When I was in college I put a little Jesus fish on my car. Just peeled the wax paper off the back and slapped that baby to the bumper of my Geo Metro.
Shocked? Well, let me tell you the best thing about this little fish. He had legs. And instead of the name, JESUS, in the center of his body, it read: DARWIN. Clever, right?
Listen, I have never had anything against Jesus. In fact, I think he’s pretty groovy. I mean, his teachings were directly inspired by the super-groovy Jewish sages who came before him. Still, I have a great deal of respect for science. And I like a good joke.
It was funny!
You know what wasn’t funny? Coming back to my parked car and finding a hand-written threat stuffed under my windshield wiper from someone offended by my little fishy friend. The note said something about slashing tires if a security guard wasn’t within eyeshot. I was horrible human. Blah, blah, blah. I deserved to die.
Some time after college, I wore my favorite jeans and my favorite black t-shirt to Target. As you do. But this was no ordinary black shirt. Right over my breasts it read: NO WAR ON IRAQ. As I left the store with my bags of toilet paper and awesomeness, an irate woman hollered behind me. Something about freedom and you ignorant bitch. She was furious and she was barreling toward me with her cart.
I could go on.
After a while, I got tired of arguing. When I’m angry—like really fired up—I cry. And that’s embarrassing. Putting my liberal beliefs out there for all to hear left me feeling exposed. So, I toned it down. I replaced Darwin with a sticker that read, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Ambiguous. And safe.
I toned it way down. So far down, my voice could hardly be heard. I convinced myself that voting, donating, and volunteering was enough. It wasn’t.
In spite of all the ways my identity and beliefs leave me vulnerable to hate, I blend in pretty easily. That’s called privilege. And I started hiding behind it. I was afraid to be seen as a flaming liberal by anyone who didn’t identify as a flaming liberal. I just shut up. And life got a whole lot more peaceful.
I thought living a peaceful life was enough. It wasn’t.
In the yoga world we like to talk about union. Yoga means union. It’s all about coming together—mind, body, and spirit. And while I agree with this on the mat, a problem arises when we isolate our practice to the mat: my mind, my body, my spirit. Union extends far beyond the mat. We are so very connected, when even a single soul among us is oppressed, we are all affected.
My social media feeds are flooded with quotes about love and kindness and living with compassion. Oh, yogis.
Let me be clear: I am all for love, kindness, and compassion. It’s kind of all I would talk about when I was teaching yoga regularly. And it’s important. But I think a lot of yogis are afraid to get angry because it’s not very yogi-like. Or peaceful. Or pretty.
Folks, we can’t Namaste this away. Some big freaking problems are about to come our way. And—dare I say it—if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. If channeled in the right way, your anger can become your power. Funnel it into something that means something to you. When we suppress our anger it turns into apathy. And that is something we cannot afford.
Here is what I’ve realized: when I am open about my identity and my beliefs, I give others permission to do the same. Maybe a bumper sticker or a t-shirt can’t change the world. But speaking up can. It’s about being vocal (and staying vocal) about what you believe in. It’s about taking all that love talk off the mat and turning it into action.
I’m not shouting. But I won’t stop talking. And I encourage you to do the same. If we don’t have our voices, we have nothing.