There is that point in every protest march where someone throws a bottle at window, or there is an angry outburst. There are those points of unchecked righteousness, the egos that turn causes into identities, the internal time bombs and make activists move away from movements.
As an activist, teacher, artist and yogi, I am always looking for a middle way, a way to find harmony while still pointing to injustice. In the yoga tradition, I travel on the path of Karma Yoga. The sense that service is done because it is a duty as a human being, a duty to serve the rest of humanity in supporting the best possible outcomes for everyone. I serve with the same love and adoration whether I am marching for the rights of those entrenched in systematic racism, building a garden for my local elementary school, or washing dinner dishes. No matter the task I bring the same selflessness, the same softness, the same love to them all.
Building alliances between this form of selfless service and the activist community can seem impossible at times. In July, I ran workshop in Vancouver, BC with a radical group of yogi’s from Love Light Yoga and we considered how these two worlds might work together. How passionate righteousness might be coupled with internal reflection and gentle love. It is tough in a day and age where we are on the constant look out for appropriation, oppression Olympics, and who is doing the best or most inspired work.
As a child I was raised to be of service, it was part of my family tradition. It came from our family paradigm. I was taught that we are here to be of service to others. This translated into a life lived and worked at the margins of society. A life that has always tried to bring margins to the center so that all people could benefit, when we serve one we serve all.
Looking at life through a systems lens, one can observe how service in one area can seem futile if not connected to another. If I work on school finance, or gentrification, singularly and don’t take into consideration the school to prison pipeline, racially unjust educational evaluation or food deserts, I miss an opportunity to support the youth and families that I am seeking to align with. Being of service in an egoless way, or without an aim for outcomes, allows work to span across “industries,” it allows a broader view.
As one person in this system I can affect small change, but as part of a whole movement, I can support system upheaval. By taking out the “I” and replacing it with “we,” focusing on service as support and love, it becomes so much more effective.
How can holding paradox or doing internal and external work simultaneously support a more significant change?