The Essence of Bravery: Confronting Shadows in December

     Over the past weeks I have found myself referencing and thinking about these words from buddhist nun and writer Pema Chodron's book The Places that Scare You a lot, she says; "The essence of bravery is being without self-deception." As I have listened to the news and commentary surrounding Grand Jury decisions in theFerguson (Michael Brown) and Eric Garner cases I have at times been angry, at times tremendously sad, and at times felt ashamed to live in a country which seems to lack the ability, or perhaps just the will, to self reflect, to be "without self-deception" in regards to race. Institutionalized racism has been a cornerstone of American politics and American law since Columbus first began the European invasion of Indian settlements in the Americas in the 1500's, since the genocidal campaign against the American Indian that Columbus began was made law through "Indian removal" bills enacted by the original 13 colonies, since the first slave ships arrived here from Africa around 1600 and white American prosperity began its long ride on the backs of African slaves. In his book A People's History of the United Stateshistorian Howard Zinn writes "there is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long, as the United States." 
    As we draw close to the darkest night of the year (December 21st), let us be brave, let us not be too frightened or too complacent to confront our own shadows, personal, societal, or otherwise. Yoga is a great tool for self-stabalization, for creating conditions of calm and a sense of safety within the nervous system. At its worst this kind of calm can facilitate complacency, at its best it is a solid inner ground from which we can be fearlessly honest with ourselves and take a real stand for what is right. 


Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (April 1963): 

"I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will..."