November 25, 2014

Following Ferguson—The Yogi’s Role in Social Justice.

Michael Brown

I feel it’s my responsibility to pose the question: What is the proper role of a yogi in defending social justice?

Being a yogi means many things.

While I used to aspire to the title, I now appreciate that with great privilege comes great responsibility.

In the case of the Michael Brown trial resulting in chaos in Ferguson, the collective tension and remorse of the nation’s peace-seekers is palpable.

Just before the riots started in Ferguson last night, following the announcement of Officer Wilson’s acquittal, I posted this:

“My thoughts and prayers are with Ferguson and for what this means for our country. Dreaming of a world where unarmed petty crime doesn’t escalate to murder and where race doesn’t influence one’s course of action. Fear breeds fear. Dare to trust. Sending love to all those feeling the heaviness of tonight’s verdict, in solidarity.”

In solidarity, I still stand.

I heard this term recently in the context of seeking social justice within racial diversity and I think it captures the essence and ideal of a yogis infamously passive and passionate protest.

My heart aches for the loss, the misunderstanding, the division of a community and a people.

Our people.

As yogis we commit our lives to compassion, to love and to empathy.

Often times this means committing ourselves to relieving the burden of others, to sharing in the suffering of others and—if we’re not careful—to taking on other’s suffering ourselves.

It aches to be powerless in easing the loss and conflict in Ferguson.

And we cannot carry the suffering of the mothers and fathers, students and teachers, storeowners and police officers present and impacted there—fondly known as “the people of Ferguson.”

But, in times like these—when fear is clearly instinctual over trust—I am both incredibly sunken and hopeful.

If only we didn’t live in a world facing such deep despair, division and fear.

I find hope, however, in the emergence of compassion and empathy, nation-wide, as a result of last night’s events.

Today I have witnessed some of the most objective and passion-filled news coverage that I have ever seen. The prevalent response and immediate action by community members and peace-seekers, in the absence of law enforcement (I say neutrally) gives me hope.

During the grave circumstances we find ourselves in as a nation and global citizens, it appears a greater consciousness is rising.

A consciousness of truth and fairness and oneness.

Individually, we can do something.

Together, we can do anything.

As this belief expands, so does our impact.

When it comes to Ferguson, perhaps the most we can do is stand for something—for solidarity.

There’s no picking sides—as I can see the pain of a broken community and racial division is deeply embedded on both sides.

Hurt breeds fear and from fear—chaos.

Throughout the country and perhaps the world, others are considering their own reactions.

Protests in D.C., New York City and L.A. represent broader discontent with social injustice and racial profiling in our communities, everywhere.

One based in fairness and trust, rather than fear and isolation.

It’s up to us to foster a shift, to end the violence, by standing up.

Today, perhaps it’s not our turn to act, but it is our responsibility to stand beside those who are speaking out in peace.

We are not politicians, or community organizers, or even all registered voters. And yet, through our practice, it is ingrained in us to be active, engaged, present, and conscious. On the mat, in our lives, and in the world.

Even across difference, when we can’t fully understand the circumstances of others, we can fully feel for others. It’s this difference that sets yogis apart as a community, and makes us uniquely equipped to start a conversation (with objectivity), to motivate change in our own small corner of the world.

It’s easy to be fearful in times like these.

However, as yogis it’s our responsibility—and even our instinct—to trust.

Trust your voice and trust others.

Unto our yoga community, I remain eternally hopeful and stand with you, in solidarity.


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Author: Amy Osborne

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr




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