This is the second post in a series called Resilient Resistance. Last week's post was Cynicism Is Not An Option. Want next weeks's edition, entitled Get Embodied? Click here to subscribe to get my weekly love notes filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation.
Right now it can feel overwhelming to envisage all the fronts upon which our rights are being attacked: immigration, education, women’s health, the environment, etc etc etc. And if you’re as fired up as me about all of it, it can also feel overwhelming to try to accomplish all the actions needed to fight back.
I want to call every senator, sign every petition, write every letter, march in every protest, paint every banner, and shout at every town hall meeting. But I can’t. My personal capacity is not enough to dismantle these systems of oppression on my own. This fight will not be won by any one of us.
One of the points that was emphasized in my first yoga teacher training was to give no more than three alignment instructions in any pose. Any more than that is overwhelming for the student, and generally impossible to accomplish attending to all of those instructions. Can you imagine being in Down Dog, for instance, and your teacher says:
Spread your fingers apart and press down into all ten fingers, especially the index finger and thumb. Lift the wrists away from the floor. And rotate your upper arms externally. And widen the tops of the shoulder blades apart to make space at the base of the neck. And lengthen the crown of the head towards the floor to lengthen the neck. Now stretch the spine long. And find a neutral pelvis. And press the thighs back. And draw the heels down. Aaaaaaannnnnd breathe.
You’d be crying! (Also sorry if you’ve been my student since the beginning because I definitely used to try to give all these cues in every Down Dog! Apologies to your wrists and shoulders.) Truth be told, we're actually not that good at multitasking. So instead, I just pick one (or three) of those instructions to focus on.
And we do the heck out of that thing.
For the moment, we don’t worry about the other ones. Not because they don’t matter, but because you actually can’t do it all. And it tends to be violent to try. Catholic mystic Thomas Merton says, "There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork....To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism...destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." h/t Desiree Adaway
The same is true about our movement work. Trying to do everything all the time is a straight shot to burnout. Here’s the good news: just because you can’t do it all doesn’t me WE can’t do it all. We can. And we are. My friend and teacher Kelly says it this way:
“I think a lot of us feel like we're showing up to a barn-raising with a teaspoon, which makes us think we're not contributing, not doing significant work, don't have the right equipment or training, or aren't big enough to make a difference. It's not spoon vs bulldozer. It's not the tool that counts. It's the resistance of *all* of us. So bring your spoons, your paintbrushes, your laptops, your phones, your canvases, your balloons, your bread, your comedy routines, your massage tables, your oils, your poems, your voice. We are the people. And we can do this.”
So pick one thing. (Or three things, if you have the privilege, capacity and wherewithal.) Take that action thoroughly, consistently and well. Don't get anxious about the rest. Trust that others are doing their work alongside you.
Show up daily, with heart and with might. We need all of us to stay engaged for the long haul. We can’t afford to lose any one of us. We need to show up and keep at it. This is how we will find collective liberation. This is how we will bend the arc towards justice.
This is how we build resilient resistance.
I'd love to know-- what are your strategies for #resilientresistance? Comment here or tag me on Facebook or Instagram @bearteachesyoga.
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