Our People: A Community of Acceptance and Diversity
Us vs. Them?
If you don’t want to cause a stir, “…never speak about politics or religion.” So I won’t, at least not directly or for very long. But in this time of political divisiveness, I often wonder, “Where did all the nice people go?” The mass media constantly plays snippets of vitriol. Trolls looking to voice baseless opinions bombard social media. Bullying that would not be allowed in the schoolyard is accepted as the new standard. It is justified because of displacement and anger.
This is not just one-sided. All sides of the political realm have been drawn into the “the other side is bad” argument. And once there, not only are the sides bad, but the people are bad too. We are in an “if-you-agree-with them” then “you-are-evil” era. If you are “not-like-me” then you are lower than low. You, as a person, are unworthy. WTF !! How did we get here? What do we do?
Finding Acceptance in Yoga
Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to either of these last questions. What I do know, however, is to the answer to the first question presented. “Where did all the nice people go?” The answer is, they are in our yoga studios.
As the bell rings when the studio door opens, we greet one another with a smile knowing that we are here for the same reasons. Yoga, whether practiced in a brick and mortar studio, or under the open sky, is a practice of acceptance. Acceptance of the pose as it finds you (I believe the pose finds you, you don’t find the pose). And acceptance of the life you are experiencing. For the next 30-90 minutes life’s problems become less stressful as the mind clears with every breath. And during that time, your life is shared with my life, and our lives are shared with all present. You are among “Our People”. And please don’t take that phrase wrong. I do not propose the term “Our People” be exclusive in any way. Read on and you will see what I mean.
“Our people” …… just listening to those two words brings about so many emotions. At first listen, one may think in terms of ancestry. Were your people oppressed? Were they conquerors? Do you just think of them as Scots, Italians, Persians, or Native Americans? Instead of ancestry, does another place of inclusion come to mind? Were your people settlers, explorers, or farmers? Were they outlaws, pirates or moonshiners? Did they make their living as sheepherders or cattlemen? Were they refugees from oppression? Are your people Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Humanist, Pagan? Do you use geography to describe “your people”? Are they Appalachian, Vietnamese Houng, Saharan, or Baltic? How about activity to describe your people? Are they Cross-Fitters, runners, swimmers, or yoga enthusiasts?
It is amazing to me that all these descriptions can emote such a feeling of inclusion and acceptance. There is a Devils Advocate question though: Do those same descriptions not also act as descriptions of “exclusion”? Each of the groups previously mentioned is a community of people. And most of these communities has, at one time or another, experienced discrimination. Their community has been excluded from the “normal” or “correct” population.
Depending on perspective, one is included in, or excluded from a community. Communities come together to honor the past, enjoy the present, or plan for the future. They also exist to support their individual members. Communities are important. In communities a person does not feel alone. That person is among those that share interests and needs. Community membership helps to fulfill ones physical and mental health needs.
Who are the yoga people?
This is where we get to the Yoga community. Friends of mine tell me that “Yoga people” are hippies, tree-huggers, Greenpeace sympathizers, or tie-dye fashionistas. But we know that is far from the truth. We, our yoga community, are much more than a group of “born-again hippies.” Our members have ancestral bonds to other lands. We represent all religious, spiritual and secular beliefs. Members from all points of the political spectrum can be found chanting “Om” on any given day. Economically, our community has members from the poorest of poor to the richest of rich. I have to admit that overall, we probably do care more deeply about the earth, people, animals and the aura that surrounds them more than the average person. But we do not despise the others for their beliefs. This is because we are taught to practice acceptance.
The teaching starts with “the self”. We are taught that there is no better pose. There is just better awareness. We are taught to be non-judgmental. We are taught that everyone should accept yoga at their own pace; that the flows and poses are meant to be individual, non-competitive. Although the teachings concentrate on self, in the end, they go far beyond self. Because once we accept the self, we are more than willing to unequivocally accept others; a hope expressed by one of my favorite yoga teachers when she asked, “Why can’t we respect each other’s differences and honor each other’s similarities.”
Which gets us back to the “nice people” in the yoga community. Personally I belong to a number of communities, as I am sure most people do. But my membership in the community of yogis gives me a sense of positivity and well-being that I do not get anywhere else. It is phenomenal. The non-judgment is necessary to my well-being. You all know it. It’s the people that make the community awesome. It’s nice to be around “nice” people.
How about you, yogis? Who are your people? Are they yoga people, something else, or both? Tell us in the comments!