As Evidenced By
I have been involved in New Age circles since I was eighteen years old. I can not tell you the number of World Peace prayers, mantras, visualizations and ceremonies in which I have participated. I have listened to countless charismatic teachers talk about "ushering in a new paradigm" and being part of an "evolution in consciousness" and so on. Gathered in small and large groups, armed with mala beads and good intentions, I have felt inspired, uplifted and buoyed by the notion that I was part of a larger process of awakening.
Of course, I don't have to tell most of you that 99.9% of the people in those rituals and gatherings were white. And perhaps I don't have to tell you that my own relationship to said "new paradigm" and said "consciousness evolution" was somewhat vague and, if I am honest, largely centered on my own current and future well-being. I am not saying that I am a total asshole or that I am completely self-centered. I needed to dive into the sources of my personal suffering and to get a handle on my own inner workings. I needed to invoke a positive future for myself. In fact, my life depended on it. Up to a point, personal work on self is essential. After a point, working only on self may have some serious downsides.
One of those serious downsides for me is that I was living in ignorance of larger social issues and failing to see that my ignorance kept me unconsciously participating in an unjust system of institutionalized racism that feeds on fear, blame and inequity-- the very things I was praying would come to an end. By being focused on the ways my personal consciousness was patterned from childhood conditioning, I missed the obvious-- the ways the culture in which I was brought up created patterns that kept me blind to racism, hatred and various forms of de-humanizing cultural norms.
I now think that the "new paradigm" and the "evolution in consciousness" of which we speak in yoga, must be evidenced by a collective liberation effort where the insight, clarity and love I feel in personal practices and invocational rituals is manifested in various forms of direct action in the world.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the tone of this book compassionate, encouraging and spiritually-inspiring. Chris clearly outlines the degrading effects of systemic racism on our personal and collective consciousness without shame, blame or undue criticism, while issuing an unapologetic and decisive call to action during this pivotal time in our nation's history.
I invited Chris to talk about his work on a webinar with me. My vision is that yoga practitioners and teachers across the country would form small study groups in their area to educate themselves about systemic racism and social justice and we could connect via a web-based resource network for continued inspiration and education. My mission is not to convince anyone they are a racist, to point fingers at anyone or to pressure people into change. My interest is in supporting sincere, concerned and compassionate people in learning about systemic racism in a safe and empowering way.
Chris generously agreed to speak with our community on Tuesday, February 23.
Clearly, the topic of racism and social justice is a tender topic. The tentacles of the divisive mindset that live at the source of our country's institutionalized racism are far-reaching. I am not an experienced anti-racism educator, nor am I an experienced activist. I am a white woman, taking initial steps to bring yoga to life within the context of a larger conversation of collective liberation and social action.
I invite you to join me.
Toward the Other America Webinar with Chris Crass
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."