the Wisdom of Dr. King

Like many of you, today I’ve been taking the time to sit with Dr. King’s teachings, including the I’ve Been to the Mountaintop address, which was given a day before he was murdered in Memphis, TN in April 1968.

Dr. King was in Memphis supporting the efforts of the sanitation workers who were striking in response to the workplace death of two of their colleagues, with demands for fair pay and humane working conditions. If you’ve seen the I AM A MAN poster, you may know it was used by those marching.

As we sit deeply in this moment of reckoning, I continue to struggle with the system of whiteness that was created to enslave, imprison, murder, and subjugate millions of people of color. I vow to keep listening, acting, and participating. I vow to stay aware, awake, and connected to community, even as we struggle with isolation during the pandemic.

This is the practice of yoga on the mat and into the world.

I am ecstatic this week our world will see a man of faith and principles and a woman of color and clarity, both compassionate, wise, and experienced, lead the USA. May we step forward into a new space. May we continue to see the stars!

Watch me first:
The Root: 1,300 Men: Memphis Strike ’68

Listen to me next:
Dr. King’s I’ve Been to the Mountaintop address, Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968

Get involved now:
Marjorie Joseph, ED Houston Coalition Against Hate (HCAH) and I wrote a letter May This Moment regarding the insurrection at the Capitol and next steps for moving forward. We encourage you to read the letter, and to get involved. If you’re able to donate to HCAH, please know we appreciate any amount.

2021: JANUARY SANKALPA SERIES


Intention, Practice & Sangha for an Energetic, Grounded & Flexible Year

A fun series with a focus on sankalpa (intention), sangha (staying connected to spiritual community/social justice), pranayama (breathwork) (pranayama), qi gong (energetics), gentle movement, and other practices for personal inquiry and expansion.

We were, We are, We will be…

We were, We are, We will be…this past week I participated in an anti-racism training  with the Oregon Women Lawyers. As part of our Structure for Engagement, rather than ground rules, we agreed to Reject Fear and Scarcity Thinking. One of the trainers taught us of the destruction of Celilo Falls on March 10, 1957. Nch’i Wana, known in colonized language as the Columbia River, was home to an ancient cultural and trade centers. With the construction of the Dalles Dam, in 4.5 hours this place of deep community was put under water. Tribal members watched as 10,000 people celebrated.

The destruction was, and still is, a tragedy of immense proportions. And also, tribe members today teachthey can still see, feel, and hear the community gathering and interacting at the river. This teaching of We were, We are, We will be feels extraordinarily poignant at this moment. 202 has brought so much loss, transition, disappointment, and change to so many. AND yet, without minimizing the human or economic toll of the pandemic, we are able to ask, what will we be?

How do we, on both the individual and population level, extricate ourselves from fear and scarcity thinking? As the prophet Bob Marley called out to us, how do we emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, how do we free our minds? Do we look at this time only from the limited lenses of disappointment and discontent, or can we understand that everything is always changing, that we too are that which changes.

As the holiday season approaches and as we move into the deepest days of winter, may we consciously hold the memories of our ancestors close, while we diligently work to create a more free and liberated future for ourselves and all beings.

May we see, feel, and hear the heart of humanity beating and calling forth a new way of being.

May we transform and celebrate, perhaps quietly and in deeper solitude, those true things for which we are most thankful.

May we celebrate this moment, this breath, this small offering of presence and kindness.

May we reject fear and scarcity thinking.

May we truly feel abundantly grateful, may we share this feeling, and may we understand it.
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I offer this teaching from the native land of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. If you are interested in learning where you sit, you can put in your address here to learn more about our land.


In Memory of George Floyd

Take a deep breath the teacher encourages, guiding the student to explore their capacity for a felt experience with their body’s divine tool of respiration. How quickly our understanding of this process of inhale and exhale has changed, how desperate is the cry of the planet to realize that our hate, greed, and ignorance is destroying this most beautiful wold. In the past few months we have globally experienced how corona virus impacts our individual respiratory functionality. This past week we have born witness to a new cry, “I can’t breathe!”  a horrifying statement that tragically highlights the way violence and racism has strangled and lynched people of color in the United States for centuries. As I practiced and taught today I was awoken to the trauma of the breath.

I can't breathe

George Floyd, October 14, 1973 — May 25, 2020

Generally, I revel in each inhale and exhale, and cue my students with specific feeling cues around the felt experience of the breath. Today I felt the poignancy, the emergency, the call to action of this cue. With each cue to inhale and exhale, I felt a constriction around my throat, recalling the vicious and heartless murder of George Floyd by four officers in the Minneapolis Police Department. With each felt experience of the breath, I too felt the trauma of not being able to take one. Sometimes the cueing needs to change. This too is a lesson of this time.

As a way to understand this trauma and support my sangha, I lean into embodied ethics as a form of and call to social action. This is the tool that I have right now, in this moment. By calling on the ancient sage’s understanding of relationship to self and the world, perhaps we can utilize these tools to support shining the light of awakening in a world that needs it so much.

The Buddha touched the earth in the lifetime in which he awakened. The time is now to touch the earth, feel our throats, and move, both within the body and externally in our worlds, to a greater understanding of hate, greed, and ignorance. From this place of understanding may we realign ourselves with compassion, generosity, balance, and kindness. May we do this again and again, as long as we need to do, and with great effort and discipline.

Below is an audio excerpt from today’s teaching in it I explore karma as an ongoing process of cause & effect, the call of bodhicitta a mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings and the path of a bodhisattva someone committed to understanding and ending pain and suffering withing themselves and the world, and the interdependence between ahimsa understood and felt in my teachings as non-violence, protection, care, & refuge embodied in Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling and Rosa Park’s refusal to move and satya   understood and felt in my teachings as honesty and truth   embodied as George’s final call, and a vow to not be silent at this time.

I offer these teachings to you with deep reverence for Mr. Floyd’s memory, and dedicate the benefit of these practices to his memory, to his family, and to all beings who are suffering.

Fangs Out

I have a daily reader I’ve worked with for many years, and this is today’s quote:
 
You menace others with your deadly fangs. In tormenting them, you are torturing yourselves.
-Milarepa*, 10152-1135
 
In past years I have wanted to skip past readings such as today’s, as they left me feeling uncomfortable, and at times I didn’t know how to deal with the intensity of these words, because generally I have been taught to look past suffering. This year I am able to sit with this teaching and understand it as a way to look more deeply within, to see the injustice, fear & bias in my own mind, and to understand the way it works out in others.
 
I see that so much of the insanity of race is based in fear, the industry of poverty is based in greed, and the true wisdom of the heart is based in love. This is not love in a candy, Valentine’s sort of way, but in the love described by Dr. King, the love of a peaceful path of revolutionary practice. The love of Hashem, Ram, Hanuman, and the love of The Christ. The love of a parent. The love of a commitment to a path of progress and undoing that by its very force yields an opening, undoing, evolution, a shift. This love is a verb, is embodied, and it is in the present tense.
 
I see this action of love in the kneeling of Colin Kaepernick, in the voice of Keedron Bryant**, whose song, lyrics below and attached as a link to this post, is the mantra currently running through many minds, including mine, right now, and in the indelible wisdom of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s dear Madiba, to recognize, even in his jailers, a space of humanity, and a path of freedom from apartheid, a most vitriolic form of systemic fear, separateness & racism.
 
I think of the horrifying murders and lynchings of James Byrd, Jr., Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Amdaou Diallo, and so many other black men and women, and I say their names with this kind of love in my heart, and to let my community know that I do know, that I do care, that I am here, that I continue to understand my privilege, and that I will continue to actively utilize my precious life to bring connection and understanding to a world that needs it so much.
 
Let us see your fangs — do not hide them, for when they are shown they can be polished by the light of care & understanding. And, it’s ok to not know all these things about ourselves — Jung says the first half of our life is biographical, and the second half is autobiographical. Step into the darkness to give more depth and understanding to the light. Allow yourself to be received as you are — and let consciousness shine and dismantle the conscious and unconscious patterns of slave and master both internally and externally.

snake-bite-dream-meaning-fangs
There is no panacea for the tremendous pain of our own creation — it is so deep, so insidious, so rooted in our psyche that we do not even realize how it motivates us (See generally the news), and also perhaps there are better micro and macro level changes and processes that can occur on the individual and collective levels to continue to heal (it is a process thank you social work friends!) this very broken society.
 
Know there is good work being done on a local level in each of our communities, and with the gift of each new day we can always start again and show up to serve in a place of, perhaps new, interest — if you are in Houston, please know about Houston Coalition Against Hate (HCAH) a network of community-based organizations, institutions, and leaders who come together to prevent hate and encourage belonging. Within the Coalition are organizations such as The Jung Center of Houston, Texas, Rothko Chapel, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, my friend Rev. James Caldwell’s Coalition of Community Organizations, dear Cherry Steinwender’s Center for the Healing of Racism, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (Official Page), ADL Southwest, and 60+ others committed to this mission — reach out to these groups, join in on our conversations, engage directly, and allow the tears to flow and change to come.
 
Do not be afraid of the fangs, let them be our teachers of a different truth. They are a sign of fear & protection, they are an access point to the heart.
 
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Links & additional info cited in this post:
 
*Jetsun Milarepa was a Tibetan siddhi, who famously was a murderer as a young man then turned to Buddhism to become an accomplished Buddhist disciple despite his past. He is generally considered one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets, serving as an example for the Buddhist life.
 
**Keedron Bryant
 
I’m a young black man doing all that i can to stand
oh but when i look around and I see what’s being done to my kind
everyday I’m being haunted as prey
my people don’t want no trouble
we’ve had enough struggle
i just wanna live
God protect me!
 
***Community Based Organizations in Houston
HCAH Houston Coalition Against Hate
 
Center for the Healing of Racism
 
COCO
 
The Jung Center of Houston, Texas
 
Rothko Chapel
 
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (Official Page)
 
ADL Southwest
 
Thank you for reading this post. I see you & I know you see me.

Summer Series

Justine Fanarof online yoga meditation yoga nidra energetics

You are cordially invited to get your chill summer vibe on with this SUMMER SERIES — an embodied practice series exploring pranayama, qi gong, breathwork, energetics & yoga nidra meditation.

Thursday evenings, 7-8:30 PM CDT

June 11, 18 & 25

July 9, 16 & 23

$175 series* & $36 drop-in

Venmo @justinefanarof

*Sessions will be recorded if you can’t make a class.

**Scholarships available.

Namaste — Justine