I’m gonna keep this post (relatively) short and to the point.
Precisely ten days ago in Seattle– at the conclusion of a five-day-long, super intense Off the Mat, Into the World “Yoga Activism” training (that I daresay changed my life)– I told Seane Corn (my yoga hero, in case you didn’t know) that I was going to “make some noise” in the Jewish community re: yoga as a tool for social justice.
She seemed rather pleased by that idea, and suggested that– for maximal impact on my intended audience– I “bring blintzes.”
Coming from a Jewish background herself, Seane knows as well as I do that the “Jewish community” has a rich tradition of/ commitment to tikkun olam (i.e. “repairing the world”).
Of course, I put “Jewish community” in quotes as there are, in fact, many different Jewish communities– and they don’t always (ever?) get along with each other.
While you might argue that it’s pretty hard to “repair the world” if you can’t repair your own intra-tribal relations, the truth is, an incredibly diverse cross-section of Jewish folks from all sorts of communities all across the world are actively engaged in tikkun olam projects of all kinds.
Whether focused on tikkun olam within the Jewish community (on a local or global scale), or on a particular cause of universal concern, Jewish activists have often been at the forefront of (for example) human rights, environmental and other social justice concerns. Whether or not Judaism-as-religion has much to do with the Jewish activist’s impulse towards activism, the pursuit of “justice” seems hardwired into our ethnocultural DNA– even if we don’t always agree upon what “justice” looks like in the actual world.
All of which is to say– a lot of Jews are into the idea of tikkun olam– though it’s obvious we vary in the degree in which we actually do it.
Take me, for example.
For all of my talking the talk, I do surprisingly little walking the walk.
I mean, sure, I’m pretty into the whole “mind-body-spirit” thing, which tends to foster a certain “consciousness” with regards to (for example) environmental concerns, social equality, and human rights issues.
But I’m not out there in the trenches, making a tangible difference.
I’m sitting cozy on the sidelines, and every now and again maybe I’ll get up with some like-minded cheerleaders to “make some noise” or do a little dance for some cause or other– before returning back to the comfort of the sidelines.
All those “real world” problems/injustices/horrors that other people (who aren’t me) actually have to face, day in, day out, oftentimes with no hope of liberation/justice/redemption?
That s**t is scary.
Yeah, it’s a lot easier to sit on the sidelines and cheer while other people do the actual work of tikkun olam. (And there are plenty of people who are eager to do it, God bless ‘em.)
As a free, white, middle-class, Jewish-American male with a Master’s degree from an Ivy League university who’s been given every opportunity under the sun to “succeed” in a world whose odds are currently stacked in his demographic favor– I have a unique privilege, opportunity, and (some might argue) responsibility to pursue tikkun olam on a whole different scale than someone born into drastically more “challenging” circumstances.
[Note: the thought of my existing at the "top" of some sort of hierarchy (that I certainly had no part in choosing) really makes me uncomfortable, and I'd much rather ignore it and say "Oh, come on, we're all equal as human beings, blah blah, blah"-- but I realize that it's easy for me to say that and brush the issue aside precisely because I'm not the person discriminated against at the "bottom." So, I'm trying to navigate this language and it's a little awkward 'cause I've never actually thought about it before the OTM training.]
I said I was going to keep it (relatively) short, so maybe now isn’t the time for the whole philosophical unpacking of ginormous issues that, let’s be honest, can be kind of a downer when you actually consider how far we are from an “olam” (world) that is actually “tikkuned” (repaired).
So, here’s the point.
While I’m super-grateful for all of the “repair work” that other people and organizations are already doing in the world, I’ve never quite been able to find my place or role in all of that.
Until this Off the Mat training in Seattle.
Without laying out my whole vision and personal mission statement (yes, we had to actually write all that stuff down), I can tell you that my mission and purpose aligns with the interdisciplinary and creative “mind-body-spirit” approach to tikkun olam that Seane Corn and her fellow Off the Mat co-founders are presently manifesting in the world.
I know for a fact that a lot of other people are resonating with their mission, as well.
But even as we “yoga activists” (and future yoga activists) are united in Spirit, we differ in particulars.
Some of us are bringing yoga into underprivileged school systems, using yoga as a tool for building community and self-esteem in teenagers who benefit immensely from the practice.
Some of us are bring yoga into the American prison system, using yoga as a powerful rehabilitation tool for a population of otherwise dispirited inmates.
Some of us are bringing yoga into war and conflict zones across the planet, building bridges between humans in a repudiation of the divisive notion that we are “Other.”
And some of us…
Well, some of us think that a Google search for “yoga activism in the Jewish community” should yield at least one result.
Like I said– I promised Seane Corn.
I’m the guy who’s gonna bring it.*
Because Jews need more yoga (and yoga-related tikkun olam).
And the World needs more yoga (and yoga-related tikkun olam).
And if we (humans) are gonna repair the world together, we should probably start with ourselves.
Let My People Flow!
(Whomever they may be.)
*NOTE: I am aware that there are plenty of Jewish people who do yoga. (I also realize there are people who practice “Jewish” Yoga, and this is not entirely what I am talking about here.) In any case, there are definitely people who are already bringing yoga into the Jewish community in a tangible way, even as I sit here talking about it.
Yet, I have a particular vision for a project that I know doesn’t quite exist out there– something that I personally feel obligated to bring into the world. (I plan to expand upon this vision in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.)
Please know that I would love to collaborate with any and all people/ organizations who might share a common vision/purpose in the world; I simply hope to add something unique (and uniquely me) to the mix.
Truth is, this is only one part of a much larger story. If you’re reading this and you’re not familiar with me (or my blog), I invite you to please take a look around. You can find me on facebook if you’d like to chat…