After the murder of George Floyd, I felt like I was caught in a trap that pinioned me back into thinking that there is only one right way to do antiracism work. This notion itself is a racist trap, causing me to believe that I should have one brilliant “right way” to do this difficult and messy work before I even attempt it. This mindset only served to keep me from acting. If I don’t act, I guarantee that the system perpetuates unabated.
While I was breathing through this paralysis this summer, some enlightened yoga teachers and practices helped me recognize that needing to have one right way to do things – something I had been battling in my yoga practice and in life for a long time – was really a tool of white supremacy.
Let me explain:
In yoga, my physical practice for many years focused on being able to work toward “getting” certain “advanced” poses. Why is this a problem? Working toward a goal is good, right?
Having yoga poses you want to explore can be OK, if you know why you are exploring them and what benefit they are giving you. But if I’m insisting on getting a pose simply because I feel I need to meet some ideal, then I may actually be causing harm or injury to my body. The poses may not feel very good, causing me more stress (when I actually want to reduce it). Having only one right way in your mind’s eye destroys the opportunity to explore doing the pose in a variety of ways.
Watch my video on how to explore a variety of versions of tree pose as an example:
Only-one-right-way thinking – on and off the yoga mat – robs us and our communities of creativity, playfulness and the opportunity to learn from failure. Failing, after all, is an opportunity to learn and grow. If there are no opportunities to fail, there are no opportunities to grow. White supremacy’s one-right-way thinking stunts our growth and causes us to exclude all things and people that do not meet the ideal. In our culture, having white skin is better than having black or brown skin. In our culture, being thin is better than being in a larger body. In our culture, having a lot of money is better than having very little of it.
Are you beginning to see the harm this thinking does?
Yoga at its core is a liberating spiritual practice – one that should free us from cultural ideals and empower us to honor and respect ourselves and everyone else for what we are in the present moment – in all our diversity and messiness. If our diversity is a reflection of the Divine (and I would affirm that it is), then by insisting there’s only one right way we are denying ourselves the opportunity to stand in wonder and awe of the vastness of humanity and creation.
Don’t get caught in the trap like I have. Extricate yourself from the bonds of one-right-way thinking and playfully embrace the many ways yet unimagined to do a pose – and life.
Go Deeper: Read more about this in Tema Okun’s article, white supremacy culture, and learn some mindfulness practices that can help you let go of the fear and anxiety that might lock us into one-right-way thinking. Join Nicole’s Spring Cleaning: Rest and Restore Yoga and Meditation on Monday, April 5, and two more upcoming free offerings – the Meditation of the Month practice on Sunday, March 14, and Brown Bag Lunch networking and discussion on Tuesday, March 16.