Yoga for All People: An Open Letter to “W”

Dear W.,

I heard your apology. I am grateful that I have experienced times of resentment in my past, and learned early on that I usually end up more hurt than the individual I refused to forgive by holding on and reliving the pain over and over again. However, forgiveness and forgetting are not synonymous. Your attacks toward me following my critique of the video and comment about my grandmother were disturbing and in my opinion, reach far deeper than the posts, the video, and this conversation. Do I think you jumped to conclusions and took it personally when my comment hit a nerve for you? Yes. Do I think you are human and imperfect?—absolutely. Do I think you are a racist? I am really not concerned with making that judgment, and contrary to what you assumed I never called you a racist.

To be perfectly transparent with my intention behind writing “Sometimes it is not all good”, it was to expose the abuse I received after stating my opinion, an opinion that is the reality for my grandmother and other well intentioned human beings who suffer oppression throughout the world. Whether you were attempting to silence, challenge, or mock that voice, your behavior was reckless and inappropriate and I felt you needed to be held accountable for your actions.

About the video:

Since you and many other people who support you in this situation continue to revisit my initial reaction to the video I will say this:  My personal observation is that some members of yoga communities, Buddhist sanghas, and just about any other community seeking enlightenment in this presumably “post-racial” era enter a murky area when diversity enters the picture. In just about every guided meditation I’ve received I have practiced removing the identity labels I carry in order to experience oneness with the world and tap into my True Self. Granted, these meditations are powerful; however, I think they become dangerous with regard to our relationships with one another when healthy boundaries are compromised and not respected. For example, as we get closer to “enlightenment” (however an individual interprets that) are we not bringing more mindfulness into our actions as we develop a closer relationship with Self? Why should mindfulness of actions and words be disregarded as we develop relationships with each other? The video is a perfect example. It was not “humor about ourselves” it was entitled “Yoga for Black People”. Therefore, as a member of the community I voiced my concern as an African American woman; consequently, the boundary of respect was violated. Yes, I’m sure there are millions of comedians who identify as Black, White, Asian, Latino/a, etc. who make these similar jokes regarding race. The difference in this particular situation is that I have not heard any stories of them tormenting individuals who disagree with their humor, and if they did I hope that someone spoke out against it.

For me, the shift of attention toward my “lack of humor” about the video is two-fold. On the one hand it has offered yogis, citizens, and people who are concerned about the marginalization of people throughout society and media the opportunity and platform to use their voice and speak their Truth. On the other hand, the fixation on my comment about my grandmother (by people who do not agree with my comment) has distracted some individuals from the severity of your actions.

Sri Pattabhi Jois is often quoted saying, “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory”. We can talk, blog, tweet, sensationalize, and belabor the topic until it shows up in the “trending” feed on our social networks; however, issues do not go away just because we lose readership, laugh them off, ignore, or silence their presence. I think this has been a powerful learning opportunity for us all. So what now?

The sacred lotus has several meanings in many cultures. I particularly love the birth of something beautiful in the middle of shallow and murky water.

I posit the following for all of us to critically reflect upon and consider: What good is our talking going to do if our actions through practice do not shift? How will we engage in healthy dialogue about uncomfortable topics without resorting to disrespecting those who do not agree with us? How will we use this experience to overcome fear and move into the realm of transformation?

With gratitude,

Chelsea (Jaya Dasi)

23 Comments

    1. Hi Chelsea,
      I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog, and your committment to yoga and mindfulness are beacons of inspiration for me. Thank you for your energy!

    1. Nathan,
      So happy to have found your blog as well! Thank you for your kind words and respect. Your article is very powerful. I look forward to communicating in the future through our posts.
      Peace,
      Chelsea

  1. Lovely. Basically you’re saying “walk the talk”, and if we find ourselves in a situation where we aren’t… then instead of just attacking the people who point out our lack of integrity, we should own up to it, and find ways to learn and grow as a result.

    Which is pretty much a neat package of a whole bunch of yogic and Buddhist teachings.

    Gorgeous words from a gorgeous soul, written gracefully when you could have rightfully had a much different reaction.

    Peace and love to you.

  2. Three corresponding citations help me make sense of your response to all of this, which I must say is much more centered than I usually get down: One by Paulo Freire, who said, “In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity, become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of humanity of both.” Similarly – the second, again, by Tim Wise: “You can’t organize people if you don’t love them. And however hard it can be to love the racists (I’m passing judgement I suppose) you come in contact with, doing so is the first obligation of the antiracist.” I’m not so sure I feel this totally, but understand it through the words of my homeboy Kiwi’s rap verse: “Fighting cuz this concrete jungle is war / I don’t love the struggle (of working with racists) but what we’re struggling for…”

    1. Thanks Patrick! Freire is my BFF! I love that quote…I thought I knew ’em all. Where can I find that? Also your previous post….WOW. So glad to know you professor. I think it is time for an interview! What say ye?

  3. my dear, dear sister. i am blown away. first, by the video and backlash, but mostly, by your strength and integrity. truly inspiring. but i expect nothing less. you’ve always spoken your mind and fought for truth and right, no matter what others think. and i know now, that it’s a hard road. but seeing the effect that your stance has had on the community makes me proud to be your friend. love you girl!

  4. Chelsea,
    I love your blog! And your committment to yoga and mindfulness are beacons of inspiration for me. Thank you for your energy!

  5. I’d like to know how a guy who claims he makes only $20k a year, according to his latest article, 10 reasons to hate Waylon, can pay a mortgage on a 700k house in Boulder?

  6. “Do not be sorry afterwards. Be sorry before. Then you will be a man who uses his mind to make his way instead of to repair it.”
    – Chiun, Master of Sinanju.

    a reference to a work of fiction, but good advice regardless…
    ==========

    Greetings, All:

    i’ll have more to say about the events in recent days but, as i prepare further remarks, i’m struck by something that’s happening–at “the other” online community–regarding how they’re:
    * redefining;
    AND
    * repositioning…
    what’s been happening.

    they’re employing somewhat classic techniques of what’s called, nowadays…
    “languaging”, and “controlling the narrative”.

    what concerns me–deeply–is how they’re still focused on “tone”:
    how things were said.
    vs…
    content:
    What Was Said.

    their focus seems to make for some odd outcomes which i’ll summarize (my interpretation), thusly:

    “what you said was just a little out of bounds, blown a little out of proportion…

    y’know, it would’ve been “Ok” if we’d attacked her…
    A LITTLE BIT LESS.

    it would’ve all been fine if we’d all embraced our senses of privilege and entitlement, and…
    Just Slightly Reduced Their Intensity!

    THAT is our fundamental lesson here…”

    clearly, people enjoy equity…
    sometimes to the point of feeling comfortable…
    hiding behind the Concept Of It.

    many people are taught that ANY Problem results from the mistakes of multiple parties.
    they believe there’s no way to solely assign blame and, thus, no way for one party to be solely responsible for any problem.
    (i note that the community that ignited this controversy is now offering a number of new posts–posts that seem to be designed to “Educate” others in how to interact with them; in the manner they prefer; consider acceptable; and functional within their definition of “Fair.”)

    HOWEVER…
    the logical calculus there is sometimes faulty.
    ONE person can be responsible for creating an issue even while…
    MULTIPLE People aid in…
    Making. Things. Right.

    for me, i look at this situation and assign its basic miscues to A Single Person/Their Colleagues & Collaborators…
    (which is NOT chelsea)

    that community seems to be choosing to focus on tone…
    and then…
    tenaciously…
    clinging to the belief that others–outside their community–are also responsible for that tone.
    my sense of things is that they feel their responses are “reasonable”, because believe they are the ONLY ones acknowledging how things were said.
    as if everyone saying, “we were all wrong. we all could’ve done better.”…
    will resolve this entire situation.

    even as they deliberately/consciously ignore the fact that other yoga-focused websites have previously dealt with that video, and did so in a way that was sensitive, mature, and accurate.
    http://www.yogadork.com/news/yoga-for-black-people-r-kelly-pose-video/

    but if the other community refuses to look beyond how things were said…
    and are comfortable abandoning the will to even consider…
    WHAT was said…
    then i think it is contingent on this community to, yes…
    “Do Better”…
    and we can do better by assuring we unearth–and staunchly advocate–the central issues…
    not merely the cosmetic ones.

    namasté

  7. I just watched the video and wow. While the original website it appeared on, funnyordie, might have been an appropriate place for such “humor” it is the last thing I expect to read on EJ. I don’t read it much anymore as half the time the post titles do not match the content and i get disappointed over and over again. Sorry to see how your comments were treated and that map, wow. As an African I’m deeply offended by that one. I wouldn’t want a website that posts such a map to “guide” me through the mindful life; I think they have lost their focus but hey they can’t be for everyone. You have handled it with such grace. Thank you!

  8. I have just come across this story as i have been following the anusaragate on yogadork . Waylon has been called out by many on his role in this new story The tactics of EJ and waylon are nothing to do with journalism and have a lack ethic I wont go into detail you can see for yourself at yogadork , credibility is not rising at EJ that is for sure , but I just wanted to say how I felt you behaved with dignity and respect , something which waylon and others singuarly failed to accord to you . I applaud your action on this issue ,it is important for all of us thankyou Chelsea

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