A Sentient Collective • 2 December 2016

solstice 2015

The start of September, I faced my students for the first time in two months. While I’d finished my own practice in a side room, the main space had filled silently, with all these people I’ve known for years. Touching the threshold my fingertips buzzed in contact with its tiny nails. I called us to attention with a body full of excitement.

There’s an invocation we say to begin. It gets the body’s hidden drums (pelvic floor, diaphragm, soft palate, falx cerebri) vibrating together. It’s a poem to summon a line of teachers from back in time, finally describing a wild jungle shaman with cosmic tools who purges the poison of conditioned existence. I had been away in India, chanting call-and-response, but back home we do it in unison. I’ll never be a guru and thus don’t lead the rites: I teach it to beginners, and then we as a group co-create each ritual new. But that first day in September, my system was in the rhythm of following my teacher. After the first line, I forgot what to do next and stood there, facing them, empty. Not noticing I’d fallen silent, the student body filled me in. Putting Patanjali in his place.

That is the collective becoming intelligent. A flit in time, easy to miss, easy to dismiss. But there are so many of these hints of collective sentience now. They’re tiny but not trivial, because it’s not just social connection that is arising – it is a kind of intelligence I want to affirm. It shows up not just as shared resonance and esoteric knowledge reproduction, but as aggregate selfless action, collective health care and food sharing and safety, and the lateral transmission of energy in the form of inspiration, hormones and technical know-how. This becomes a group that can radiate altered states (a meditation we call tristhana) to the new folks without my saying much on day one but “breathe like the room.”

My hands know the hormonal cycles of these bodies, the ways they generate focus and pheromones among each other. Young women driven by western culture to amenorrhea (this is a hidden epidemic) recover a lunar rhythm. Secret stewards organize mats, and feed parking meters, and leave mundane/beautiful offerings at the altar. People stay home when contagious, because the health of the group pre-empts the fix they get from collective practice. The currently eight pregnant people connect in hidden ways. Those who are better off in a material sense know when and how to give housing and food to those who need to close a gap.

I bring faith, technical and historical information, a bit of planning, and the right sort of predictability. They trust me to be strong for them if there’s a breach in safe space; some tell an old story about exactly what that looks like. There is also the matter of embodying, after semi-deprogramming from western mind, our lineage’s acutely peculiar relationship to time. (Ashtanga time is nonlinear but absolutely exact, mystical, hyper-intuitive, and dotted with retrograde cycles where you age in reverse and the tides of transmission turn and flow out to sea. Long story.) Beyond bringing them these things, six years in, I’m a center that does best to fall silent.

So this is not a teacher-centered collective. But here they are, offering astonishingly refined energy back to me. Go to minute 10:10.

Listen. There are crowds, and there are collectives. The crowd is not compassionate. The crowd is not smart. I’m a rural right-wing preacher’s kid from one of the poorest counties in the country, exiled and reconciled to her roots. I love where and what I’m from; it is humble heartbreak territory. And I won’t lie to you about the primal side of me. Of us all. No the crowd is not compassionate. And no it is not smart.

But the collective that can congeal anywhere, anytime. The collective that practices. The one that is designed well, and then freed to create itself. That collective may be compassionate, and that collective may be go far beyond smart.

This ain’t politics. It’s a matter of what kind of information can travel through a social nervous system. For now, care, compassion and radical creativity are not the default in a human complex system. In these times, you must be deliberate if you want them to come about.

And now we are here. Pure uncertainty. Don’t tell yourself you can ride out what’s coming on without a new paradigm. You’ll waste your strength trying to hold an old reality together. Every day each of us will be deciding. What to perpetuate, what to join. And what to generate.

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The last two years, I’ve tried to integrate the learning from my 20s into my work now as the director of a yoga school. In that past life, I studied cultural and economic history in a sort of salon, the Historical and Comparative section of the UCLA Sociology Department. Dear friends who shared those years remember them as our golden age, getting schooled hard in Marx by Maurice Zeitlin and the sources of social power by Michael Mann, learning to read a book a day. Our crew of of international intellectuals would debate for hours on my Santa Monica balcony at night, and then I’d get up and do corporate asana at Yogaworks Venice or Beverly Hills, practicing next to Tobey Macguire or David Duchovny (two of the few then-celebs whose sweat smelled good). I disowned all that because ashtanga was eventually just better. Better than golden ideas and sunshine and brilliant friends. Yoga subculture really is that good. (And yoga subculture is also potent; we can redirect what we’ve got to be far more awesome than we’re being now). I let that old life go to seed until last year, when I realized that yoga teachers would do a lot better by their students if we dropped the promotional capitalism frame that westerners take for granted, finding more fertile models in grassroots social movements and complex systems.

The writing on this topic has been called scholarly. (As an insult.) I’m so sorry to alienate anyone. Honestly I know how weird it can feel when a girl plays in the masculine domain of macro-economic, historical knowledge. I also get how it’s nasty to openly undress consumerism. But some say my attempt at integrating these two lives offers them new resources. That’s enough. And for what it’s worth, there’s a new cache of techniques below.

Timing matters. Before now, I couldn’t say this: in the arc of socio-economic history, financialization of the economy and devastation of the environment have for years been rotting capitalism and the nation state. Crisis of land and economies is cyclic. In the past, history has kicked up depressions and fascisms in response to paradigm-rot; but at other moments humans have generated communities of care, radical spirituality, and waves of ecstatic solidarity that leave western rich kid festival culture in the dust. I spent 1999 and 2000 in post-Sandinista Nicaragua and Jesuit El Salvador getting a feel for that ecstatic solidarity, albeit not embodying the selflessness that was manifesting because my life was never in danger. To this day I can only half-appreciate the power of their radical collectivist Christ – what that entity did to rewire social nervous systems and define the meaning of life for generations.

This is a different time. A pulsing metaphor can be a key resource, but there’s more. Post-fossil fuel technologies, a fall in many production costs due to 3D printing and such, the benevolent death of consumerism, and social media can change the game. Yoga can absolutely change the game.

For the last two years my intention has been to show that carefully designed, non-commercial collectives are most nourishing for yoga in these times. Such collectives will endure, and will give birth to more of the same. (Why “careful” design? Because de-programming takes so much clarity of consciousness. Consumerism is in the water, and we’ll drink it down if we don’t filter it out.)

Teacher-centric yoga (personally-branded, consumer yoga) is not bad. Yoga is an entity and has its own intelligence. For twenty years it used the consumer machine to spread a thinned-down image of itself. Like a virus. Good job, yoga. Now everyone has some idea of you.

But the consumer yoga of my 20s is not helpful where we are going. We need collectives that are independent of the sick parts of our society – of which consumerism is the very sickest. Put yoga in restorative economies and generative cultures, and watch that marriage of intelligences go wild. The compassionate, creative kind of wild.

Restorative economy and generative culture are abstract terms, and like the other abstractions in this series I use them to point to rabbit holes you can find online. The grassroots are in full ferment right now. Compassionate, intelligent collectives are arising everywhere.

Here are some pieces of practice. Or praxis, as the ecstatic Marxist Christians of end-of-the-century Central America would say.

………………………………………………

The shala here has come to life in two overlapping phases. The first was conscious design by a director, collaborating with a tiny group to build a foundation. The second is a selective stepping back, so the collective has more space to become self-intelligent. In this phase, I trust the group to generate goodness that I alone cannot.

Phase 1 – RAW MATERIALS.

I’ve said a lot about this, but here are some more techniques that helped us foster a grassroots group without much consumer mentality in the mix.

FIRST. Recognizing relationship as foundational. Regenerative and creative culture arise from connection. Far better than consumerism (where energy exchange is inherently exploitative) a relationship-based paradigm is a natural match for a tradition based on student-teacher relationship and long term commitment. You can’t sell inter-subjectivity. You can only develop it.

Consumerism disposes of people as objects; but in the open space beyond that paradigm, one can see how broken relationship is a very deep loss. If there are lies or abuse, perhaps it must happen. From the perspective of safe space, it is good to filter out such energy from the start. The shaucha of healthy boundaries is indispensable in a collectivity. Still, when it’s clear that relationship is what we have, reconciliation and forgiveness become high spiritual skills. If a story is being used to create hardness of heart, this degrades material, energetic, mental and spiritual resources. Relationship narratives that stabilize healthy connection breed strong energy economies.

Big picture, it’s important not to be story-poor. Not to let the imagination fail us.

SECOND. The banality of capitalism says a little consumerism is no big deal. “That’s just how things work.” Mmmm hmmmm. Suddenly you’ve got an underpaid front desk person, a retail space and a group-on. Commodification is the inexorable inner force of capitalism, and this is how it worms in. I respect it. And I see within my mind how easy it is to turn yoga in to things – an approach to practice based on postures and tricks and one-off marketable experiences where there is no sustained relationship of teachers and students.

Resistance is possible. But it’s easier to do things an entirely different way.

THIRD. Marketability meh, accountaiblility yes. For example, seeing how lazy I can be, I’ve set myself up in relationships where I am forced to grow. This originally began as a funny counterpoint to the capitalist imperative of constant profit growth. I chose students whose arc was steep and strong, so that I myself would be forced into spiritual growth. As it has turned out, that has usually meant staying in the super-inspired headspace of beginner’s mind myself.

Meantime, workshops are the yoga consumer item par excellence. So far I’ve found it undermines consumer mentality if I only teach them in places where I have a long-term student-teacher relationship with the director, and if I commit to coming back repeatedly to support the group’s and my own growth. I can’t recycle content on them; I have to keep going deeper. With repeated contact, and sincere mutual investment in relationship, the creativity gets more interesting every year.

FOURTH. Ownership. Students here like that some of them pay more, or less, or in the form of service outside the shala. What’s important is the agreement, the recognition that we live in an unequal society and for our group to be egalitarian the contributions need to vary in both quantity and kind.

This leads to a sense of ownership of the shala that undergirds the ownership each person has of her practice.

By the way, if you wanted to make sure ownership/stewardship of one’s practice or one’s collective do not arise, shame students. Shame is emotional napalm. Shame is scorched earth. Shame is cheap control, and it’s not helpful if collective intelligence is the intention.

FIFTH. Understanding that story organizes collectives clarifies that awareness of scapegoat/martyr mind is key. It is easy for shaming/blaming mind to take over entire movements. The easy discourse of “I’m shall now make an example of you” excites the witch-hunter whose potential we all carry.

Think yoga people are beyond this? No, we love it. To exemeplify an exemplifier, think briefly of M. Remski. Yum. This mode of meaning-making cannot exist without a yoga damsel in distress– from the drifting everywoman at the start of his Gita essay, to the wife he finds when she comes for astrology expertise and her reading reveals she is just the right quarry for the magistrate himself (*important – see FN in the comment below), to the deluded smoothie drinker who he rescues with Ayurveda in his piece on bitter greens. That’s where I stopped reading, because I saw the structure this was solidifying within my mind, smuggling misogyny over my gates.

Demonizing/victimizing is a moral modus operandi that may that have some use, if only because it lets off steam from the medieval mind in all of us. But right now it is important to describe evil in a way that affirms interconnection and does not increase a charismatic figure’s power. Is evil one man? Discourses in which victims are rescued and perpetrators destroyed obscure the systemic nature of 21st century suffering. This keeps black and white capitalist morality going. These mindsets are addictive until we see them for what they are. If you’re thinking of that Jung line right now, well so am I: “The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.”

Here is the thing. The more clearly and fully we see life as a complex system, the easier it is to think like the universe, and act as the world.

Phase 2 – SENTIENCE

I don’t know, but this is what seems most useful for me now if I want the collective I’m behind to have space to become increasingly compassionate, creative and intelligent. There are just three practices that I can see for now. Still figuring this out.

FIRST. It matters how much time I spend in meditation, nourishing my intuition and non-reactivity. Looking at how my work flows in relationship with depth or lack thereof in my practice, quiet time apparently matters a lot. Sometimes 30 minutes on a cushion is all the stillness I get in a day. But I’m a stronger background presence for the shala if I get more emptiness (as if you can measure the void, heh!), and if I stay off the internet except in focused spurts of jumpy chaos. There is now a countervailing desire to have my finger on the pulse of rapid political change, so to the degree that I’m reading a lot more than usual online, it seems I must be careful to not let the chaos of this historical moment determine my consciousness.

SECOND. Get out of the way of other people’s interconnections. With a certain set of values guiding them, the collective seems to want to create miniature barter economies, art collectives, spontaneous acts of service. Yes. They need to have unmediated connections with each other where the teacher isn’t in the way. Who knows what will come of that, but so far it’s beautiful.

THIRD. Oh my God, we must learn history from people. So much human intelligence is there.

I remember being ten, my dad saying the words “great depression” and me saying “what?” He could tell me the masculine macro-history but my mind wanted a breathing, feminine, interior account. He helped my call my grandmother and I sat against the wall under the rotary phone and learned about the winter of 1931 in Oskalsoosa, Iowa. At 70 she could bring alive all the feelings, all the earned understanding, and she gave me all she could of the resulting skill. The way she cried to me through the phone, it woke up knowledge already in my cells because of her. This consciousness carries the intelligence of collective care through economic uncertainty; getting her story out in the open while she was alive activated that skill in me.

A generation is leaving us. These are the humans who brought in to the world the ideas and forms of connection we will take forward. We can leave that latent in the backs of our collective mind, or we can stop and get as much of it conscious as possible. Books are important for learning history we cannot contact another way, but the history right here in the beings around us is an extremely promising source of intelligence.

Meditation and inituition exist right now. But in esoteric yoga time, past and future are now too. More and more, my feeling for our collective’s possibility arises from a feeling for history. This is is what makes my understanding of where we are going become most compassionate, most caring, most fearless, most free.

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5 Comments

  • (OvO)
    Posted 4 December 2016 at 1:37 am | #

    *FN* This clause has been challenged by the woman in the story. Her objection highlights how the strength of my language in that clause is offensive. This person will hopefully give her own account in the comments below.

    This is a post about how the stories we tell limit or liberate. Misogynist frames put women in their place – the place of needing rescue/re-education by a man, of being the love interest, etc. Meaning and belief travel through complex systems. They use vehicles like story structure, archetype and framing. MR is an example of someone in the yoga world who uses demonizing/ victimizing frames – these can be addictive to read, but I don’t think they are helpful for compassionate communities.

    Misogynist frames can be addictive as well – for example, the erotic narrative of the older, charismatic man who lacks accountability and falls in love with a muse who he is supposed to be taking care of. This is not an individual story – it is potentially demeaning to anyone who has, or could be, on the receiving end of this sort of attention in spiritual or health care situations. Nabokov wrote the most famous version of it; Jane Eyre’s erotic charge comes from the same source. Like Nabokov, MR deployed this narrative, as with his other misogynistic frames, without seeming to appreciate its disempowering, patriarchal content.

    Here is where I screwed up in my decision to reproduce these tropes – I ignored the fact that in this particular case there is an individual with her own experience, whose individuality matters. The subtle thought structure being reproduced here must be critiqued, but it’s factually wrong to assume that the person herself even experienced it. (Though 3rd wave feminists could debate that last sentence at length….) It’s the reader who experiences the (usually subliminal) misogynist messaging. By glossing over the fact that there’s an individual present there in that clause, I ended up reproducing the insulting and potentially disempowering effects of the perpetrator/victim mindset. That’s not cool and I’m sorry. I leave the error intact to show my learning process and the good critique.

    This leaves the question of how to speak of the deluded smoothie-drinker and the wandering everywoman, and whatever archetypes populate victim/perpetrator ideology. There are real people being objectified by such stories. Highlighting objectification (or consumerism, or non-systemic mindsets) without mindlessly reproducing it – that is what would be most freeing. How, I don’t know. De-programming is hard, and I am thankful for so many chances to practice. Love and respect.

  • Alix Bemrose
    Posted 4 December 2016 at 11:30 pm | #

    It’s nice to be acknowledged as an individual. However, there’s still a gap between your approach to the matter as it appears here in this footnote and the way you have been speaking to me in private email, and I think that difference needs unpacking.

    I wrote to you yesterday to say that I was going to respond to your minimizing depiction of me as my partner’s ‘quarry’ (or prey) and instead of answering me right off the bat as if I was an individual with a legit concern about how I had been represented by you in your writing, you said that it was not you who had objectified me but Matthew, that I was under his ‘mind control’ (as if my marriage is comparable to a cult experience); you implied that I was being used by Matthew as nothing more than a puppet or mouthpiece, that it was he who had forced me to become ’emotionally involved’ in a response to your post. As if you had appointed yourself my therapist or personal deprogrammer you even offered to send me a reading list if it ever came time to ‘challenge Matthew’s mind control’. All of this was a further objectification and diminishment of me; it’s clear you think I’m some kind of naive follower and a victim with no thoughts or voice of my own. And this is despite NEVER HAVING MET ME OR COMMUNICATED WITH ME BEFORE. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t presume to talk about someone’s yoga practice without first meeting with that person, without first developing a relationship, so I’m not quite sure why you feel okay making assessments about my identity and my relationship with quite literally zero first-hand knowledge of me.

    You do seem to be clinging pretty hard to the one piece of concrete info you have about me: that I am younger than Matthew. Do you know by how much our ages differ? Do you actually know how old I am? I can assure you that the comparison to Lolita (who is 24 or 25 years younger than Humbert Humbert) is quite an incredible stretch. I am no spring chicken.

    And what do you mean by ‘the subtle thought structure being reproduced here must be critiqued’? If all you’ve got on me as an individual is that I am somewhat younger than my partner then I don’t think you have nearly enough information to start to analyze what subtle thought structures are at play in my life and my intersubjective experiences. I get that you’ve identified a certain frame based on the fact that Matthew is older than me and that in his public life he is considered by some to be charismatic. Is that enough information? As an honours grad in English Lit I’m familiar with the frame of the older, charismatic man who seduces the naive young woman. I also know that if I were to identify and analyze that frame in an essay it would require a good many concrete examples from the text.

    As far as I’m concerned you can go to town analyzing the ‘thought structures’ at play in Matthew’s published writing. His published work is part of the public domain and is there to be interpreted. But I am not a published text, I have not consented to analysis and I’m not sure what makes you feel you can ‘read’ a human being like that. Especially (I’ll say it again) one you’ve never even been in the same room with, or had any contact with up until yesterday.

    But back to our email exchange. I took time in a second email to share with you some personal information about myself in the hope that you would realize that you had overstepped in making such egregious assumptions about me and my agency. I can’t tell you how deeply disturbing it is to have someone I have never met make declarations about my life, to relegate me to the role of victim, all in the name of feminism. You responded, ‘It’s true that I assume we are both being manipulated here.’ And you wouldn’t let me comment on your Facebook feed because you refused to ‘host one of Matthew’s Facebook witch hunts’ as if I would not be commenting on my own behalf but only as Matthew’s trusty appendage. So much for that status as an individual, huh? You are literally denying me a more visible opportunity to share my voice because of who my partner is. More than that, it feels like textbook gaslighting when I tell you my experience is ‘x’ and you persist in telling me no, it’s ‘y’.

    You go on to subtly minimize and objectify me yet again when you say in this footnote that ‘it’s factually wrong to assume that the person herself even experienced [the subtle thought structure being reproduced]’. So…I’m missing an experience of this misogynistic ‘subtle thought structure’ not because I can tell you it’s not there but because I don’t have the right vantage point from which to see it. According to you it’s up to the reader to notice ‘(the usually subliminal) misogynist messaging’. This implies that I am a text (again, objectifying) and that someone in Ann Arbor who has never met me might be more qualified/able to gain the bird’s eye view required to better interpret elements of my circumstances and the broader contexts of my relational reality for me. (Since you conjured them, what might the 3rd wave feminists say about THAT?) Of course it would be naive to claim that we as individuals can always see ourselves and our circumstances perfectly. That’s clearly not the case, and I don’t claim perfect omniscience over myself. And you shouldn’t either: I think you’ll need to know a little more about me before you can determine what tropes and frames and thought structures are at play in my marriage. Like what kind of eye contact do I make with Matthew? In what kinds of voices do I talk to him? What do I do with my body when he walks into the room? What does it feel like in my body when I listen to him talk? What’s my history with men? What kinds of conversations do Matthew and I have regularly about power, misogyny, equality? How do we argue? How do we parent together? Who does the dishes? Who cleans out the kitty litter? I hope you would admit that you can’t even begin to guess at these things. And I think the answers might surprise you. Frames provide us with a basic shape, but they require human detail to hold them up.

    Pretending for a moment that I AM a text I can assure you that I have excellent and honest and highly skilled readers around me, a tight knit circle of family and friends who are writers, academics, psychotherapists, journalists, artists and yoga teachers and whose ‘readings’ of me I am always willing to listen to because they are smart, insightful men and women who have known me for many many years. In other words, they’ve actually read the text. Or at least they’ve come as close as someone possibly can when the “text” is another person, and her psychology.

    I don’t agree with your assessments of Matthew but I’m not here to defend him. Again, he’s a public figure and, for better or worse, public critique is a part of that visibility. More than that, he speaks for himself and I speak for myself. So I am here to say simply that it diminishes and objectifies me when you make grandiose assumptions about my relationship, based only on a very partial and biased awareness of my partner. Had you reached out privately to express genuine concern I might have simply found it an amusing overreach and responding accordingly. But as it is, I feel (even with this footnote) that you are simply using me as a cog in your argument against Matthew. And if that’s the role you need me to serve, no wonder you don’t think I have a voice.

  • (OvO)
    Posted 4 December 2016 at 11:49 pm | #

    Thank you for this, Alix. Your intensity and clarity are awesome and I’m glad to learn from you on this topic and become more sensitive as a result.

    To restate: the script in play is a collective one that lives in the shared consciousness. The script is not personal. People are personal.

    Your partner activated this script by casually letting readers know that he is a person who falls in love, instantaneously, with someone who comes to him seeking spiritual care, and then gets to marry her. Telling that story makes him look powerful and sexually potent. It does not tell the reader anything about you.

    The personal experience you actually had was completely unique. It is not true that you had the common, archetypical encounter of going for spiritual care and unexpectedly have someone fall in love with you over your chart. This is only the casual description that was made about your experience, and that I picked up on because it’s archetypical, erotic, and disempowering.

    One part of the script, re-lived not by you but by many women who have found themselves targeted as a love interest by a charismatic teacher, is this: the woman is younger than the man. Maybe this also is not the case with you. You’re right that your age is not my business. My comment regarding age was noting this aspect of the general (but not actually true, as you have made me understand) erotic narrative that your husband used to refer to you in passing.

    Thank you for exploding the incorrect portrayal of yourself. I was the one who underlined the matter and thus who made it painful, and you explosion of the entire story is admirable.

    A rule I have followed for the past 10 years of blogging is that I do not erase things, or hide my point of view in order to attempt to influence people or look good. In a decade of blogging, the three controversies I have been involved in all stem from a willingness to pinpoint what I see as unconscious degradation of women by charismatic, male yoga teachers. This trend is real. But putting a finger on it creates trouble. It’s trouble I seem to be willing to create. Because I go it alone, summoning that voice puts me on a balance beam where at times I mess up in some way. For example, there’s some part of the situation I miss, or my language – which must be strong – is strong in an imperfect or offensive way. When I misstep, it opens the door to the misogynistic “crazy woman” archetype, which discredits the work. Yet still, when I misstep, my rule for myself is that the evidence stays, and I’m forced to learn from it.

    Because I have set this rule, I’m publishing the comment above, though it crosses some lines for me. It would be easier to ignore the comment, not give it a platform, and thus personally fail to receive the writer’s important corrective feedback about the point I am making. My point is still important – there is a mostly unconscious victim/perpetrator structure in our imagination at times, and this can lead to subtle perpetuation of the domination of women. And this way of thinking is not helpful for the fostering of compassionate, highly intelligent small groups.

    But I made the error of hurting an individual’s feelings in the way that I made the point. Again, Alix, I am really sorry that my words created a situation that was unfair to you and also that they hurt your feelings. Love and respect.

  • Alix Bemrose
    Posted 8 December 2016 at 12:29 am | #

    Thank you for your apology, Angela. And I admire your policy to erase nothing, to change nothing.

    I hope you can also see the impact of sending me, a stranger, a letter in which you tried to convince me that I am mind-controlled within my marriage.

    I understand very well that frames are impersonal. I guess what is clear between us now is that they become personal when we use people’s lives to talk about them.

    Oh and I think I know what sentence you’re referring to in Matthew’s writing. It pops up near the end of a short piece about why he stopped doing Jyotish readings because he found the dynamic it created between himself and his Ayurveda clients to be one of imbalanced power:

    “I think of my partner, and how I fell in love with her as her chart sat between us in an Ayurveda meeting, and how the chart disappeared when we began to speak, and how I learned about her and I both by leaving all charts behind.”

    In my reading of this, if I follow the unfolding idea of this sentence to its conclusion I see someone moving from what could be thought of as a more traditional, romantic moment to a richer understanding of the ways in which real intimacy can only take place beyond the limiting constraints of expertise.

    Anyway, before I go I would just like to agree with you, that it’s tremendously hard work to unpack and critique the ways in which patriarchy has shaped our bodies and our thinking and our worlds. You do this work, and I do this work, too. We know that it’s hard and that it takes us to uncomfortable places both in ourselves and with other people. Many, many other people know this as well. From the girl who really tries to understand for herself what it feels like to be the object of someone else’s gaze, to the sexual assault survivor who decides to say something, to the man who commits to teaching his sons and daughters about consent, to the woman who devotes her life to writing from a feminist perspective or to being an activist or to farming using methods that reject the bloody allure of patriarchal meat-processing methods, to the young woman who refuses to participate in an arranged marriage, this work requires both the intimate, invisible gestures of our own secret minds and the joining fire of our indignation and rage. It requires conversations like this.

    I do hope one day that you will turn your incisive intellect and your passion for unpacking patriarchal structures towards your own lineage. Ashtanga has done, and continues to do, a tremendous amount of good for a lot of people. I can see that first-hand in the people I know who feel that the practice has offered them a new and healthier way of being in the world. And that’s genuinely amazing. But as a tradition it also rests historically in the hands of a guru who repeatedly assaulted women, touching them inappropriately while they were in the vulnerable space of practice. More women are going on record about this. And no senior teachers within your lineage have addressed this matter publicly.

    I think two apparently contradictory things can be true at once. The practice can be a godsend AND it can be tangled in a history of hard dynamics. Human life is like that, and perhaps the most challenging thing that any of us can ever do (and as you said yourself in your original post) is to try to live in the grey spaces, where black and white fall away and there are only ordinary people and their stories. And the understanding that if we’re lucky we are all of us always only learning.

    I’m going to step away from this conversation now, away from the eye of this screen through which we can only ever half show ourselves or make half guesses at each other, and back into the world of breakfast-making and snack-packing and flesh-and-blood conversations and kids’ runny noses and the gathering of leaves before snow.

    I’ll let you have the last word.

  • (OvO)
    Posted 8 December 2016 at 12:46 am | #

    The point got lost.

    Here it is again.

    It’s important in these times to develop a radar for con artists.

    For victim/inquisitor mind.

    For subtle misogyny.

    And for the denial, and the blowback, that these entities/energies use to increase their power.

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