The Year of the "We"
The year of “The WE”. Beyond self-love, self-care, self-improvement and EVEN selfies: This is the year WE come together.
This December 31st at midnight I watched fireworks explode in the clear night sky above my house and contemplated classic NYE clichés. I relived sweet memories, ruminated on current goals, and considered what of the past year I wanted to leave behind. To my surprise, rather than the feelings of nostalgia on experiences during this time of year, I found that this line of thinking left me feeling stuck and stale. I couldn’t get past the pronouns of I and ME – what I wanted, what I needed. I found I was sick of thinking about myself. I had enough of self-serving photos, self-centered thoughts, and even the whole yoga industry focused on self-care and shameless self-promotion. I wanted more.
This year: I want you and me to have a conversation that’s more centered around the collective WE.
Self- Study or Svadhaya is an essential part of a yoga practice and living a well-examined life. Svadhaya is deep inquiry, which asks us to examine how we (as individuals) work. What is it about self-actualization and self-promotion that is so appealing? Is it that the Instagram “like” system is so incredibly gratifying? OR, is it the impression that we are well loved and valued by our colleagues, friends, and even strangers? What is it about our mental workings that equate this sort of stimuli to actual human connection? Can we dive deep into this sort of study without becoming self-indulgent? Can we recognize that we do this work in order to cultivate the presence of mind needed to genuinely relate to one another? Can we value the exchange instead of just the statement?
Where you and I become WE
The very word yoga indicates a need to yoke or connect on a myriad of levels. I believe we are ready to move beyond the self-awareness of the “me too” era into the solidarity and action of the “we too” era. In my own life, where I find this connection most whole-heartedly, is through my work with the Peace Through Yoga Foundation. The PTYF is a non-profit which funds an English and Empowerment Program serving young girls (Girls for Success) in the heart of the Caribbean paradise of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Paradise, however, holds both the lushness of a Garden of Eden, and the dangers. Here too, there are snakes offering apples – in the form of drugs, sex, and indifference. One needs nourishment on a holistic level to rise above the tangled vines of poverty and the dark arms of temptation to establish herself in the canopy of hope. Education plants these hearty seeds of self-worth. Nevertheless, left unattended for too long, these seeds can wither and die. Then again, watered daily with kind words and fed with love, these seeds can blossom. The center is both the fertile soil for growth and the shade of protection needed to flourish under the unforgiving Caribbean sun.
The Yoga of WE
Due to the name of the non-profit, The Peace Through Yoga Foundation, people are often surprised and a little saddened to hear we don’t actually practice much asana or physical yoga with our girls due to religious reasons. I see this as an opportunity for visitors and community members to grow in their understanding of what true yoga is. Yoga: to yoke, connect, or to join. Yoga on and off the mat is a celebration of the union of the breath with the body. Yoga is a way in which each person’s actions and re-actions can further connect her to her breath, body, and highest self. When functioning at such a level, we can incorporate this practice into our conversations, our relationships, and our work. True yoga has very little to do with a mat and a studio and more to do with the way we compassionately expand our understanding of one another. This comprehension nurtures our relationships those in our lives.
What Girls for Success needs, perhaps what we all need, is to widen the circle of those relationships. We all need to been seen, supported, and stood with. No one needs more flaky friends or Internet based acquaintances. The girls need partners and examples not just drive by donations and voluntourism. While the net of online communication can elicit once off efforts threads of connection, this is only at the level of empathy. We can all do better. We need to move beyond collective empathy for the difficulty of the “other” towards collective action.
Currently, the Girls for Success have had no school since September 2018 due to political strikes. However, because of the GFS program these girls HAVE continued to study and meet daily circumnavigating a void that could have otherwise consumed the better half of an academic year.
Where WE Can Come Together
My goal for 2019 is to see these girls receive the level of education they deserve. We are currently operating from a rented space and a deficit of funding. This year we are raising money needed to build our own school center. How will we make this goal of creating a new school a reality? How can we generate funding beyond one-time donations? How can I help to continue to provide education and inspiration to a community that I now consider family?
The answer is that alone I CANNOT but that WE CAN do it together.
This is me asking for help. This is also an invitation to you to ask for help. Where do your passions lie? Where do you need help and how can we connect?
I maintain that connection at a heart level is where the real “Yoga” takes place. So let’s get together. Let’s talk, let’s eat, and let’s disagree. Let’s move with a force of love grater than singularity and make this the year of the WE.