In the wake of yet another gross example of racism and another senseless murder in the USA, many people are searching for some way to actively respond to a world that has given birth to so much violence and injustice. In Integral Yoga, we often speak about how we can embody the spiritual principles and practices we embrace in proactive ways to make a real difference.
For far too long, many committed spiritual seekers I know have limited their response to sending prayers for peace, expressing their dismay to each other, and recommitting themselves to spiritual practice to establish peace in their hearts. These are all very important choices, but right now, I don’t think they are enough. These actions are invisible to the world around us—I saw a protest sign recently that read, “Silence is Violence.”
It is crucial that we sustain a regular meditation practice to touch the ground of being we all share and to awaken the natural compassion that arises in the heart when we experience this interconnection. Understood in this context, our spiritual practice is a responsibility, not simply a personal pursuit. Only then, will this sense of oneness be strong enough that it manifests in our hearts and minds as we interact in the world.
But we need not wait for some level of enlightenment to take Yoga off the cushion or mat and into the street. We can purposely practice moving, talking, and thinking with peace and compassion in our hearts.
We bring compassion into conversations when we listen deeply to another person and make a real effort to understand and respect their needs, instead of stubbornly defending our own. We can approach even those with whom we disagree with an open heart and an effort to build on the common ground we share, instead of focusing only on the differences.
At every opportunity, we must speak out against injustice when we see, hear, or witness it and be a presence of peace in moments of conflict. Even when we cannot help directly, we can offer support to those who are fighting against racism and violence. We must make our voices heard to those seeking election, so that polices that support social justice are enacted at every level of government.
A recent message from the Interfaith Council of San Francisco articulates our intention to join with many others in supporting changes that value all peoples, regardless of race, eradicate all forms of oppression and recognize the unity behind all diversity:
“The overwhelming national response to George Floyd’s death, manifested in peaceful protests, not only honors his life, but powerfully expresses the threshold of tolerance we as Americans have reached for injustice, systematic racism and discrimination against people of color. This powerful resurgence of a long overdue civil rights movement will not be silenced until structural change is realized. We lift our voices and stand in unity and solidarity with our sisters and brothers of color in proclaiming that BLACK LIVES MATTER.” —Interfaith Council of San Francisco
For the last two months, the residents of the Integral Yoga Institute here in San Francisco have been gathering to send out prayers for all those who are suffering from the pandemic. We will continue to do so and keep equally in our prayers all those suffering from racial injustice. And we commit to educating ourselves to uncover unintentional racism, to searching our own hearts for prejudice of any kind and to using every opportunity to promote the yogic understanding that we are all one.
Responding to Racism – A Spiritual Perspective Sunday June 14, 7:30–9:00pm ET/4:30–6:00 pm PT
Please join us for a free panel and community discussion we will hold on Sunday, June 14, 7:30–9:00pm ET/4:30–6:00 pm PT, entitled “Responding to Racism – A Spiritual Perspective.” Integral Yoga Minister Kamala Itzel Hayward will speak on the essential role that acknowledging racism and other forms of oppression plays in the spiritual journey. Mazin Jamal Mahgoub will follow with a talk on effective activism grounded in spiritual principles. Moderated by Swami Ramananda.
About the Author:
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.