Mar 27, 2013
DOMA, Prop 8, and Yoga?
Facebook is plastered with new profile pictures that are red with a pink equal sign…at least my Facebook page is. Social media has given us an outlet to express how we feel about any given topic and it is there for all to see. Of course, there are pros and cons to this. For me Facebook has been extremely triggering during the past year, election time in particular. In the past, we didn’t necessarily have to know what everybody’s specific political views were on any given topic unless we made an effort to find out. Now that has all changed.
Whether it is the current issue of same-sex marriage, gun control, tax increases on the wealthy, or the recent media coverage of the Steubenville rape case, people react, and now those reactions are available for all to see. It opens the door to virtual discussions that can get out of hand to say the least. Sometimes I read the comment thread and just feel my whole body react to the comments of hate and rage that are being spewed with very little regard to anybody. My muscles tighten, my forehead crinkles, my stomach clenches, my heart rate increases.
I am a deeply passionate person. Some might say my opinions go to the extreme. I have always been this way. I think the one constant in my heart has always been a deep curiosity surrounding the issue of equity or more specifically, the lack of it. From a young age I started asking questions about what I was observing around me. It is not hard to find inequalities when you simply look around. I don’t think I have ever really been afraid to express how I feel about injustice, but there have been times in my life where I have felt like I should tone it down because I fear that others may become annoyed or get offended. But, I think it is really important to learn how to speak your truth in a loving and compassionate way, to become curious instead of furious. What leads someone to believe in what they believe? What life experiences have led them here? Can we even calm our mind and our nervous system down long enough to have that conversation?
In the case of DOMA and Prop 8 I am ever curious. It is no surprise to me that there are people VERY passionate about striking them down, because they are laws that limit the rights of one group of people. Therefore they increase inequality and go against the very foundation of our nation’s Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment.
I come from a very conservative, religious background. I grew up in the church, my father was a pastor for much of my life. Although I am not in agreement, I can empathize with the viewpoint that homosexuality is a sin and the bible says marriage is between a man and a woman because I was raised in an environment that shared these views. But, the church has no place in U.S. legislature. We were given the right to practice any religion we choose, or none at all. Jews don’t try to pass sweeping state and federal laws that ban pork.
It is not just the U.S. Constitution that leads me to feel strongly about this particular topic. There are people in my life whom speak with so much anger about those who are in same sex relationships. That gay people should not be granted the same rights as others, that they cannot be loving parents, or that they are somehow sabotaging the sanctity of marriage. This is hurtful because there are countless others in my life that I hold dear who are deeply in love with their same sex partners and raising children together. In fact, my god daughter has two mothers, and they are married. I attended their wedding in a California court house the day before Prop 8 passed. They had been engaged for some time and were beginning to discuss plans for a wedding, but decided to make it legal in the event that this law would pass…and it did. That is inequity. Straight people NEVER have to think about this. We have the privilege not to.
So, what does all of this have to do with yoga???
Simply writing this has activated my nervous system. I have the news on and I am following the story of the Supreme Court’s arguments right now. Yoga has given me tools to calm myself down and become less reactive. Does that mean that I never snap and get enraged? I wish I could say that I have mastered this, but I have not. There are still many times I want to purge onto Facebook or stomp my feet and scream because I don’t feel heard. Think about what issues make you feel activated. Where does it show up in your body? What tools do you have to release?
That is the journey. That is the challenge. That is what continues to bring me back to my mat every day. As I work into my body I also work into my mind and most definitely into my heart. I am more flexible in body and mind. I am a better listener because I am less reactive. On a more physiological level yoga has given me tools to control my own nervous system to an extent. I can calm myself down when I become activated by simply bringing awareness to my breath. I can move the energy that sits in my body and makes me sick (anger, fear, stress) and release it. And by releasing the emotions stored in my physical body on my mat there is no risk of hurting someone else with my words or entering into a hurtful discussion. Isn’t that why we often react in unreasonable ways to other’s thoughts and opinions? We have stored up tension sitting in our body, and it needs a way out. My yoga practice gives me that release.
So, I will sign out with the words of Winston Churchill. I am learning to speak from my heart with love, empathy and compassion for all who cross my path, whether in person or in this new virtual world. But, more importantly I am learning to listen with love, empathy, and compassion…even to those who I vehemently disagree with, while breathing deeply.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen”
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