, I think I’ve cried more than not over the past two days after finally making it to Rhode Island. I already miss you and Lewisburg that much. So, in a partial effort to get out of my own head and to weave yoga into what’s happening in the news, I thought we’d talk about a very important topic here.
You guys, I’ve written letters like the one I’m about to write so many times in the last year. It actually makes me sad. But, I know that as a yoga teacher // a champion of human rights // a believer in connection and spirituality and that LOVE IS GREATER THAN HATE, that I cannot simply ignore what has been happening over the last two weeks, and pretend that you aren’t affected. (And, if you’re living under a rock, I’m talking about a controversial Supreme Court Justice appointment).
Let me be clear. I’m not here to talk about who is right and who is wrong. I will not fill this letter with hate or name calling or words to get you on “my side” whatever that is. But, I do want to talk about YOU. Dearest friends and fellow students, the greatest thing we can do when there is this much hate being spewed all over our newsfeeds, our communities, and beyond is to check-in with how WE are showing up. Not “them.”
I truly don’t care about your politics, but I do know we all have to better. We need to be better listeners. We need to practice empathy. We need to check our emotions and guide them towards a “neutral” place. More meaningful conversation, more understanding, less rash decision making come from neutral, not from anger or hate or frustration. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes:
“In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease.”
You might remember this practice, ahimsa, from former letters. What does this mean? This means that when we bring pain or harm to another, suffering is inevitable. And, don’t we see that right now? It’s all over. When people spread anger or fear or name-call, more of it spreads. Our emotions, our actions are contagious in that way.
But similarly, when you and I are firmly committed to ahimsa [practicing peace], harmony is created bit by bit. Maybe not right away, but over time YOUR example sets the tone for how people interact with you. And, so on and so on. Hate spreads hate. More hate does not equal more love or understanding.
You guys, I will admit, I feel all the feelings when I read and watch the news. But, as yoga students, it’s our duty to understand what is happening in the world. Not to drown in it, but to understand. To take action and set a tone for others based on what is happening. We cannot get swept up into the hate. Our practice - one of connection, compassion, awareness, peace, understanding - can change entire communities, countries, continents. Make no mistake about it. It already does.
I hope this letter inspires you. I hope it helps you to remember that on days when you feel like there is nothing you can do that, oh my dear, you CAN. You can remember that our first guiding principle in practice is peace. Listen to understand, not to be understood. Check yourself before firing off messages or posts that come from hate. Become aware of how you talk about certain situations.
It’s okay to have differing opinions. It’s not okay to cause intentional pain to another. It’s okay to believe in something so strongly it hurts. It’s not okay to name call to make another feel bad about their position. It’s okay to think that practicing ahimsa can be hard. But, remember that love spreads love. Roll out your mat today. Meditate for five minutes. Come back to a neutral, calm place. Let it radiate outwards. We need you. We need love.
Friends, I would love to hear from you today. How are you? How are you working through a challenging time? What are you doing to create love and awareness at home? The office? Your community? How can I help? I love hearing from you. Your words mean so very much to me.
Missing the Lewisburg community already…
P.S. If this letter helped you take a deep breath, would you share it with another? Another who may be struggling or feeling the weight of anger and judgement today? The practice of Ahimsa is too good not to be shared.