I’ve got my issues with the label “activist,” even as I’ve had my doubts about Yoga as a hip way to look and feel better. Yet in their ideal form, Yoga and Activism are inextricably linked by the spiritual truth of ALL ONE and the scientific theory of quantum entanglement: to SEE love in the world I must BE love. By using Yoga as a tool to access and live out my unique cellular truth (my Dharma) to my best and fullest, I am doing my part to bring harmony to my collective.
Long before I found Yoga I was deeply inspired to work toward social justice. I was a 21 year old senior about to graduate from Harvard and I had a lot to learn about how to live out my own Dharma. I had decided to stay on campus for spring break instead of going into even deeper debt to celebrate in Cancun. One of those morning in the first crisp rays of sun after a long New England winter, I had my first experience with plant medicine. Psychedelic mushrooms and a journey along the Charles river helped me understand how my urge to help could sometimes do more harm than good.
Of all the things I learned on that journey down the river, the most poignant lesson came from a goose - or geese rather. Meandering along the bank into one particularly isolated wooded nook we saw two big geese beating on and biting a third smaller goose. Filled with empathic fury by this horrible injustice, I grabbed a long stick and began to beat away the attackers.
Imagine my consternation when all three geese suddenly turned on us. As Ed and I backed away we were unnerved to realize that the only way out was back along the narrow path we had come in on. We hadn’t noticed all the nesting geese before, but now all 50 of them began honking menacingly. With threatening wingbeats and beak jabs the flock came together as one, forcing us to beat a hasty retreat.
The effects of this personal shift are palpable, as I build deeper relationships and inspire respect, even as my sphere of influence expands. This outer growth would not be possible without inner growth, just as my inner growth has been fueled and guided by my experiences with communities and relationships with dedicated leaders.
I understand that my path is but one of many: it is quite common to see links between Yoga and Activism. As it was for me in the beginning, the yoga practice can sometimes be superficial and lead to a heightened ego leading to quite painful lessons. Likewise there are many instances of Activism generating more dissonance than it resolves. Yet any action can eventually lead to greater harmony and consciousness, even if it requires conflict to get there.
There are many beautiful examples in the world today of Yoga as Activism creating simultaneous inner and collective harmony. In fact, I have the immense honor to be moderating a panel of five Yoginis who embody this concept at the upcoming Envision festival in Costa Rica. Take a look at what they’re working on:
- Jessi Luna: Kula Collective Karma Program, Justa Collective
- Jessica Robertson: - Founder of Moksha Yoga Canada and the New Leaf Yoga Foundation
- Sianna Sherman: - http://www.siannasherman.com/
- Kali Basman: Yoga Gives Back and Visionaria Peru
- Adi Demaree Liederbach: Founder of Passion Yoga School
What do you think about Yoga as Activism? Please share your thoughts and we’ll see they get incorporated into our discussion. If you make it to Envision, make sure you join us at the Village Stage on Saturday February 27th from 2:45-4:15pm.
Looking for more?
Here's more on my work on creative visioning and strategic planning with diverse stakeholder groups: Caracol Consulting.
And here's a beautiful reflection on the relationship between Yoga and Activism.