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Beyond Appropriation: a letter to my fellow white yoga teachers

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It’s time for me to quit teaching yoga. It’s time for most white people to quit teaching, and potentially to quit practicing the colonized tradition that we have come to call yoga altogether.

Over the decade that I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the appropriative nature of yoga, but the conversation I’ve been having with myself about it misses the point. The current online conversation white people are having about cultural appropriation (recently, notably @yogagirl) is no better.

Is it racist, we ask ourselves, to be a white person teaching yoga? Is it cultural appropriation? Do we have the right, as white people from the United States, to teach a physical and spiritual practice that originates with brown people, Hindus on a subcontinent on the other side of the globe?

This conversation spins its wheels without any traction or forward motion. It stays firmly in the lane of acceptability and performativity instead of transformation or reconciliation.

What needs to be reconciled is our relationship as white people with our outsized racial entitlement. What needs to be transformed is our cultural and somatic bereftness.

We must have a more nuanced and impactful conversation about cultural appropriation than the one we’ve been having. Side note: I’ve been grappling with how to have this conversation in a way that doesn’t spotlight me. To showcase my process publicly is inherently performative. It’s tricky work to interrupt whiteness--in order for it to diminish, we have to look at it squarely: what it is, how it works, and how to unbind ourselves from its toxic tentacles.

My attempt here is not to center whiteness, but to center it’s dissolution. And whiteness doesn’t go away by pretending it’s not there. In order to talk about how to untether ourselves from white supremacy, we have to talk about whiteness. There’s no un-problematic way to do it.

Many other people all over the internet--namely people of color--have already explained very well why white people doing yoga is usually appropriation. If that’s information that you need, you can start here with Roopa Singh or here with nisha ahuja. I’m writing this not because we need another explanation but because we seem not to believe them.

The question of “Is yoga cultural appropriation?” has always felt more complex to me than, for instance, “Is wearing a bindi cultural appropriation?,” because it is more complex. Esoteric spiritual practices are ostensibly more difficult to parse than a hairstyle or body adornment. Yoga’s history is complicated, I told myself and my students; BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois wanted westerners to practice yoga. Didn’t they explicitly invite us in? Wasn’t this the definition of cultural sharing? Couldn’t I appreciate yoga, rather than appropriate it?

My "lineage" as a yoga teacher is that I don’t have one. I wasn’t invited in by anyone with the authority to do so. Few of my teachers have any deliberate connection to the roots of yoga, to Hinduism or India, or to Desi teachers. (Desi describes people of the Indian subcontinent and their diaspora.) My teachers are mostly white people taught by white people who learned yoga from other white people. What I've studied and taught is a mishmash of yogic philosophy, New Age spirituality, and pop psychology. But I have been willing to take this diluted practice out into my community under the banner of liberation.

The truth is, I have practiced and taught yoga because frankly, it felt good and I liked it. White people have largely lost our connection to all of our ancestral embodied and spiritual practices. Yoga filled the void left by centuries of cultural bereftness and racial assimilation. Practicing yoga brought me a strong body, a stable mind, and a spirit that felt connected to something larger. Teaching yoga brought me a sense of meaningful work, a robust community of dedicated students, and enough money to pay my bills. No wonder I liked it.

But this year, things started to change. For a variety of reasons (changes in the neighborhood, more yoga studios opening in town, etc), attendance at my classes, which had once been full to bursting, started waning. My income from yoga sharply decreased, sometimes not even enough to cover my rent at the studio. While I’ve never been in the business of yoga strictly for the money, I started to wonder: was it even worth it anymore?

Writer and scholar Ibram Kendi says, “the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.”

This statement indicts me, and perhaps you too, fellow white yoga teacher. I’ve maintained my connection to yoga because it was in my economic and cultural self-interest to do so. As long as my yoga classes were full and my income from teaching was substantial enough, I was unable, or perhaps more accurately, unwilling to look deeper at the nagging misgivings I’ve always had.

For years I tried to ameliorate these contradictions by bringing my social justice background into my teachings. I gave dharma talks about patriarchy and systemic racism. I taught self-described “sliding scale, consent-based, and body positive” yoga classes. I framed up what I taught as liberatory, because I was at least making a concerted effort to push back against a system that centers rich, skinny, white women and caters to spiritual bypassing of the love-and-light variety. For a time, this framing helped to assuage my cognitive dissonance, but these mental gymnastics are all answering that same basic question:

“Is this appropriation? Is this racist? Am I allowed to do this?”

It’s not like I didn’t know that being a white person teaching yoga was problematic. I’d been called out publically for it by strangers on the internet who said yoga wasn’t mine to teach. “I’m not like those other yoga teachers,” I protested.

An Indian-American friend had privately expressed discomfort about my teaching yoga years ago. She suggested I teach “mindful movement” instead of yoga. “Isn’t that just more white-washing?,” I refuted.

I read Andi Grace’s essays about quitting yoga way back in 2014. “That’s not about me,” I told myself.  

Even my own students raised their concerns to me, asking for explanations of why we chant OM, why we say namaste, why we practice yoga at all. “Doesn’t asteya mean non-stealing?,” they queried. I ignored their input, not because of hatred or ignorance, as Ibram Kendi explains, but because of (financial, cultural, spiritual) self-interest.

That this is the culture we were raised within is not my fault, or your fault either, white reader. The systems that privilege us long precede us. Yet it is no one else’s responsibility but mine for me to stop my willful participation in the perpetuation of white supremacist culture. I have known all along, on some level, that my teaching yoga was cultural appropriation--and I was willing to do it anyway. Let me say that again: I knew it wasn’t right, and I was willing to do it anyway. My ethics got much less principled when I had something to gain from bending them.

This is how white supremacy replicates itself: quietly, selfishly, and with all good intentions.

As I announced last week, I’m quitting teaching yoga.

I am deeply sorry for the ways my participation in white yoga culture has harmed Desi people. I am particularly sorry to those who took the time and energy to point out my errors to no avail. I am sorry my own self-interest got in the way of my willingness to look deeply at myself. I am working to do better. I am committed to continuing this conversation in the communities I’m part of. This writing, hopefully, is a part of that.

Please, white readers, don’t rush to defend me against myself. This isn’t about beating myself up—this is about lovingly holding myself to a higher standard, the standard that people of color have been trying to hold me to for years already. I am capable. I am not fragile. Neither are you.

I hold a vision of liberation in which complicity isn’t connected to dehumanization and disposability, in which we can see ourselves as fully human despite our mistakes, in which our humanity is increased, not diminished, by our willingness to take accountability for our missteps. (Deep bow to Black feminist scholar bell hooks for this profound framing.)

I’m no longer interested in conversations about the finer points of cultural appropriation. I don’t want to toe the line or trade in technicalities. We can’t get waylaid with “Do white people have the right to teach yoga?” anymore. I’ve been engaged in that conversation for years now, and precious little changes from having it, save marginally soothing my own white guilt.

We have set the bar far too low for ourselves.

Some questions I am asking myself instead are:  

Is teaching yoga moving my community in the direction of liberation?

Is teaching yoga the most useful contribution I can make towards a more liberated world?

Is teaching yoga actively helping to dismantle the white supremacist system we live within?  

For me, the answer to these question is a clear and resounding NO.

Some other questions I’m asking myself are:

What am I unwilling to see because it’s in my self-interest to ignore it?

How is my unchecked entitlement making me unable to see the impact of my actions?

What do I keep doing because I like it, because I want to, because it seems impossible to quit?

What are the spiritual and embodied practices that come from my own European ancestry?

How can I actively divest myself from practices that don’t belong to me?

What am I willing to give up in order to dismantle white supremacy?

Look at our foolishness, y’all. Look at the futility of trying to be liberatory in a colonized and appropriated practice. Look at all we must willfully ignore in order to live with that contradiction.

If you care about this work, take this conversation offline and into your own communities. Talk about it at the dinner table. Discuss it at your yoga studio. Support SAAPYA and other South Asian activist groups. Pay back your profits through reparations to Desi people. But most importantly (for white people), get off the spiritual practices that were never ours and can never be ours.

It’s clear that my quitting yoga doesn’t create massive change; it’s one small action taken by one single person. But perhaps we can begin to shift a larger paradigm, one that says that we are entitled to have whichever spiritual practices we please, even if it harms other people, that says that we can take and use what we want, however we want, because what we want is already ours.

This essay isn’t actually about yoga. It’s about the better questions we have to ask ourselves as white people if we actually want to interrupt the status quo. It’s about the ways we’re being called to divest from the systems that privilege us. It’s about imagining a future where we can see clearly that what’s truly in our own self-interest is to work for the liberation of all people, especially when it seems that it’s at our own expense.

When we start to talk about this shift, about what we must renounce, that’s potentially a sea change. When white people can have honest conversations about what we must relinquish, what we must give back that was never ours to take, we may finally begin to move in the direction of true liberation.

Because no matter how you spin it, there’s no liberation in cultural appropriation.

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a letter to my yoga students

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Hello dear ones,

This is a hard post for me to write.

Whew.

Deep breath.

Okay.

Starting in November, I’ll no longer be teaching yoga at Yoga Bywater (or anywhere.)

I’ve been a yoga teacher for 9 years now, and the decision to quit teaching is not one I’ve taken lightly. I’ve been exploring the idea for nearly a year now, toying with ways to teach differently or teach less in an effort to bring my work back into alignment. But none of those have quelled my anxiety about continuing to teach.

My classes at Yoga Bywater are being passed over to the loving care of Tracey Duncan (Tuesdays at 6pm) and Lisa Dunn (Sundays at 11am). I’ll be at the studio teaching my classes until the end of October, so come on through for one last class this month if you like. I’d love to see all y’all’s faces!

The answer as to why I’m quitting is complex and not succinctly summarized.

The first answer is that I’m quitting yoga in order to focus on other areas of my work. Writing, life coaching, and teaching courses have been on the back burner to varying degrees. I’m so very excited to be able to turn my energy more fully towards them. Know that I’m not going anywhere--I’ll keep writing blog posts and showing up on social media and this newsletter will continue to go out (in a new, revamped form!) And in fact, I hope to be showing up in all those spaces more than ever.

Another brutally honest piece of the puzzle of why I’m quitting is that I'm no longer making enough money for it to be financially sustainable. 

My once-thriving classes with 20+ students on a regular basis have shrunk to single digits in attendance. Though I’ve never been a yoga teacher solely for the money, I also can’t justify teaching classes where I make $15. Because capitalism. You might be wondering, Where did all my students go?

The yoga scene in New Orleans is wildly different from how it was in 2009, when I first started teaching. The abundance of studios around town, not to mention the multitude of options for cheap classes, are at least partially to blame. Yoga Bywater had the corner on the cheap yoga market for some years, but now there’s free yoga somewhere nearly every day of the week and most studios offer pay-what-you-can classes on their regular schedule. This is great for accessible yoga in general; not as great for my bank account. 

The Bywater neighborhood has changed: because of sky-high rent and Airbnb, fewer and fewer of my students actually live in the neighborhood where the studio is, and convenience is a major factor in what gets people to show up for class. My teaching has also changed: I’ve become less and less interested in teaching typical vinyasa flow classes, and the percentage of potential students who want to partake of my particular mash-up of functional movement, yoga and meditation is slim.

The longer answer about why I’m quitting is way, way more complicated.

I've been doing a lot of deep digging about what it means for me to be white and teaching yoga in the US in 2018. I’ll be publishing an essay next week that goes into greater detail about all of this, but the gist of it is that I've grown increasingly uncomfortable being a white person teaching yoga to other white people. Deciding to quit teaching has provided me with a profound sense of relief about this moral quandary I’ve been trying to parse for all my years teaching yoga. Stay tuned next week for a lot more thoughts about all of this.

For now, I’m profoundly grateful to you all, the web of connections we’ve woven over the past 9 years. Thank you for being alongside me as I’ve grown as a yoga teacher. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to hold space for you, to be in community with you.

I’ve got nothing but gratitude for y’all.

Much much much love,
Bear

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healing is hard work

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Hello dear ones,

I’ve been gone a lot this summer. Not physically, I’ve almost entirely been in New Orleans, but emotionally, spiritually, I’ve been gone from this space. I’ve still been working with my coaching clients every week, but largely I’ve been absent from showing up for this weekly newsletter.

For nearly three years, I diligently sent out this newsletter weekly. I wrote blog posts and rounded up links and wrote heartfelt missives every week. I was committed to this space in a deep and loving way. But for the past few months, my energy has been elsewhere.

I’ve been doing some really deep work, y’all. Dredging up old wounds, cutting off toxic relationships, tending to my deepest pains. Learning to let go of perfection. To take a different tone. To love myself with relentless tenderness.

There have been a lot of tears. Like, so many tears. Copious and free-flowing. There’s been a lot of laying belly-down in the grass and just letting the earth hold me. There’ve been a number of late night phone calls to friends when I just.can’t.stop.crying.

Part of what’s been happening is tending to the past, the unacknowledged, the denied, the “it-wasn’t-that-bad” parts of myself. Looking at it all and saying, yes, this happened, and yes, it fucked me up. Now what?

I’m sharing all of this not as a bid for care--you don’t need to email me and ask if I’m okay--but as an exercise in radical transparency. (For the record, I am being held in such profound ways by a robust community of friends and lovers and loved ones. And my 12-step people. And my therapist. And the old mama oak trees and the moon. I am well taken care of, trust me.)

And part of what’s been happening is a re-envisioning of what I’m doing in the world, of what makes my life meaningful, of who I am at a core level. Looking at myself and saying, yes, I’m worthy of a glorious life, and no, it probably doesn’t look like anything I’ve done before, and yes, it’s time to GO GET THAT SHIT.

So much of what I do in terms of business is closely adjacent to who I am, so it’s no surprise, I guess, that with all this shifting inside ME, things are also shifting in MY WORK.

I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks about what these shifts will look like on a practical level, but for now I wanted to simply say hi, I’m still here. I am growing and it’s painful and beautiful all at once.

I’m inspired more than ever to keep showing up for myself and for us. I’ve been writing like mad, words flowing out unprompted at all hours of day and night. Big, core-shaking thoughts, and I can’t wait to share them all with you.

I so appreciate that you’re here with me on this path towards transforming ourselves and transforming the world. More big changes are on the way.

Much love, 
Bear
 

P.S. This seems like a good time to say, if that’s not what you’re here for, there are no hard feelings if it’s time for you to opt out. That unsubscribe button is there for a reason. 

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how being flaky sets you free

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A couple of weeks ago I published a post about being flaky. Did you read it?

It seems like it really got the wheels spinning for some of you, because I got so much interesting feedback about it!

The gist of the post (which you can read in full over here) is that in very many situations,  it's totally okay to put your own needs first, even if it might inconvenience someone else. It's okay to back out of something you said you wanted if you end up not wanting it later.

It's worth noting that there are some situations where flaking out or changing your mind isn't advisable or morally okay. If you're parenting, for instance, or caring for sick people, it's not okay to "flake out" on those duties unless you've made sure someone trustworthy is fulfilling them in your stead. This post also isn’t intended to make excuses for you to back out of social justice commitments if you’re in a position of privilege in the work.

But here's the thing--in order for this being flaky thing to work, there has to be clear and direct communication. Being flaky without communicating just makes you a lazy coward, and that is not who you are.

Saying clearly and directly to someone, "I know I said I would do xyz thing with you, but now I can't," is actually a very hardworking and brave thing to do. It frees you from doing things you aren't up for, and it frees your friend from having to deal with your reluctant, resentful self.  

A reader sent me an anecdote in response to this post that made me happy. Dear reader had plans with a friend to see a movie later; together they ran into a third friend and invited him along. He gleefully thanked them for the invitation and said, "If I don't come, it's because I didn't want to."

Everyone laughed at his honesty. How refreshing to know that if someone is with you, it's because they want to be there! And if they're not around, you don't have to take it personally. This is the kind of freedom that true boundaries create.

However, knowing that you can back out isn't an excuse to make commitments you know you can't keep. The clarity and directness you need to tell a friend you need to change your mind is also needed to tell yourself what you're really up for.

By becoming more skillful at knowing what you need, what you want, and what you have to offer, the number of times you'll have to be flaky will drastically decrease. Win-win.

None of this is to say that we can just be careless in the way we treat those around us. Being generally predictable is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. Relationships that have some degree of stability are much more able to weather the moments of unpredictability.

And it's also not to say that being flaky doesn't have consequences. If the people you're in relationships with feel consistently neglected or disregarded by you, they may not want to be in relationship with you for very long.

This same skillfullness also helps you to see clearly when the level of someone else's commitment is workable for you. If someone else wants to spend a ton of time with you, but you don't feel the same way, being able to see the mismatch of your needs and then communicate clearly and directly about it (are you seeing the theme here?) is crucial behavior for not being a lazy coward.

And being able to see when that's a dealbreaker for you is so liberating. It may be painful, yes, to come to terms with the fact that a friend or lover simply can't reciprocate in the ways you wish they could, or vice versa. But when you're able to see what does and doesn't work for you, it's that much simpler to walk away.

Much love, 

Bear


 

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why i'm proud of being flaky

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Why do we value reliability over honesty?

So many of us, particularly those of us socialized female, have a tendency to always put the needs of others first. We’ve been trained to value being reliable and keeping our word above all else. I hear it over and over again from my coaching clients:

“I’d rather not go to that meeting/party/playdate/etc---BUT I said I would, soooooo....”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s never important to put on some #actualpants and show up for the people you’re close to. And for those with kids or other dependents, what you feel like doing isn’t always relevant.

But in so many other cases, we police ourselves and in each other into doing shit we don’t want to do.

For example, I agreed to go on a trip to Mexico this summer with a dear friend. We decided spontaneously over a glass of wine at the neighborhood wine shop. The plane tickets were so cheap that we bought them on the spot.

But in the weeks since then, I waffled. When I thought about going on this trip, I didn’t feel excited. I felt anxious. I felt “off.” It wasn’t personal to her at all, but to me, all my reasons still felt like frivolous justifications.

“I can’t just back out of this trip! We’re travelling internationally! We bought the plane tickets already. She’ll be so disappointed if I don’t go. What kind of a terrible friend am I??” etc etc. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling: I didn’t want to go. So finally, I called my friend.

“I can’t go to Mexico. I want to want to go, but I just don’t.”

She was surprised and sad and disappointed. But it was okay. She called our other travel companion to regroup, and texted later to let me know that everything was cool between us. #goodfriend

What kind of world is it if we value doing what you said you would do three weeks ago over  doing what feels like the right thing to do in this moment? Who benefits when we value reliability over authenticity?

Valuing reliability over all else relates to patriarchy, rape culture, and ableism.

In terms of patriarchy: women are taught to prioritize the needs of others over ourselves. Women are never the center of our own story. That’s not to say that men can’t or wouldn’t sacrifice themselves for others, but when they do, it’s seen as heroic, whereas when women do it, it’s seen as expected, natural, par for the course.

So when we value showing up for something simply to preserve the feelings of other people, we’re upholding that patriarchal position.

The subtle coerciveness of rape culture is based on (among other things) the assumption that consent is irrevocable. If you said you wanted to do whatever-sexy-act last week or ten minutes ago, you’re not supposed to change your mind. Changing your mind is an affront to the desires of the other person, thus, your desires are secondary. (See point #1.)

But consent culture says we’re allowed to say yes now and say no five minutes from now.

We’re allowed to change our minds. We’re allowed to back out.

Ableism presumes that your abilities stay basically the same from day to day, but for folks with disabilities, chronic illness or mental health issues, this isn’t true. Heck, it’s not true even for those of us that are (currently) able-bodied. What’s possible right now, in today’s body and mind, may or may not be possible in three hours or three days or three weeks.
 

The ability to say yes and then change one’s mind without social penalty is crucial for creating communities that are welcoming for differently-abled people.

So being flaky, aka, being okay with backing out of something you previously agreed to, might actually be the best thing you can do for yourself.

And get this, it might actually be better for the person on the other end of your agreement too. Because here’s the thing--when someone shows up to something out of obligation, YOU CAN TELL. It’s often apparent when there’s no enthusiasm.

I’m not saying to bail on people with no warning. I’m not saying to ghost your lover or no-show on your BFF. But with clear, direct communication, you can respectfully state your needs and your boundaries and do what you really need to do.

Yes, someone else might be sad that you couldn’t make it. It might put your coworker in a tizzy for a minute. But if these people really want what’s best for you, they’ll trust that you know what that is, even if it’s inconvenient or disappointing for them.

The idea that we have to prioritize other people’s feelings over our own well being--I’m through with it. It’s bullshit, and it doesn’t serve us anymore.

Here’s to unpacking coercive, ableist norms.

It makes the world better, easier, and more liberated, not just for women or disabled people, but for ALL OF US.

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On Healing A Wound

EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!


•It takes as long as it takes. You can try to rush it but it doesn’t work. ⠀

•It will probably take longer than you want. ⠀

•It feels boring sometimes, and tiresome. Do it anyway. ⠀

•When you feel confused it’s because you’re avoiding seeing or dealing with something. Confusion is your ego’s way of protecting you from a painful truth. ⠀

•If you can’t see what the truth is, you’re not ready. ⠀

•You can try to skip healing, but it makes you into a lazy coward. And you are not a lazy coward. You are hardworking and brave. ⠀

•Forgiveness can’t be forced. You can’t forgive someone because they want you to. ⠀

•At it’s best, forgiveness is partners with accountability. But most of the time, forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with your own work. ⠀

•When there is no accountability and forgiveness seems impossible, acceptance is a good first step. Just work on accepting that the truth is true. Accept your feelings as true and valid. Accept that harm has been done. Accept the reality of your pain.

•That’s enough for now. 

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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The Names We Call Ourselves

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EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

Fat. Ugly. Boring. Stupid. Crazy. Lazy. Selfish. Liar.

Do these words feel shocking?? Would you ever call someone else a fat ugly boring stupid crazy lazy selfish liar? Probably not. (I hope not!!)

When I taught Affirmations for Assholes in January,  everyone wrote down the adjectives they use to beat themselves up.

What do you say to yourself when you feel bad about yourself? What are the words you use to judge yourself?

Then we shared them together so we're able to get those words off the page and out of our brains and out into the open.

That list up there is the words that more than half of the participants wrote down.

UGH. I hate that list. I hate that we feel this way about ourselves.

But there is power in sharing how we feel.

Part of the power of coming together with other people in community (side note: I know that community can feel like such an overused buzzword that it’s almost devoid of meaning), when we are in intentional space with other people, we’re given a lens into the systemic and structural issues that are playing out inside our brains.

When you are alone, it often feels like the issues and problems that are coming up for you are because of your own personal failure, your individual defects, your deficiencies.

But when you’re in a room with other people, you start to see that everyone is experiencing some semblance of the same types of failures, the same types of struggles, the same types of roadblocks. Everyone calls themself the same names as you.

Everyone else thinks they’re ugly and boring and lazy too.

Once you notice the similarities, you’re left with two choices: either everybody in this room just happens to be a bunch of hideous, uninteresting, unaccomplished human beings OR there is something systemic going on that encourages us to feel that way about ourselves.

It’s not hard to see how these adjectives are very directly tied to systemic oppression.

Capitalist and puritanical ideals about work and productivity inform our sense of ourselves as lazy. Patriarchal and racist standards of beauty are thrown at us daily from all forms of media, confirming our suspicions that we’re aesthetically subpar.

(Side note: I don’t ascribe to the idea that fat is an insult! People certainly use it that way, but fat is simply a descriptor that could be neutral if we lived in a different culture that didn’t have such rigid rules about what bodies are acceptable and what bodies are to be shamed and disciplined. Read Dr. Roxane Gay for more on this! )

(Also also, crazy is a word that upholds ableist and neurotypical ideals about mental health. It's messed up that we use this pejoratively!)

So when we come together, we can start to untangle the ways that our own inner voices are hijacked by the narratives of the dominant culture. When we can see the outer influence, we can start to hear our own inner kindness a little more clearly.

“Remember: Oppression thrives off isolation. Connection is the only thing that can save us.” -Yolo Akili

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. Registration closes for Affirmations for Assholes tomorrow! This course is offered online, so it's available from everywhere. In one month, you'll excavate and rewrite the terrible narratives you tell yourself, in the container of a loving community, with support from me! All the details are over here: bearteachesyoga.org/a4a or just click the image below! 

 



 

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What I learned from being (temporarily) very busy

EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

I was way busier than normal over the course of the last two months, and lemme tell ya, I learned some things.

What was I so busy with? I was co-producing an immersive theater show about family, ancestry and white supremacy. Every night we hosted 25 people around our forty-foot-long table to see the show, eat a meal, and share in conversation about the themes of the performance.

It was about 7 hours of my time (and like, triple that in energy) every night for two weeks, not to mention all the running around and late nights and early mornings and short fuses and minor crises of the two months that preceded opening night. I learned lots about race and whiteness, got some new skills in facilitating difficult conversations, and gained lots of knowledge about producing avant-garde theater.

But unsurprisingly, I also learned a lot about myself in all of this busyness. Here’s some of it:

1. When I’m very busy, I quit taking care of myself.

Instead of letting go of the actually extraneous things (scrolling Instagram, for instance), I let go of the things that keep me sane and happy. First I quit seeing my friends, quit going for walks, quit going outside to look at the sky (can’t stop, too busy!!). Then I quit cooking for myself, doing laundry, making the bed, etc.

By the end of May I was wearing the same outfit for three days at a time and eating frozen dumplings for dinner at 1:30 in the morning. Not cute.
 

2. I relied waaaaaaaaayyyyy more on caffeine and alcohol than I usually do.

I’ve been off of coffee for about five years now (Email me if you wanna talk more about this--it drastically improved my anxiety symptoms). I generally drink alcohol once a week or so, sometimes a little more, often much less. Though I don’t drink coffee, I do sometimes use caffeine recreationally (afternoon chai latte is me living on the edge).

But in May, I was drinking tea most mornings because I was so exhausted. Then I was drinking with the cast and crew after the show every night for camaraderie and decompression.  And then I needed caffeine in the morning to function, and then I needed alcohol at the end of the night to wind down.

It was a self-perpetuating cycle, and it was draining and expensive and made my skin break out.

 

3. I realized that my free time makes me richer than money ever could.

My favorite thing is waking up and knowing there is nothing on my agenda for the day. My second favorite thing is having space on my workday mornings for yoga, meditation, journaling, breakfast, and a walk before I ever send an email or talk to a client.

These both went away when I got busy.

(NB: Though I make relatively little money, I recognize the degree of privilege I’m coming from here. My whiteness, my currently able body, my lack of family requiring my care or financial support all contribute to my privilege, which contribute to my ability to have the kind of schedule I do.)

Having a spacious schedule with enough down time and ample breathing room is worth so much to me and I’m willing to say no to things in order to protect it.

 

4. Finally, I learned that other people are really freakin busy all the time. Like way busier than me.

How are y’all doing that?

When I complained about how busy I was in April and May, other people reflected that they were that busy all the time. I seriously don’t understand how y’all are managing being so busy all the time.

If you feel like this, would you write me back and tell me how you manage? And what you struggle with? Because I think I can probably help with this issue but I need to know exactly what’s going on for y’all crazy-busy-all-the-time types.

Do you have thoughts about busyness or spaciousness or the lack thereof? I’d love to hear em! Leave a comment below! 

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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How To Survive When You're Stupid-Busy

EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

I’m really busy right now.

I”m generally not superbusy. It’s one of my core values to try to have spaciousness in my life as much as I can. I hate feeling like I’m being pulled in a thousand directions. So that’s generally not how my life is.

But right now I’m in the final weeks of a two-year long process to bring to life a new, original theater piece. (It’s called Jubilee, thanks for asking. You can find out more about it and buy tickets over here: newnoise.org) There’s a hundred moving parts and a ton of demand on my time in additon to all the stuff I normally do: writing, teaching, client work, etc.

For a couple of weeks I used my old coping strategies. I got pissed off that I had so much to do and the I avoided doing the work. I got stuck in this all-too-familiar cycle of resenting the work, procrastinating on the work, and then loathing myself for how I wasn’t getting anything done.

I feel annoyed that I have so much work to do so I avoid the work, but then I feel bad about myself for avoiding the work. And then I feel bad so it’s even harder to get anything done.

Resentment breeds procrastination. And procrastination breeds self-loathing.

So this week I had to have a come-to-Jesus moment about it. If I’m going to maintain any degree of mental health or sanity, I had to adjust my attitude.

Here are my four best tips for how to survive when you’ve got too much to do.

1. SAY NO TO ANYTHING EXTRANEOUS.

Clear everything you can off your plate. Let go of projects you thought you were going to be able to accomplish, self-imposed deadlines you thought you could meet, etc. For me that has meant pausing work on my new website (including letting my designer and photographer know that I needed to take a break from the work until after the show). It’s also meant extending the deadline for my Patriarchy and Relationships project that’s been percolating on the back burner (coming July 2018).

 

2. GET SERIOUS ABOUT SIMPLE SELF-CARE.

I’m not talking about bubble baths. I mean, Am I drinking enough water? Have I eaten enough food? Am I getting enough sleep? The super basic, simple stuff. Commit yourself to these small things. If you’re gonna make it through the busyness, you need to be as well-fed, well-hydrated, and well-rested as you can be.

 

3. ASK FOR HELP.

I’ve reached out to friends just to let them know I have a lot on my plate. Ask for specific support that will help you get through this busy time. For me that looks like asking for reminders that I’m doing a good job, and accountability around my simple self-care. It also looks like accepting tangible support, like when a friend asks if she can drop off dinner for me, I say yes! This helps two-fold for me: I get the support I need, and I’m relieved of the self-imposed guilt of feeling like I’m being a “bad friend” when I’m not available for social engagements right now.
 

4. REMEMBER THAT IT WON’T BE THIS WAY FOREVER.

This is the simplest one, but perhaps to hardest to do. This moment will pass and another one will follow. And it will be less busy than this one. (If it feels like it will never be less busy, hire me for some life coaching, lol. I can definitely help with that!) For now, just keep inhaling and exhaling.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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Patience is an action

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EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

It’s been said that patience is a virtue. It’s listed in the Bible as a fruit of the spirit. But who really likes being patient??

 

We tend to think of patience as doing nothing.

 

When a problem arises, the problem-solving part of our brains can snap into high gear, urgently working to fix the issue as soon as possible. It takes a large amount of self-control to slow down or opt out.

 

Patience can feel like just sitting around and waiting. And that can feel profoundly disempowering, like we’re backed into a corner and the only choice is to twiddle our thumbs and wait for something to change. But I want to reframe patience as a form of action.

 

Choosing to be patient is choosing to be actively present with what is, rather than what we wish would be.

 

It can seem like the only empowered option is to force the issue or to aggressively push forward. Others of us tend to turn away from an unsolveable problem to avoid the discomfort that might arise with it. Neither choice is effective.

 

But sometimes patiently waiting can be just as powerful and include just as much agency. Sometimes waiting can allow emotions to settle, creativity to strike, and hidden answers to be revealed.

 

When we force or avoid, we’re running from discomfort.

When we choose patience, we choose reality.

When we choose reality, we suffer less.

 

And that’s the point.

 

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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