yoga & mindfulness at the RNC/DNC: angel kyodo williams speaks up
The Off The Mat, Into The World‘s Huffington Post-sponsored Oasis at last week’s RNC and this week’s DNC has garnered criticism from yoga bloggers and the press (for different reasons, of course). But other than PR-friendly HuffPo articles and brief Facebook status updates from Seane Corn, we aren’t getting the inside story from OTM or others who are directly involved in the Oasis.
Until angel Kyodo williams left a detailed and insightful comment on my recent post summarizing the conversation around OTM’s presence at the national conventions. williams is an African American/mixed race writer, ordained Zen priest and the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace. She was at the RNC last week with Mindful Votes and will be at the DNC this week.
This is what she had to say (adapted from her original comment, with additional info via email):
some of these comments point to exactly what the OTM effort is about. we are completely polarized. even as progressives we are quick to shoot each other down without checking in, speaking on behalf of others and going to extremes to express our views in ways that are neither respectful nor compassionate.
i won’t speak for anyone other than myself, but as i expressed to Alex Pareene at Salon.com, i was not “conned” into doing anything and to suggest i was insults my intelligence and capacity for decision-making on my own behalf. i’d like to believe people don’t think that as a very strong, very informed, politicized woman, priest, meditation and yogi teacher-practitioner of color, we (me and my team of 3 other folks of color) were naive in our thinking about what the pitfalls and potentials are of this effort. having actually been to the RNC and now at the DNC, we don’t regret it at all.
the “evangelical” label is a petty swipe that has no merit here. it’s mean-spirited and exactly what isn’t needed any longer. no one is going out an knocking on doors peddling yoga or meditation or smoothies. this won’t “make it OK” and no one suggests it will. nothing is making it OK, at this point. but exposure does, indeed, create potential opening. it’s not a quick fix. or even a fix, necessarily. but it’s an opening where we have nothing but closing. how many of us practitioners were once closed to all manner of things that our mindfulness and yoga practices have opened us up to? is it the ideal platform? perhaps not, but not one yogi/meditator is selling their soul or their values. these are solid people entering with open hearts & curious minds to at least look.
i know the stakes are high. higher really than they have ever been. i truly believe that we are in a desperate battle for the future of this country and i’m clear that one vision that is being presented would be a very, very intolerable future for me personally. but i have to trust that my practice and it’s values has something to offer that may transcend even my own understanding.
i know that it’s hard, particularly in such an intensely meaningful election for all of us to not feel that it’s time to dig into our corners to win the battles we feel are before us. i’ve got strong heels and i can dig in with the best of them. RNC, DNC–no doubt, this isn’t easy, there are challenges no matter how you cut it.
but i know Seane, Kerri and other leaders of OTM share my view that while there are risks involved in how our communities will misinterpret the intentions, the possibilities outweigh the risks. and when you’re in a situation that feels desperate, as it does to many of us, hopefulness can lead to insight. insight can give rise to vision. vision can see us through these dark times.
OTM’s involvement in the Oasis is visionary. not because it’s free and clear of questions, diceyness and truly valid pushback, but because that was obvious all along and they — no, we — did it anyway. we chose, and choose, to not be shouted down by our community, but to listen to what the concerns are and step outside the box anyway. it’s fierce and we need fierce right about now because we’re in a shitstorm no matter what side of the aisle you’re looking from. we need fierce on all of our behalves, though, not just for half of us or 52% or 270 electoral votes. because when it’s all over, we have to live with each other.
will that happen in 1 yoga class presented by a lefty do-gooder yogi, sponsored by a conservative-turned-progressive-hell-on-wheels of a woman? maybe not. (though something pretty unlikely happened four years ago.) but if someone’s got the answer, bring it on. i’ll get off my yoga mat, meditation cushion and soapbox and get behind it.
let’s have a dialogue, good people. with our fierce convictions and in respectful opposition, let’s find a better way than we have been because pendulum-swinging back and forth isn’t working for anyone but those that thrive off of our loss of hope that we’ll get anywhere at all.
angel Kyodo williams is anchoring http://mindfulvotes.org, a sister campaign to http://yogavotes.org because she believes in inspiration rather than separation, and trusts the wisdom of her practice even more than she trusts her self.