I am a householder yoga practitioner and I have two ‘jobs’ I shall never retire from: Motherhood and teaching yoga. The community studio I co-founded in October 2001 with my friend Sarah Church on the heels of 9/11 was originally inspired to help us reframe the ideology of super-mom-hood so that we could be good and present parents to our children, preserve our own sense of self-worth AND stay sane in a crazy world.
Now, on the heels of COVID-19, I must reframe my understanding of the privilege I hold as a white person in America and extend all that I have learned from my yoga through the decades to help reconstruct the social-cultural scaffolding upon which faulty systems are faltering and black, American, bodies are being exploited out of all proportion. As much as we may want to hold on to the past, it is clear to me there is no ‘going back to normal’. I am not disabused of the fact of my white privilege. I am not disabused of the fact that I have not lived a single day of my life under the threat imposed by a disenfranchised existence. And I am not disabused of the fact that I am part of a system that, on the surface, serves me – as long as I agree to subscribe to living at the level of platitudes.
I do not agree with the system. It isn’t equitable and it doesn’t work. And I gave up on platitudes a long time ago, during my divorce, so deceived was I by this system of justice that wants me to believe it is actually just. How about we strive and commit to doing a very deep dive into ourselves to see how we are contributing to these systems that only seem to serve those who uphold them? Yes, we’ll flounder in doing so – we always have and we always will because we are human. Let’s not take it personally. Instead, let us do the work of looking good and hard at how our own mind colors the world we all share – inequitably. We are at a turning point in the history of the human race. How can we best contribute to a necessary shift of the status quo in yoga and other realms moving forward? We are all part of the community, part of the problem, and part of the solution. We own the responsibility of doing the work. If there ever was a time to take courage in change, this is it. ALL of who we are is who we are. So. Who do we want to be?
My father taught me many of life’s important lessons, like how to treat all people with the same kind of regard for their humanity no matter their circumstance or presentation. My mother taught me to value my family, in hardship, heartache and health. Family, says Jack Kornfield, is the mirror in which all our wounds, as well as our blind spots, get magnified. Family, it turns out, can mean quite literally the (tribal) family; it can also mean our place of work; our community; our circle of friends; the family of muscles and bones and connective tissues and cellular memories that make up the realm of our very human body. And while the yoga mat is a worthy place to experiment with physical ability, discernment and consciousness, we are called now more than ever before to take this awareness and understanding of our body, our self and our exquisite uniqueness off the mat into all of our relationships and into action in the world. The world requires more than ever before that each conscious contender step into the heart of conflict, engage in conversations that matter and take actions that will shift the dynamic from weakness to strength, negative to positive, from self-preoccupation to self-awareness, from self-absorption to compassion.
So, if you don’t have a yoga mat, who cares? A carpet or towel will do just fine, and I’ll teach you online. And if there is some way I might be of service to you or your organization, let me ask you this: How may I help?
Read more about Nicole’s personal story on Boston Voyager