Month: December 2017

Brene Belonging

brene belongI was fortunate to have a 12 hour training in the work of Brené Brown when I worked at a non-profit women’s organization a few years ago.  Since people in the group knew that I was on the executive level at the organization, and they had paid good money to attend the workshop, I couldn’t share my deepest feelings about leaving my position or…anything really.  Each time we spoke of what happens when we can’t be our authentic self, I thought, “Here’s Meg, exhibit ‘A.'”

Nevertheless, I persisted in my own way.  I found a position where I could be authentically me and deepen my teaching practice. Like the quote says above, by living into my authenticity, I belonged to me.

But so many things have happened since November 2016 that have made me see that me belonging to me isn’t enough.  I have to belong to community — a big, broad, diverse, interesting, juicy community full of people who are unique in their background, their culture, their language, their perspective.

People in this kind of community bear a responsibility. We need to intentionally invite and welcome everyone, especially people who feel that they don’t belong.  We need to examine and rid our community of systematic injustices that create barriers. So, to amend the Brené Brown quote above, “Belonging is being your authentic self and knowing that no matter what happens, you belong to you, and you belong to a community that embraces you because you are authentically, uniquely you.

I would love to say that the yoga community in the DC region reflects this idea, but as I have taken a step towards being intentional about my yoga community, I have become acutely aware that there are yoga teachers and practitioners who cannot be who they really, truly are. They feel confined by the both the spoken and unspoken “rules” of asana or meditation practice, shamed by their bodies or the way in which they learn best, for straying from tradition or for having the audacity to claim ancient tradition — the list goes on and on. Next time you enter your yoga community, look around and note the predominant race, ethnicity, language, body type, age.  Allow yourself to imagine that you are different from the majority of these faces.  How would you feel practicing in this space?

That’s why as we come together to explore a regional yoga co-operative in the DC region, we must fight against homogeneity and work as a group to ensure accessibility, affordability and choice for all people interested in the practice.  We must ensure that people of color and people who feel marginalized by our current yoga scene are not only invited, but are present at the first meeting at the end of January to help us envision what we can accomplish together. Our intentional community must reflect the beautiful connection of belonging, if we can be authentically, truly who we are.

 

Belonging Brainstorms

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My writing, Dustin’s effusive illustrations of what the co-op will do for yoga teachers in the         DC Region. 

My conversations about the DC Yoga Co-op are sometimes telescopic other times microscopic, complex, invigorating and ultimately transformational.

In my recent conversation over coffee, Dustin Canter, entrepreneur, CFO, school and yoga teacher, all-around-good-guy and, by the way, the youngest ever DC Mayoral candidate, cut to the chase: Couldn’t a co-op make things easier for teachers? Help them become more productive, more effective, give them something of value besides a group that they can turn to for moral support? Aren’t there economies of scale that could be available to a large group of yoga teachers? Maybe an easy, cost-effective way to get subs or protection or even jobs?  Hey, what about building a retreat center?

Uh, hell yeah.

I have a vision for what the first year will look like for the DC Yoga Co-op.  For me, this vision involves not only serving many teachers in all these ways, but serious practitioners of yoga as well. It will provide something unique of quality (I’ve been dreaming of heirloom tomatoes…more on this later.)  It will also make sure that there is year-round, in-person outreach and education about all the myriad forms of yoga and meditation to the people who need it the most in our region.

But in a co-operative or even a collaborative, it isn’t about one person’s or one organization’s brand.  It is about collective imagination. I know that democracy is getting a pretty bad rap these days from every side in the tribal wars that we endure. But I believe there is still power in this kind of process and then the work towards a common purpose, especially on a local or even micro level.

We’ll be getting together in January to hash through what our goals will be for the first year and maybe even the first three years of our work together. Let me know you are interested in working on the big vision by sending me an email. I’ll put you on our expanding list for an invitation.

 

 

Islands in the Sun

IMG_3538 Though I belong to a large and incredibly supportive teacher community at my studio, I sometimes feel isolated from others, since usually we’re dashing from class to class.  As Carol and I have been talking with yoga teachers about forming a DC Yoga Co-op, we know that this feeling resonates — and is even more keenly felt by independent yoga teachers. (One described it as being an “island” in her teaching practice.) To counteract this feeling, in the fall I unmoored myself  and let the tides drift me to Upper Marlboro, MD to see how far out my yoga peeps live and work.

I was very early for the noon class at Spiritual Essence, but nevertheless warmly welcomed by Jakuta Dunmore, my instructor.  While we waited for her class to begin, we delved deeply into what was important to us as teachers, practitioners, and community members.  As our conversation turned to taking this practice to people who need it most, she shared the exciting news that she just been hired to teach yoga in the county prison. I could see that this new position was an expression of her compassion and practice of loving kindness.  As I said goodbye and we took pictures of each other and fellow students, I hoped that I would get to hear about how that first class went at the prison.

I’m always happy when I leave class blissed out after savasana, and I’m over the moon if I have learned something new — a few new moves  to incorporate into my sequences or a new perspective on ancient teachings.  This time I left buoyed by the knowledge that I had connected with someone who shared my values and my practice on and off the mat. Definitely a fellow yoga peep, my friend Jakuta.

When I envision the DC Yoga Co-op and what it could be and do for yoga teachers and serious practitioners in the region, this is what I imagine:  A place where we can gather, share support and wisdom.  For a brief moment, we could be islands in the sun.

If you are interested in hearing more about the DC Yoga Co-op, drop me a line.  Happy to include you in our work to create this community.