Our Planet Needs You Now

ocean dark planet

We are living in turbulent times.  Our planet is burning, people are enslaved for the clothes on our backs and the food in our bellies, animals are slaughtered for our overconsumption while being housed in horrific conditions, and wars have degenerated into immeasurable human atrocities seemingly for the engagement, or perhaps entertainment, of our 24-hour news cycle.  It can be easy to explain everything for our own insular self-affirming self-righteousness, reject those who don’t think like us, and surround ourselves in the comfort of isolationism; however, this is the opposite of what we need to confront these issues.

I am a United States Citizen who grew up in a military family.  We lived in communities around the United States and abroad. Over seven years ago I became a Canadian immigrant through my marriage.  I am privileged – white, middle-class, able-bodied, straight, healthy, late 30s, well-travelled and well-educated.  I recognize what this privilege affords me on a daily basis as I move through the world, traveling to different places and meeting and working with people.  This privilege has kept me safely in a bubble of like-minded souls for way too long.

It can be easy to “other,” to keep “doing as I do.”  It can be easy to only speak to those who think and act like me.  It is “comfortable”.  It is “safe.”

However, comfortable and safe will not stand against the multitude of injustices in the world.  What we require is activism.  We need those courageous enough to march, picket, boycott, and protest.  We need the leaders in politics and our corporate world to openly and firmly reject policies and programs that suppress, exclude and destroy. These leaders must openly support those that flourish in the name of inclusion and creation.

As a yoga practitioner, I sometimes get frustrated when I hear the “we are all one” and “go within” as the mantras for our time, as though they are a soothing salve for the tragedies that befall us on a daily basis.  Yes, these are true and heartfelt sayings and they can make a difference in our internal mental states; however, the yamas and niyamas, the true foundations of our practice, ask us to work from a much more active and radical place.

They ask us to seek non-violence in all we do – toward all living beings, including ourselves.  They ask us to be truthful and to not cheat, steal, or covet.  There are aspects of contentment – to truly value what we have in opposition to overconsumption.  To be disciplined – especially when faced with situations, groups, or individuals that take us away form our truth.

Most importantly, these foundations ask us to be students of ourselves.  In my mind, this immediately invokes the phrase “history is doomed to repeat itself” when in reality, it doesn’t have to.   Self-study means we take time to examine our habits and patterns, to see what works for the benefit of ourselves and for the benefit of our fellow humans.  It also works on a community-consciousness level.  When we see people acting in recognition of previous damaging habits, patterns, and systems that caused pain and suffering, there is a shift toward another and much more beneficial way of behaving, do-ing, and be-ing in this world.

This is what I am hopeful for during these challenging times.  That there are enough of us on and off the mat, who work with consideration of these powerful foundations.  That the yamas and niyamas can serve as the grounding pieces so needed during a time of great upheaval.  They can be the motivating forces behind compassionate, but forceful, action against destructive forces all around us.

This Friday, a new leader is taking the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States.  I am personally devastated by the outcome of this election and I am terrified for what the next four years mean for our planet and people around the world.  At the same time, I am buoyed by the spirit of hope and change that continuously pervades in political, economic, and social landscapes.  Movements like Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and the Women’s March on Washington all serve to remind us that while we could stand silent, we can also be positive forces for good in this world.

In addition to these macro-movements, we must also take it upon ourselves to invest in the micro-movements of our daily lives – to have conversations with those we don’t agree with; to give money, time, and energy at local levels; to support those who need love; and to show compassion for ourselves, others, and this beautiful Earth.

We are merely passing travellers in this lifetime – stewards of our land, environment, and institutes. It can be easy to pretend that our personal lives won’t make much of a difference.  I am here to tell you they can.  So, choose to speak out.  Choose to be brave.  Choose to reach out.  Choose to stand with others.  Choose to be active in any way you can and that feels right for you, and pushes your personal comfort zone.

This world needs you, Brave Soul.  Now more than ever.

Choosing Respect in Yoga

choose-respect

Folks, I need to talk about judgment in yoga.

We experience a lot of judgment in our lives.  We experience it coming from other people, from ourselves, from magazines at the checkout in the grocery store.  Judgment has a really great foothold on our psyche and generally ends up making us feel like we are coming up short.

The last place I want to see judgment manifesting itself or rearing its ugly head is in a yoga class.

I’ve been amazed over the past year by the number of people who have come up to me and commented that they find my classes so refreshing because they are free from judgment.  I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back.  I am, in fact, saddened that this has been said to me SO…MANY…TIMES.

Each person is unique…with their own individual strength, flexibility, emotions, and body structure.  I find that to be one of the most beautiful parts of teaching yoga…that I get a chance to meet all of these amazing people with their own incredible story written in their emotional, physical, and spiritual bodies.  I choose to work with each person in front of me, fully recognizing that each of us brings our own experience of movement, stillness, and the universe to the mat.

I absolutely love this part of sharing yoga, meditation, and breath with other people.  It’s my jam and I learn an incredible amount from every single person I practice with.

I am also writing this to let each and every person reading know that they should not stand for judgment…in a yoga class or anywhere else.  Motivation?  Yes!  Encouragement?  Yes!  Genuine guidance?  Yes!   Judgment?  Hell NO!

I urge you…

Choose spaces that allow you to come to your mat fully and authentically.  Do not shy away from your own talents and your own experience.  You are worthy of RESPECT and HONOUR (from your teacher and those you practice alongside).  Choose teachers and spaces that ooze this out of their pores.  Your teacher should take care with you and your physical, emotional, and spiritual presence and you, in turn, should expect nothing less.

Love, light, and peace, Heather

Connecting to Community

I was having coffee with an acquaintance of mine recently and I was commenting that since moving to our new city, I haven’t been connecting to any kind of community here (mainly due to the fact that I haven’t had my feet on the ground here long enough!).  I noted that it seems to get harder as we get older, especially for those of us living more nomadic forms of existence on this planet.

It can be challenging to make a true connection with someone, especially when you are new to an area.  For a while, I was finding the 30-second conversations with the barista at my local coffee shop on the corner to be the most engaging part of my day!

That being said, efforts must be made to connect, because we as humans are designed to connect to one another.  Our bodies crave conversation, support, and laughter.  Even for those of us who are the most introverted need a little face time every now and then to feel that sense of belonging to something bigger.  Ever wonder why acro-yoga is just so. much. FUN?

And, that’s why I love yoga communities.

When we live yoga, we find community and connection everywhere.  We feel it, whether it is connecting to a post or picture online, walking into a studio for a class, or attending a workshop or festival.  We feel it when we make eye contact with others on the street or when we make eye contact with ourselves in the mirror in the morning.  We feel it when we take time to really listen to our loved ones and when we tell others our story.

Our community is within us and outside of us.  It is everywhere – this energetic fabric that ensures we are never alone and that we always have a space where we belong.

Yoga has shown up for me in some random ways since the beginning of the year…it IS the 30-second conversation with my barista and the way the little birds gather together in community in the tree out front of our building.  It is being invited to a friend’s house for a meal and conversation just as much as it is when I work from home and update social media.  It is the walks I take in our neighbourhood to absorb nature and the walks through our market to pick out produce.  Our yoga community is in all of these wonderful and unexpected places.

We just have to remember to look for it and know that we are an integral piece of our community.

Speaking of community…

Join me on the mat Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Dragon Arts Collective, a community of healers, teachers, and all-around awesome human beings who are trying to make the world a better place!  My classes here are donation based.  For more information, click here!

I’ll also be joining the yoga community at the upcoming Prairie Love Yoga Festival in September!  I’ll be talking about yoga and social activism while connecting with you on the mat!  For more details and to register, click here!