Feb 4, 2020

Forgive, but don't forget


There is freedom in forgiveness. 

Forgive yourself for how you’ve harmed others. Forgive yourself for how you’ve harmed yourself. Forgive others for how they’ve harmed you. Forgive others for how they’ve harmed the collective. 

This is big. There is so much to unpack in each of these statements. Perhaps starting with how I have caused harm to others. Today, I am inviting you into my current process of forgiveness. 

The first step to forgive myself for how I’ve caused (and am causing) harm is awareness. Actually recognizing where and how I have caused harm. As someone with very close proximity to power and privilege it is really easy to ignore the ways I have caused harm. But, I am working hard not to do this. It’s not a perfect path, it’s messy. But, I’m committed to laying down my ego and being profoundly honest with myself. 

I’ve been steeped in this conversation around the cultural appropriation of yoga over the past year or so. It’s a necessary conversation. It’s a hard conversation. I’m a white, US American yoga teacher. I train other yoga teachers. This practice has saved my life. It’s transformed my entire way of being in the world. It is sacred to me. And it’s not mine. 

I’m passionate about social justice. I’ve done a lot of work around my own complacency and complicity in systemic oppression, especially around racism. I’ve studied and taught anti-racism and committed to doing better. Although I know that I am not perfect, I’ve also pointed my finger at a lot of other people. I’ve been enraged. I’ve spent plenty of time on my soapbox. 

This conversation around the cultural appropriation of yoga is a lot more personal because the finger has to turn to point at me. And it’s hard. There’s guilt. There’s shame. There’s embarrassment. I want to run away and pretend I don’t know the truth. I want to bypass this conversation and simply say it’s not important. And privilege absolutely allows me to do that if I want to. 

But, decolonizing yoga is important. I know it is. I can feel it in my body. And if I say I stand for justice this is a huge part of that. The erasure of a whole group of people. The taking of rituals, ceremonies, practices without honoring where it came from and it’s indigenous roots is violence. It is not ahimsa. It is not satya. 

I know that shame doesn’t benefit anyone. It is not useful. It leaves us stagnant or too paralyzed to make the necessary changes to do better. 

So, I’m listening. I’m listening to the people who are sharing their hurt, their rage, their disgust at what has become of a way of life and a practice that is sacred to them and their people. I ground and breathe while I am being called into this conversation and called up to do better. I stay on the path. I practice ahimsa, non-harming. I practice satya, honesty. By asking myself the hard questions and answering them with vulnerability, humility and profound honesty. 

Where have I caused harm? Where am I causing harm?

It doesn’t matter what my intention was or is. Intent does not equal impact and it is my responsibility to acknowledge the harm, the impact, and then to do better. To repair relationships when necessary. And then to forgive myself for the ways in which Whiteness and Colonialism have shaped who I am. 

Forgiving myself frees me up to take in new information without my ego getting in the way. And when presented with new information, if I can listen and hear beyond my limited lens I can then do better. This is a life long process. This is yoga. 

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