Compassion for those who are suffering
This week in class we’ve been looking at ways to take compassionate action against injustice--how to take the lessons of the yoga practice off the mat, so to speak. As you’ve heard me say in class, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate of all fifty states, so we’re currently living in the prison capitol of the world.
And the way we incarcerate people largely depends on the color of their skin--black people are imprisoned at rates six times higher than white people, to say nothing of other populations that are also disproportionate imprisoned. This is big, systemic, messed up stuff we’re talking about.
Yoga, to me, is not a means for escaping the overwhelming, distressing realities of our world and culture. Rather, it’s a way to find steadiness inside myself so I’m able to be more present to these realities, which is the first step to undoing them.
Nola to Angola is a solidarity bike ride that aims both to raise awareness about our prison problem in Louisiana, and to raise funds for the Cornerstone Builders Bus Project, which provides free buses for New Orleanians to visit their loved ones in prisons across the state. These buses are often the only way people can travel to prisons, and the parents and children, spouses and friends that arrive on these buses are often the only visitors that inmates ever get.
For the past two years I’ve donated half the proceeds of one class to Nola to Angola. This year, I’m sending in half the proceeds from the whole week’s worth of classes. Lots of you gave extra to go straight to support this effort, bringing our total for the week to nearly $200. And if you didn’t make it this week, or if you want to give a little more, visit nolatoangola.org. This is one small but concrete way we can extend our compassion to those who are suffering.
It's notable here that Nola to Angola is just one organization doing work around prison issues. Many organizations, including lots of them that are helmed by people of color, have been doing this kind of work in New Orleans for years. If you're interested, you might check out BreakOut or VOTE. (Thanks to Lydia for pointing this out!)
Let me know if you’d like to discuss these issues more--I’m always up for a talk!
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free.
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