26 Nov 2014

Why Yogis Should Care About Ferguson

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As I talked about my feelings about the decision in Ferguson, MO this week, as I lamented my feelings of helplessness and wondered out loud what more I could do, I was stunned into silence as someone in my yoga 000_453492516.siworld told me, “You need to stay out of it. This isn’t your fight.”

I disagree. This is my fight. This is everyone’s fight. And I want more yogis to be as angry about it as I am.

Yogis often run from anger. We regard it as dark and unenlightened. We avoid it because we think it is the opposite of the floating-on-the-clouds, lovey-dovey types we think we’re supposed to be. This is a narrow view of anger. Anger can be fierce and righteous and motivating. Think of the goddess Kali. Think of Jesus in the temple, turning over tables. Anger has its place on the path to enlightenment. Anger points us to the places in which shadow can and must be turned to light.

I’m not angry about the decision in Ferguson because I know whether Michael Brown was or wasn’t antagonizing the police officer. I wasn’t there. I’m not angry because I know that he was a “good kid.” I never met him. I’m not angry because I think the police officer was corrupt or poorly trained. I’ve never met him either.

I’m angry because Michael Brown’s life was treated as unimportant, because the grand jury decided his death wasn’t even worth looking into in the court of law. I’m angry because, as a yogi, I know that all lives are connected. I’m angry because the devaluing of Michael Brown’s life might as well be the devaluing of my life and the lives of everyone I love.

Michael Brown was a human being, just like me. He had flaws (no more than I do, I assure you). He loved his family. He laughed about things he found funny. He probably worried about the future, just like we all do at some point. He had friends, a favorite color, and hopes and dreams. He felt all the things I’ve felt: joy, sadness, longing, anger, and fear.

If I am truly to believe the yogic teachings–the ones I espouse in my classes and workshops week after week–all beings are One. All beings are manifestations of the Divine, none greater or lesser than any other, and we are all interconnected on a deeper and higher level than we can fathom. To say that Michael Brown’s death doesn’t deserve a day in court–to say that this one death is dismissible–is to say that all lives are meaningless. If one life can be treated so callously, no lives are sacred.

And that makes me angry.

Gandhi said, “I regard myself as a soldier of peace.” Yogis, we must be foot soldiers in the fight for equality, which mahatma-gandhiultimately is the fight for the honoring of divinity of all beings. I’m not asking you to take to the streets or engage in acts of extremism. But we simply have to stop being so passive. Yogis are uniquely suited to recognize injustice. We are over 30 million strong in the United States alone, many of us well-educated and blessed with leisure time and disposable income. We have a strong and meaningful voice in this country, and it’s time we begin to mobilize and use it.

As you watch the events in Ferguson unfold, do not sit and wring your hands and hide behind passivity in the name of being spiritual. Make a meditation of writing letters to the editor or to your lawmakers. Organize peaceful protests in the tradition of great spiritual leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Show up to rallies with the same intention and grace you do to your mat.

Let’s be soldiers of peace. This is our fight, too.


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One Response to “Why Yogis Should Care About Ferguson”

  1. Kim Drye says:

    I just read this–and RIGHT THE EFF ON! <3