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June 25, 2020

Thoughts from an Angry Yogi: Racial Gaslighting & Spiritual Bypassing.


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I constantly see Instagram and Facebook posts about ahimsa.

The term ahimsa is an important spiritual doctrine shared by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism (and western yogis). It literally means non-injury, non-killing, and non-violence. 

“It implies the total avoidance of harming any kind of living creatures not only by deeds but also by words and in thoughts.” ~ Wikipedia

Well, supposedly, after practicing yoga and meditation for 26 years, I should have a neutral mind. I should be practicing the eight limbs of yoga (ahimsa being one of them).

What does it mean to really be a yogi?

Enlightened? Healed? Doesn’t take a stance? Doesn’t react? Doesn’t speak up? 

Is enlightenment complacency? Neutrality?

I’m devastated, angry, confused, sad, and feel hopeless. I’m fully human—can I even call myself a yogi anymore?

This is the week of the biggest civil rights protests in history and in the world, after over 85 days of a stay-at-home order. According to NPR, 40.8 million people are out of work. This is including me after the gym I teach at was required to shut its doors for the past 12 weeks. (This was June 8, 2020.)

This is after George Floyd was murdered on camera (no, I did not watch it) while the world watched. And yes, that is a privilege. I can turn my head, turn off the news, not look at what is difficult for me to see and feel.

I’m an empath, a healer—I’m too sensitive. I’m overwhelmed.

And in my world, “yoga land,” people are saying: All lives matter. Love over fear. Practice ahimsa (non-harming, non-violence). Be Neutral. Meditate. Do yoga. Send love. We are one. I don’t see color. We are all the same. Equality for all.

I call bullsh*t! 

We are not all one. As Jeff Brown says: 

“Until every story gets told, and every trauma gets healed, ‘All One’ is nothing but a theoretical construct.”

When was the last time you were scared to leave your house because of your skin color?

What about being afraid every day your child might not come home because of his or her skin color?

When did you have to coach your child on how and what to do if you get pulled over by a cop because of the color of their skin?

So many of us as yoga teachers fall into this avoidance trap. Yes, it’s white privilege. 

We quote the yoga sutras and try to live these yogic teachings, but we are basically bypassing other humans’ feelings.

I love this from Trevor Chaitanya: 

“My teacher says never to apply the non-dual reality. To the relativistic world of duality. By using the idea of a ‘higher spiritual state’ to avoid doing personal work. Non-duality cannot be attained via spiritual bypassing. It only deepens illusions.”

So we take a seat on our mats—in all our white privilege, every day—and do yoga. We meditate while our cities are burning, stores are being destroyed and looted, there’s rioting and protesting in the streets, and helicopters and sirens are blaring for eight days straight. But, we’re “sending love, praying, and crying.”

I am afraid because I am uncomfortable.

The ahimsa people are judging the looters, judging the enraged who are in the streets. They are saying, “How can they do this?” 

They say, “They are destroying their own cities! This is not doing any good!”

Martin Luther King Jr. said that “A riot is the voice of the unheard,” and he was right.

My blood boils; how you can you preach ahimsa right now? That is the definition of privilege!

How are you not enraged by the injustices in our world? How can you not see that yet another black man has been murdered at the hands of a white man?

I want to yell and scream. This is beyond wrong. I see what the police officers are doing to the peaceful protestors, and I will not be neutral. 

I will not do my “yoga talk” right now. I will take a stand.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Those who profess to favor freedom but depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Shout out to Ogorchukwu for this post:

“I have said this before and will say this again: do not use spiritual axioms to deal with or respond to racism! An enlightened world for everyone will come from dismantling racism. If any black/POC have been told any of these statements (like I have), feast your eyes on these affirmations and responses!

Affirmations for Black, Indigenous, and POC:

If someone says: You are responsible for your reality.

Tell yourself/tell them: I am not responsible for my experience with racism.

If someone says: What you experienced is something to teach you.

Tell yourself/tell them: That was not a lesson that I deserved to learn.

If someone says: You can fully heal from this if you do the inner work.

Tell yourself/tell them: I may fully heal if we work together to fully dismantle racism.

If someone says: If you raise your vibration, you won’t attract this energy.

Tell yourself/tell them: Those that perpetuate racism should raise their vibration.

If someone says: Don’t put too much focus on negative things like that.

Tell yourself/tell them: Acknowledging what took place is healthy for me.”

I don’t have the answers, but I will not be silent.

I apologize to all my students over the past 20 years for participating in these idealist views and using them to disregard your truth. I wasn’t ready to face them in myself.

I am ready now.


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Valinda Cochella  |  Contribution: 835

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