In just a few short weeks our collective yogic actions have made a difference. My yoga teacher would often ask, why do you feel compelled to believe that "what is" is wrong? That "what is" is not exactly the way things should be? And I, in my insistent inquiry, ask back “Even if I think everything is as it should be, does that discount my desire to act?”
I desire to take action and we are creating change!
This week, President-elect Trump has softened on several important issues facing his administration: Obamacare, climate change, the wall, and coal. The alt-right are disavowed and racism is denounced. Our environment, endangered species, and our children can all breathe a sigh of relief. But the work has just begun.
I see infinite opportunities to give. Giving is a rewarding task and I do make a difference. I also see the many ways I find excuses not to help. But as we say in the yoga world, awareness is the first step to healing. Awareness shows me that I am not too busy to lend a hand. Awareness shows me I will not initiate a barrage of petitions if I sign one, three, or ten online. Awareness shows me that I do have room in my home for a friend in need. There is so much I can do and it feels good.
An inspiring Facebook post by my friend Jon Gorman is an example of actions one person has taken this month. I like how he found opportunity on a local, national and global level. He honed in on three tasks in an infinite sea of options. His intelligent approach is inspiring and I hope it helps you to take action. It goes like this.
My biggest takeaway from my utter shock and horror at the election results and aftermath is this: to have a perspective based on morals, to vote for the more progressive candidate, and to share relevant articles and opinions on Facebook is not enough. I had been standing behind these acts throughout this election but if I'm truly honest with myself, these acts are what allowed us to pretend we are making a difference despite an underlying complacency that allowed Trump to get elected and prior to that, have allowed injustices to be perpetuated for decades. Opinionated posts on Facebook don't change anyone else's opinions and don't advance the change that is needed. There is so much more that these times demand of us, and so much more that we can and need to be doing.
Here is how I intend to take action:
1) I set up a recurring monthly donation to non-profit organizations that support education for underserved communities, protecting the environment, and a social cause I care about.
2) I am volunteering with an organization in Baltimore that aims to engage underserved youth and help them succeed and have more opportunities in life.
3) I started a therapy private practice this past September. I will be re-evaluating my business plan to determine a way to provide low-cost or pro-bono mental health services to individuals in marginalized, low-income communities starting within the first half of 2017.
... I challenge all of you reading this to take similar steps. If you don't have time, donate money to important causes. If you don't have money, donate your time or other resources. If you don't have money or time, why are you spending so much time on Facebook reading my ramblings?
I want you to notice how his three specific actions, not too big but also not inconsequential, will change the world for the better.
1. Jon reached into his wallet and gave. Imagine if every one of us set up a recurring monthly donation to an organization we love? What if we gave every month to an organization that advocates for the environment, endangered species, human rights, arts or humanities? Imagine if we all give a single dollar to 5 groups each month? Our actions would not only help these organizations financially but our donations would be a voice that tells the world what we value, love and cherish.
2. Jon has found an organization that operated locally and his time will make a difference. I was listening to Jane Alexander, actress, environmental and endangered species activist, speak at the Miami book festival. She suggests we help in three ways.
A. Find a local organization where you can get involved.
B. Find an organization you are passionate about at a national level, one that works to make the United States a better place to live and support them with time or money.
C. Find an international organization, one that is working for the betterment of our global community and support them with time or money.
3. Jon is altering the way he does business to advocate for diversity. Imagine if each of us, in our local area, found a way to include students, clients, and colleagues from diverse economic backgrounds into our endeavors? Imagine what the world would be like if the guy who worked in the Starbucks lived next door to the politician? Imagine if the construction worker was valued as much as the banker. Imagine our world if the entrepreneur and the artist stood on equal ground. Imagine our neighborhoods if they were a tapestry of people all working together creating community. Imagine if we found a way to insist upon diversity, diversity of all kinds. Imagine what the yoga classes, shopping centers, and the schools would be like if we altered our business plan to insist on diversity.
I love how Jon says, if you don’t have money, donate time. This Thanksgiving, I recruited my family to go and help out at the Salvation Army! We are going to serve food and you know what? I am more excited about Thanksgiving than ever. I absolutely cannot wait. You know what else, when I signed up the online form said: share what you did on Facebook, we still need help. As a result of the share, we filled the quota needed for serving this year. I made a difference, Facebook made a difference and so did everyone who chose to come and help.
It’s hard to know how much one can do. It is hard to know, as a yoga teacher, when students need a break from it all, just to stretch, relax, and go inside for some peace and quiet.
But I wonder, where is the peace and quiet when the house is burning down? How can there be peace and quiet, when your children are hungry and need a helping hand?
When I was 20, I took a vow of the bodhisattva. This vow promises that I will not reach enlightenment until every other being on earth has been helped along the path. The vow of the bodhisattva asks, where is the joy in my own awakening when there are still others in the dark? I vow to continue to work on this earth until we all experience unity. I am asking for your help. We live in this world together, so for today, in the name of Thanksgiving, lets lend a hand. Find a way to give, and don’t go back to sleep.
The Sun by Mary Oliver
Have you ever seen
in your life
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone—
And how it slides again
out of the blackness
on the other side of the world
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance—
and have you ever felt for anything such wild love—
do you think there is anywhere, in any
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world—
or have you too gone crazy