Yoga Sutras for When Everything is F*cking Horrible
(Another remix of the first two chapters, in response to current/chronic events. I used Hartranft’s translation as a rough narrative template..)
Chapter One: Justice Equals Samadhi
- Now is the time for yoga. Unfortunately, the majority of humans don’t actually have time for yoga, because they’re too busy picking expensive coffee, or serving it all day, or trying to avoid getting driven from their land or killed by drones or by those shackled to higher rungs on the oppression ladder.
- Yoga will happen when the twisting chaos of injustice ends.
- Then people can feel at peace.
- Otherwise, people think injustice is their natural state, or at least the natural state of people who don’t have the time to do yoga because they’re picking expensive coffee, etc.
- There are infinite types of injustice; every type hurts more than the people who benefit from it can imagine.
- A highly selective list of the types of twisted mentality would include racism, misogyny, capitalism generally, neoliberal rationalization, and being a privileged dick.
- Racism arises from primal fears, ignorance, a sustained lack of empathy, and all of the structural inequalities that fossilize around these failures.
- Misogyny arises from womb envy, which leads to the pathologization of birthing and minimization of child-care labour, and patriarchal property laws. It is perpetuated when liberals justify porn.
- Capitalism comes from agriculture plus the human delusion that people can be islands unto themselves as well as own things and even other people. Good luck stopping that but we sure have to try because soon there will be nothing left.
- Neoliberal rationalization comes from thinking that capitalism is just the way things are because we can’t imagine anything different and it’s far less exhausting to turn a blind eye or even cheerlead than to resist.
- Privilege doesn’t make you a dick. Being informed of your privilege, taking it as a personal instead of a sociological critique and getting defensive about it does. Being a privileged dick comes from a toxic combination of luck, hubris, and intellectual dishonesty. It’s actually hard not to be a privileged dick: it requires patience, the hard work of self-inquiry, and developing a meta-view that doesn’t seem to evolve naturally.
- None of these things will be directly improved by posture, handstands, mindfulness, meditation, or the trappings of Indian culture. Education, emotional transparency, and accepting the paradox of knowing things must change while knowing they might not are among the practices required to end the chaos of injustice. Then one has to let that paradox agitate.
- Practice, more generally expressed, is the sustained effort to tolerate pain with enough hope intact to spread to other people.
- We’ll have to do it forever.
- Accepting the paradox means getting up in the morning and refusing to be distracted from the facts of injustice through the consolations of practice-as-self-improvement, because you know you’re doing well enough to form new priorities.
- When a high level of practice has been achieved, justice might see itself rise, independent of the endless cycle of twisted mentality.
- It’s a questionable tactic to mimic old yoga books through click-bait titles, especially when there’s a bunch of first-chapter sutras that Patanjali stuffs with abstract metaphysics that might keep academics busy and sustain dissociative daydreams for the leisure class, but won’t bring back Michael Brown, locate 824 missing First Nations women in Canada, or silence the echo of Eric Garner yelling I can’t breathe.
- Practicing now means realizing that yoga is only about self-development insofar as it compels work within the collective self and makes the individual more resilient while doing that work. The age of atomism has had its time and produced nothing but the comet trails of failed heroism streaking across the night sky.
- The end of injustice may come if we recite the many names of justice, like “civil disobedience”, “Ferguson”, strategic or cathartic “property destruction”, “hacking”, “not buying things”, “giving up power”, “physically attacking the infrastructure shared by genocide and ecocide”, “OM”, or “Fuck this shit”.
- Justice is a distinct, incorruptible form of pure awareness, caused by sacrificial effort that attempts to clear the karmic slate, but not by forgetting anything.
- Justice relies on deep insight; we don’t have to know everything for it to arise – that’s why we have each other to supplement our blindness. But we do have to know a lot more than we generally know to even begin. This is especially true for white cisgendered men like me, who know very little about being afraid just from walking down the goddam street.
- Justice can be represented by a sound, which you can hear when breathing grief in and out in honor of everyone who has been suffocated.
- Through breathing this intention, the path to justice might become clear, but if it doesn’t, you’ll have to do something else that probably doesn’t involve a neti pot or a rubber mat, unless it’s burning rubber mats along with tires on a barricade while chucking neti pots at the courthouse.
- Apathy, doubt, carelessness, laziness, hedonism, delusion, discouragement, the Koch Brothers, consumerism, Kim Kardashian’s oily buttocks, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), American exceptionalism and a dearth of critical thinking are all distractions from the still and burning resolve that justice requires.
- When these distractions strike, one may experience distress, depression, or the inability to maintain steadiness of posture or breathing. None of these symptoms are as painful as when someone made sociopathic by racism and bullying or more simply has had his insecurity or machismo provoked by cynical older mentors pulls you to the pavement and chokes the breath out of you until your heart explodes.
- We can at least try to subdue these distractions through educated compassion, curiosity, gravitas, humility, knowing when not to care about our own comfort, seeing the forest as well as the trees (or the deforestation as well as the logs), fasting from corporate media, creating alternative economies, and not giving in to the seduction of hyperindividualism which convinces us that if we personally can’t effect justice it’s not worth working for, even though justice cannot be generated outside of relationship.
- “I feel so small, what can I do?” is a common obstacle, fuelled by forgetting that one is always already doing something. Asking the question can simply add mirrors to the tunnel. Look for the light at the end and if you can’t see it, burn something you don’t need.
- You can also try pausing your breath, which may allow you to simultaneously imagine the sensation of lynching or black lung while feeling the calm light that justice could possibly shine. To oscillate between these two meanings can really stir up the shit and put you on the edge of realization.
- You can also steadily observe the unending parade of unjust acts, focusing on how each crime might feel in your own body, and then asking how that feeling-body wants to respond with its natural rage.
- You can also focus on the secret nausea held by all the shitty objects you bought but don’t need.
- You can also focus on the I Have a Dream speech, but not as an artifact in the museum of liberal education. You can focus on it until you imagine yourself as the very breath in that man’s throat.
- Or you can focus on the silver scales of fish who are going extinct.
- With clarity of purpose, you can focus on almost anything to clear the distractions of apathy etc. – the stories of survivors, the shudder of empathy in the spine, masses of people protesting, other peoples’ children, votive candles on the sidewalk, drawings of cargo holds from the Middle Passage, the writing of bell hooks, songs from the powwow, and the timbre of Coltrane’s sax in “A Love Supreme”, understanding that he’s doing the opposite of entertainment.
- When distractions are cleared, there are several layers of justice-impulse available: talking about justice, letting yourself really feel what you’re talking about, not being able to talk because the feeling is too intense, feeling an organic response to theft and murder, and acting with a just impulse without any certainty of the outcome.
- What will you do then? Pilot a safe spaces initiative in your workplace? Shame sexual harassers? Tithe to the Southern Poverty Law Centre? Go underground to sabotage fracking equipment or spike trees? Stay visible to offer support to those who can risk more? There are so many options to meditate upon for a brief period of time, and then initiate.
- The justice-impulse may well generate pathways that block the pathways of injustice. But we’re not quite sure – yogis have never consistently tried this because we’ve always been more narcissists than activists.
Chapter 2: Practice
- Yogic action should have three components today, mixing old and new: discipline, self-and-other-study, and doing something to support the ideal of justice.
- Its purposes are to disarm the suffering of oppression and to achieve equity.
- The suffering of oppression is caused by refusing to see connections beyond your router, family, and business, believing in your autonomy, chanting “We built it” along with Mitt Romney in an arena built by migrant workers in a state founded on slavery, economies of accumulation, unconscious hatred of one’s own body projected onto a racialized or sexualized scapegoat, and clinging to assets as though you deserve more than three square meals, shelter, fresh air, clean water, and the intimacy of friends who can help you bear the trouble and strife of being alive.
- Refusing to see connections – or resisting yoga – is the field in which all other chaos ferments at different rates, spreading toxic rhizomes around the gnarly bulb-roots of self-isolating humans.
- Without seeing the connections, you may think you and the planet will live forever, that the filth of advertising is creative or even inspiring, that people who are different from you are a threat to your genitals, property, and prestige, and that you are responsible for everything that you’ve accomplished, when in actual fact you have very little agency beyond that which is conferred upon you by your group and how it has manipulated or been manipulated by other groups.
- The suffering of oppression is cyclic: each eviction notice, unfair mortgage, strong-arming of crop prices, microaggression aimed at a service worker, suppression of climate science, and blind eye turned to rape deposits latent impressions deep in the culture, to be activated and experienced later in this life. Or they will lie hidden, awaiting a future life.
- So long as oppression vibrates, future generations will be born into oppression; the human world will remake itself in its own debased image, and people will populate it accordingly, trading their trauma back and forth, down through time.
- The wise see oppression in every power imbalance.
- But oppression that has not yet arisen can be prevented, maybe – we won’t know unless we try.
- Right now, the eight limbs of yoga are: not fucking other people over, checking yourself, letting people stand freely, not suffocating oppressed people or the biosphere, not medicating with entertainment, being able to hold progressive values for more than a single news cycle, focusing strategically on an achievable equality goal, and feeling that the essence of your life is mingled with the struggle for justice.
- Not fucking other people over consists of giving power to those with less power, not whitewashing the burning world, not stealing time or money or food from other people, resisting rape culture, and rejecting consumerism.
- These commitments are no-brainer thresholds for anyone, regardless of circumstance, who wants to belong to a yoga culture that could actually mean something coherent.
- Checking yourself means cleaning up the mess of privilege-blindness, making do with less, stoking zeal for justice, educating yourself about equality, and turning attention to the joy of interdependence.
- Those who give power to those with less power are relieved of presumption and an ocean of unacknowledged guilt.
- Those who don’t whitewash the burning world with newage slogans or greenwashing P.R. campaigns skewer the vampire of neoliberalism through the heart with a wooden stake.
- Those who don’t steal time and money and food from other people, and who pay others fairly and from the heart, learn what it means to live in nature, where all is accounted for and nothing is stored up.
- Those who resist rape culture help to deconstruct gender and make intimacy synonymous with consent. They understand the deep eroticism of the word yes.
- Those who reject consumerism taste the bliss of giving something to the world other than their stool.
- By cleaning up one’s privilege-blindness, really listening to others and advocating for reparations, one’s body ceases to cast a harmful shadow.
- This purification also brings integrity, an accurate view of one’s interdependence, the capacity to organize priorities according to love, the joy of moderate appetites, and the enhancement of self-and-other inquiry.
- Making do with less helps free you from being possessed. Unless you have less than you need to survive, and you are possessed by poverty. If this is so, there is no virtue in fatalism, and much nobility in demanding fairness.
- Stoking zeal for justice eliminates a lot of bullshit from life.
- Turning attention to the joy of interdependence is its own reward.
- Letting people stand freely means not binding their bodies to the shapes of oppression, idealization, or the aesthetics of objectification. This is especially true for women and minorities. Letting people stand freely allows justice to grow, like a fetal spine in the womb’s ocean, to be supportive amidst all life stresses. It gives the steadiness of courage and the ease of knowing things are physically and visibly moving in a better way.
- Letting people stand freely first means not dragging them to the pavement with a chokehold for some absurd misdemeanour. Internally, it occurs as all superficial and stressful obsessions emerging from bodily alienation – down to the subtle and sneaky ones provoked by modern yoga practice – evaporate, revealing that the body can never escape from the world with which it is intrinsic, and that it can never be any better or more beautiful than any other body.
- Beyond increasing or stabilizing kinetic functionality and enjoyment in movement so that you have a higher capacity to let other people stand freely, obsessing over your own posture is a narcissistic waste of time.
- All over the world, people are gasping the words I can’t breathe I can’t breathe I can’t breathe. Many others are hyperventilating in terror, and the air they breathe in is polluted by injustice. Breathing must be freed from every layer of oppression and repression. It’s just breathing, for fuck sake.
- Unoppressed, breathing can relax. It shouldn’t be an effort. It can become very quiet and delicate, and express the tenderness of an ancient safety.
- This happens naturally by observing one’s breath patterns, but it only works when you know that nobody around you is saying I can’t breathe.
- As justice dawns, equity develops between the inhale of humans and the exhale of trees, and one can’t tell where one begins and the other ends.
- Then the veil of twisted mentality that causes the chaos of injustice lifts, and people can feel their potential for peace exude.
- When you don’t medicate with entertainment, especially entertainment disguised as news, your natural curiosity will have room to absorb the sorrow of every falling leaf, and nurture the realization that life is hard enough without the added chaos of injustice.
Thank you to Michael Stone, Carol Horton, Frank Jude Boccio, Sean Feit, Douglas Brooks, Natalie Miller, Adam Grossi, Sri Louise, Christi-an Slomka, Jamilah Malika, Roopa Singh, Be Scofield, Jacoby Ballard, and so many others who seek to pair practice with activism.
I’m painting my walls Lancaster Whitewash.
— I can no longer come home to the spicy colors of orange/pink and sage green.
I’ve moved into my blue phase, and I need to cool down.
I’m okay with yellow.
Just a slight sheen please. Eggshell is pleasing
….. the womb of my escape: Home.
KnOcK on my door. Barking barking from the 7lb companion.
— A couple with shit-kicking grins. Would like to speak with me about their ministry. They have ‘good news’. I don’t like what they are selling.
— I tell them I’m an atheist, and close the door (too quickly to be ‘nice’).
MoaT has been breached!
All a-kimbo. Painting. Painting Whitewash. Need to seek coffee. Need to get out of here.
There ShE is, the female GriN that promised eternal life.
My hearing has gone wonky. There is a hollow echo as I hear her words.
— She is saying that she recognizes me from her —trail of ministry.
I repeat: I’m an atheist.
I feel violated.
I know these people are not even to wear their favorite sports team logo. This place is to be devoid of opinion.
I am not a happy coffee-camper.
The rules have been violated.
I’ve been annoyed.
WoRsE: I feel guilty. Guilty because I don’t believe in Jesus.
We are of a similar thread of thinking. I teach and practise yoga and I view it very similar as you… You can find my writings at http://thehumancondition.guru .
I mean Justice.
I don’t believe in Justice.
The guilt is suffocating me.
yes! needed this! thank you!
OK. I’m adding some ‘gilt’ to my ceiling returns.
— Up there at 12-14ft above ‘see’-level.
Oppression can be and is internalized. Most of the damage done by various oppressions is done by its internalized forms. Any person who functions as an oppressor has necessarily and always first been oppressed and then manipulated into the other role of the pattern of oppression. The continued functioning of the world wide capitalistic system is highly dependent on racism. Ending all forms of oppression, and classism in particular, requires the participation of the world global majority ( people of color).
As always your work is provocative and the yoga community sometimes I think most needs to be provoked.
I would like to hear your (you, reader) thoughtful comments on this piece.
Fuck yeah. The Yoga will not be televised. Thank you, brother.
Thank you for this.
It’squite simple treat others the way you want to be treated it doesn ‘take complicated discourses.
This is coming from a African American Male, who has 3 SUN’S & 2 GrandSUN’S because I nature them with unconditionall LOVE.We are all in this earth school together, or should I say on our path,I believe we must love ourselves first and foremost.
Change has to begin inside, you /me has to be the agent and let our actions become our words.