Summer Yoga Teaching: July

IMG_4728.JPG

July Yoga Teaching

Saturday 7/1 5:45pm (60 min) Yoga Open Level at Harlem Yoga Studio

Monday 7/3 7pm (90 min) Vinyasa 2 at Harlem Yoga Studio

Thursday, 7/6 7:45pm (60 min) OmPower Flow at One Yoga for All

Friday, 7/7 10:45am (75 min) Yoga Open Level at Harlem Yoga Studio

Wednesday, 7/12 5:45pm (60 min) Community Class at Harlem Yoga Studio

Thursday, 7/13 7:45pm (60 min) OmPower Flow at One Yoga for All

Friday, 7/14 10:45am (75 min) Yoga Open Level at Harlem Yoga Studio

Wednesday, 7/19 5:45pm (60 min) Community Class at Harlem Yoga Studio

Wednesday, 7/26 5:45pm (60 min) Community Class at Harlem Yoga Studio

Thursday, 7/27 7:45pm (60 min) OmPower Flow at One Yoga for All

Friday, 7/28 10:45am (75 min) Yoga Open Level at Harlem Yoga Studio

The theme at Harlem Yoga Studio for July is third chakra – manipura – and the theme at One Yoga for All for this month is “letting go.” The third chakra is centered around personal power – our core (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). Its element is fire and its actions are those of transformation. Pairing this concept with “letting go” has been an exercise in the true meaning of yoga itself: union…in order to find balance. The third chakra is often misperceived as the chakra of control – of toughness – yet the work of transformation cannot be done without letting go of that which does not serve us.

More specifically, because this month began with a long weekend that encouraged us to reflect on the state of the country – of the world – I decided that I wanted to focus my classes on how we can use this sense of personal power and letting go of that which takes us out of the present moment to focus on kindness. The yoga practice can fuel our ability to be kind in the world, if we use it to nourish ourselves from the ground up. And so I continue to close my classes (and this blog post) with a poem to inspire a fruitful transition from savasana into the rest of the waiting world.

IMG_4773.JPG

Read the full poem here.

Want to stay up to date on my yoga goings-on? Follow me / the blog on Instagram at @growinguponom! 

 

Yoga + Social Justice: The Preliminary Inner Work

YogaSocialJustice-HomePage4.jpgAs part of the Yoga + Social Justice training that I am thrilled to be able to participate in at Laughing Lotus San Francisco, I was required to fill out a detailed and thought-provoking questionairre. As part of Radical Self-Care for Radical Action (#RSC4RA), I am documenting every element of this training for this blog! I am writing this now from San Francisco, two hours away from joining the training myself. I missed the first day and, unfortunately, Jasmine’s class this morning because of train troubles and needing to be in NYC an extra day, but such is life. In the spirit of this training and RSC4RA, I am setting an intention for the day: gentleness + calm.

Anyways, I want to share with you some of my answers to the deep questions asked of me by the organizers of this training. Here goes…

What is social justice to you?

Social justice is a collective understanding that all members of society deserve to and should be treated with dignity and respect. It is the belief that all people deserve everything needed for physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Yet social justice does not stop at that understanding. Rather, that understanding translates to direct action that bridges gaps so that individuals become closer to obtaining all that they need to be Whole and have their existence in the world affirmed.

What is your understanding of privilege?

To this day when I think of privilege I still think of the Peggy McIntosh article on “invisible backpacks” that we all carry. I probably read it for the first time when I was in middle school and realized that my own backpack contained within it the fact that I’ve never been in a situation where my basic needs were not filled. With that privilege comes a complete lack of understanding for what that is like for others. I remember when I filled my first emergency food box as part of my AmeriCorps work and was told that I filled it with the bare minimum. My supervisor told me that when people are in crisis – when they lack in their basic needs – we need to approach our service work from a place of abundance. That was when I realized as well that my own privilege informs my biases. In this new year, my primary intention involves learning when to listen versus when to speak up, and in doing so, to call myself and others out – in the most gentle and implicit ways – on our privilege.

How do you navigate privilege and/or social justice as a yoga instructor?

I want my yoga teaching and practice to mirror my overall philosophy on yoga: that it is a bridge and a way of life. Yoga is a technique for getting to higher practices…like doing the work and actually serving people and causes. So, for me, I navigate social justice as a yoga teacher by not teaching yoga full time. I don’t yet know if that is the right decision for me, but what it does mean is that I get to infuse my day-job as a third grade teacher with as much yoga (both the asana and a yogic attitude) as I can. This comes with practice. Through practicing at Laughing Lotus NYC I am able to refuel so that I can give to others. I have had times when I’ve had very little to give because I wasn’t refueling. This is a tension I find in my activist and teaching life in general: taking the time to fuel up so that I can respond rather than react to all the various chaotic life that comes up when immersed in service.

What is the relationship between yoga and social justice and privilege?

During this new era, I believe that we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. We need to learn how to systematically refuel during these trying times. Yoga is a thoughtful, spiritual, emotional, and physical way of refueling so we can approach Social Justice Work from a place of intentionality and responsiveness.

What are three Yogic teachings or practices that bridge Yoga and Social Justice?

  • Tapas – steady discipline (this means writing down actions – representatives to call! – in my planner, and carefully planning out the lessons I’ll teach).
  • Aparigraha – non-possessiveness – as a way not to hoard conversations around social justice. As mentioned previously, my intention for the new year is to gauge when I need to listen versus when I need to speak up. Also, determine when I need to speak up and do so thoughtfully. And then, I intend to act from that space. I think it is imperative to act with intention. To act unintentionally is to act carelessly, and we can’t afford carelessness. I also want to acknowledge my own privilege and my own unique experiences. I want to use them to be a better listener anda better activist…which are really one in the same.
  • Setting an Intention – As a yoga teacher and a practitioner, the asana practice offers me a specific time and ritual around intention-setting and asking myself (in the post-election words of writer Elizabeth Gilbert), “Who do I want to be in this situation?”

written from stanza coffee in san francisco’s mission district, a convenient 1/2 block away from laughing lotus sf

 

Yoga + Activism: Interview with Yoga Teacher Sheri Celantano of Laughing Lotus NYC

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

159698_257ec9cfcf264cc6acd125be2005d479-mv2.jpeg_srz_980_650_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.jpg

Sheri Celantano is a teacher and Creative Director at the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center (my downtown hOMe) in New York City. Her classes are a recurring event in my GoogleCal, and I attend them to stay gounded and get uplifted at the same time. I attended her class the Friday after the election, as I could not imagine a better place to breathe deep, unwind, let loose, and process. What I received from that class – and Sheri’s deep authenticity as a person and teacher – was so much more. She turned off the music and opened the windows so we could let the protests happening on Sixth Avenue fuel our flow, and she – above all – created a safe space for her students to feel the rollercoaster of emotions that emerged. I interviewed her after her FLY class last week. We sat down in the Love Room – one of the studio spaces at Laughing Lotus – and talked activism, election, yoga and spirituality.

Shira E: What was it like teaching yoga leading up to and following the election?

Sheri C: Leading up to the election, teaching felt good because I was surrounded by like-minded people. Teaching the day after felt like an earthquake shattering. You were in the class that Wednesday night, right?

SE: Actually, I wasn’t. I was drawn to do this project because I didn’t go to yoga that whole week until your Friday class; I was so shaken.

SC: I got really sick. I was sick that Monday and Election Day. I wasn’t going to teach Wednesday, but I felt like I had to, so I came in to teach Wednesday and I’m really glad I did. It felt like it was a rock. There were tears from the beginning of class. People were really distraught and hurting and confused, and so I forced myself to come in Wednesday night and I’m glad that I did.

SE: What did you notice around Laughing Lotus the week of the election, and the week after? Did you notice a significant increase or decrease in the number of people in your classes?

SC: Lotus is always pretty full. What I noticed, though, is that people came here as a lifeline. People felt really adrift and this was shore. People were like, “Go to Lotus. I’ll meet you at Lotus,” and so it felt like there were more groups congregating in class and staying to talk after class. There was a sense of camaraderie. It was a place where people could come and be held and feel all their emotions. Throughout the whole week, people were very up and then very down and they were angry and then they were crying. It was really a point of connection for people. I do think that classes were very much crowded. The week right after was very up and down. I think some people, like you, were home, but then a week or so later, I did one Blues class on a Sunday in Brooklyn and someone came out and was like, “I haven’t left my couch in a week, and I saw your post on Facebook and I’m so glad that I did.”

SE: Yeah, I had a whole conversation with Ali Cramer [another Laughing Lotus teacher] about how I felt very kapha the week following the election. What have been your experiences of the intersections of yoga and activism?

SC: I feel as if some become more aware through the practice. Yoga is a practice of action and so it teaches us how to take action. To truly practice yoga, you’re not just at home reading a book. Yoga is an act; it can’t just be passive. I know people who, through the art and philosophy of yoga, have become activists. It has given them fire and purpose. It’s removed enough clouds and shadow from our own selves that we then in turn want to serve. It’s karma yoga. Part of our 200-hour program is that we’re teaching people to serve the greater community. So we have people like Seane Corn who are doing Off the Mat Into the World who do become activists through the practice. It’s a big part of what we do.

SE: How do you keep your center in the midst of chaos? What are some strategies for staying grounded and mobilizing at the same time?

SC: Honestly, the teaching keeps me grounded. There’s an old saying: “I practice for my students and I teach for myself.” For me, the act of teaching is the most healing and grounding act that I could do. The actual teaching and connecting is keeping me sane.

SE: That makes a lot of sense. If you could choose any dharma talk to give courage to this new wave of activism to move forward in a thoughtful and intentional way, what would it be?

SC: The inward journey. The inward journey is the idea of being responsive as opposed to reactive. We often react to the state of affairs or the situation. Instead, what I’ve been trying to do is figure out how to respond. When I respond, I’m going inside and inward and saying, “Where am I most useful? Where can I serve? And, in what ways can I serve that will be most useful?” And so it’s not just a reaction with a nasty Facebook post. It’s a response instead. I need to respond rather than react so that when I do take action, it’s with force, it’s with intelligence, and it’s something that can actually make a difference. We need to move forward intelligently.

Who do I want to be in this situation?

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

liz.pngI felt personally asked the question on the left when I read a Facebook post by author Elizabeth Gilbert that reached 1,684,931 people. She wrote of her and her partner’s election night experience:

So we got really quiet that day, and we each asked: “Who do I want to be in this situation?”

The answers came, same as ever:

Calm.

Strong.

Open-hearted.

Curious.

Generous.

Wise.

Brave.

Humorous.

Patient.

That is the only question that EVER really matters.

I insist that we can learn — with practice — how to choose our emotional state in all situations. This has to be true. If this isn’t true, then we are TRULY AND THOROUGHLY FUCKED — because our state of being is literally the only thing in this world that we can control.

This is not denial. This is not complacency. This not me cheerfully saying, “Oh well! I’m sure everything will be fine!” Sometimes things are not fine. Sometimes the diagnosis is terminal cancer. Sometimes the dark forces win. Sometimes the outcome is dreadful.

But all our practices in peace and grace and equanimity and courage are for TIMES LIKE THESE — for times when you do not get the outcome that you want. This is when it matters. When the shit goes down, and the shit goes wrong, and when the shit gets real — that’s when the shit gets interesting. That’s when the test comes: Who will you be now? Right now. Right this moment. Because that’s the only part that is up to you.

Decide who you will be today, Dear Ones. RIght now. DECIDE. You can do this. This is what all your training and practice has led you to. Show the people around you what a calm and peaceful strong mind looks like. (Trust me, they need it. They already know what a panicked mind looks like; show them what a calm mind looks like.) Ask yourself again and again who you want to be, and believe that you can be it.

Nobody gets to take your emotional state away from you, unless you give it to them.

This is how you lead. This is who you are. This is how you BE.

12 hours before, during election night, I saw a fellow yoga teacher’s Facebook post:

so far i’ve stress eaten handfuls of organic frosted flakes, piles of chips and salsa, and too many squares of dark chocolate. my belly hurts {and so does my heart}

This post had 183 likes and more than 42 comments detailing similar election night experiences. When it came time for me to write a post of my own, a few hours after I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s, I was exhausted and could not have told you what I’d eaten that day. My hair was greasy, and my vision blurred in and out of focus.

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 9.47.29 PM.png

Metaphors on Metaphors

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

Ideally, self-care and activism are the perfect marriage. Self-care is a set of actions that increases energy, charges metaphoric batteries, and replenishes symbolic cups of vitality so that they run over. When these cups run over, activism thrives off a necessary surplus rather than the amount allotted for an individual. As mentioned, activism is a taker of energy, a source that gladly drinks up that which runneth over.

While self-care is quite literally caring for the self, activism is action on behalf of others and/or a purpose that is inherently greater than oneself. Self-care without that essential culminating purpose can often turn to selfishness, self-indulgence, or at least something to feel guilty about. Activism without the backbone of refueling often becomes martyrdom. When the two exist in interdependence with one another, they engage in a beautiful dance of self-care so that we, as activists, can show up as our best selves, and do our best work in ways that serve others and our causes the most.

Just as natural as the marriage between self-care and activism is their separation. Self-care is preventive medicine. In a Western culture of diagnoses and drugs, preventive medicine is a “should do” not a “must do.” When we contract an infection, we take antibiotics. There are a plethora of medicines we can take before getting sick, but ironically, those do not seem as time-sensitive or important.

“Getting sick” is both a metaphor and reality of burnout.

Activism takes on another extreme entirely. Activism is like medicine, a necessary response to something that is going on. If it is preventive, it is because symptoms have already shown up. Unfortunately, there are enough problems already occurring that demand immediate attention. As a response, activism demands an urgency that self-care doesn’t. As a result, the candle burns out, the energy wanes, and issues that once had armies of people tending to them suffer from a lack of intention and originality of thought.

It is time to get self-care and activism back together. Let’s get them back together through Communities of Care.

Hyper + Hypo-Arousal: The Emotional Rollercoaster of the 2016 Election

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

The hippocampus, ridges beneath the lateral ventricles of the brain, deals with stress the most. It stores sensory reactions that cultivate stress responses. The amygdala, two tiny ovals that lie beneath the regulator of bodily responses – the hypothalamus – questions the information in the hippocampus, seeking, like we all do, context for what is going on. Once the amygdala determines that the context is unsettling, it sends the brain into a fight or flight response, baring us down to survival mechanisms. Here, the brain also takes into account a third option for survival: dissociation.

Picture2.png

The above diagram shows three states of arousal. Arousal is regulated through the firing of neurons in the brain. Hypocretin-expressing neurons in the lateral hypothalamus – the part of the brain that regulates bodily responses to stress and trauma – increase arousal. Activation of the arousal system of the brain initiates fight or flight responses. Psychologists have also found that such activation determines what one’s own “arousal capacity” or “window of tolerance” is.

Dissociation is often caused by hypo- and hyper-arousal. When someone tries to dissociate from a feeling, they attempt to move it outside the self – to go into over-drive (hyper-arousal) or to check out (hypo-arousal). But this is not how human beings work. When this happens, the feelings that are dissociated make their way back into the body through the very states that take them out. In hyper-arousal, the brain has a hard time regulating away from the right orbital frontal cortex down to the hypothalamus. The state (an emotion that lasts even after it has run its course) caused by this can express itself through anger, aggression or lashing out at those seemingly unrelated to the situation one is dissociating from. This in turn activates both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Hypo-arousal is often expressed through checking out with excess: shopping, food, internet, or sleep are common forms of such an excess. Overuse of one’s vices deactivate both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The goal, according to this psychological framework, is to experience the feelings that cause the states in the Optimal Arousal Zone. In other words, to recognize those feelings as part of – not separate from – the self.

Picture1.pngWhen individuals cultivate healthy ways of processing emotions in the moment – without dissociating – they expand their windows of tolerance. The expansion of windows of tolerance leads to more thoughtful work, engaged service commitments, and increased energy and stamina to continue being of service over long spans of time.

Book Recommendation: Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

51hy9DeJdZL.jpg

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky is most widely-known for her TED Talk “Beyond the Cliff,” which begins with a day she found herself, without being able to articulate what got her there, feeling like she was going to voluntarily jump off the cliff she, her husband, and her in-laws leisurely hiked together. Lipsky opens her seminal book, Trauma Stewardship,  in the same way she opens her talk: through describing her process of recognizing how she found herself on that literal and metaphorical cliff in the first place, and how she learned to come down.

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others is everyday in only the most profound of ways. In it, Lipsky leads from learned experience. As someone who has worked with traumatized people since the age of 18 when she was inspired by a professor who talked about service, Lipsky walked the walk of secondary trauma, and lived to tell the tale. Like a good sustainable activist, she tells more than just the tale – the narrative – in Trauma Stewardship; she lets the reader in on her path towards wholeness while never once assuming that the same practices work for everyone.

Every time stories and anecdotes of secondary trauma start to take a turn for the depressing, Lipsky interjects, almost suddenly, the prose of systemic solutions. There are times when Lipsky’s writing feels too oriented to the American Psychological Association for an “everyday guide,” as her title promises. In her description of the effects of personal dynamics on the self, for example, or the burdens organizations and institutions place on individuals, writ large, Lipsky’s writing begins to feel esoteric. Yet, at that very moment when one would wish to put the book down because of that, she interjects with a universal truth or deeply meaningful personal anecdote, which make the reader simply want to read more.

Given its focus on trauma, oppression, and social justice, there’s a quality of urgency to Trauma Stewardship. Writing on trauma has often been relegated to the sphere of psychological journals in which the “I” is rarely used and “trauma” – inherently subjective reactions to personal or, in the case of secondary trauma, told-of experiences – is treated as objective. The format of Trauma Stewardship dares readers to insert themselves into the text and the issues it brings up in order to ask: How can I be of maximum service through taking care of myself in a way that serves others?

Practices for Radical Self-Care in a New Era of Necessary Radical Change

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

01f3a002daf31f85d7c3099f0b6a9d1b.jpg

  1. Balance activism with self-care. For every piece of activism you do, make sure to pair it with a piece of self-care. For example, if you spend all day at a march, end the day by lighting a candle. When we’re around a lot of people, we’re around a lot of energy. It is helpful to have a ritual associated with returning to the self at the end of a long day and letting whatever happened go so that we can start fresh tomorrow.
  2. Find a self-care go-to. Mine is yoga. Yours might be meditation, or cooking, or reading. While it’s healthy to mix up forms of self-care, make sure that you have one form in your back pocket that you know always works.
  3. Create a mini-practice. Let’s face it; sometimes we don’t have time for a full yoga class or 20-minute meditation. What is something that you can do to condense it?
  4. Plan + Schedule. Make sure that you have a plan for implementing all of the above. What will you do to make sure that you are practicing self-care in a way that serves others? Then, put it in writing.
  5. Include others. This is a micro form of activism. Encouraging others to practice self-care through making plans with them will amplify your own accountability to your self-care, and it will also encourage others to have a more sustainable activism practice.
  6. Pair self-care with activism with others. This is a combination of steps 1 and 5, but make activism dates with friends: a phone bank followed by a yoga class, or attending a rally followed by nice meal that encourages decompression.
  7. Practice Metta meditation. Metta – lovingkindness – meditation – is a form of meditation that encourages the development of lovingkindness, beginning with ourselves, and extending it out to those we resent. Perfect for this political season!
  8. Drink Water. Drinking water is an excellent way to regulate many other aspects of health. Also, the amount of water we drink is a good barometer of how often we stop and think about how our bodies are doing during the day.
  9. Connect. Connection is vital, now more than ever. Make time – schedule it in if you have to! – to connect with the people that refill you. Start a book club centered around radical and consciousness-raising literature. Host a dinner party with people that inspire you to keep doing the work that you do, and who you inspire as well. Make time to have meaningful conversations. There are many ways to connect. Frequency counts. As Mary Pipher wrote in Writing to Change the World, “true change only occurs in the context of relationships.”
  10. Set intentions. I used to keep an intentions notebook, where I could ask myself daily the words of Elizabeth Gilbert: Who do I want to be in this situation? It’s time to ask myself that question again…every day, in every circumstance. Who do we, as part of a necessary Resistance, want to be in the various situations we will find ourselves in over the next four years?

Get Involved with RSC4RA

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 6.54.05 AM.png

  • Comment on the blog!
  • Message on Twitter or other Social Media.
  • Use the hashtag #RSC4RA.
  • Pitch a guest post for the blog.
  • I’m always looking for people to interview, so if you have something you’d like to say and want the luxury of time with which to say it, let me know!

Communities of Care

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

Any progressive social change must be imagined first, and that vision must find its most eloquent possible expression to move from vision to reality. – Martin Espada

Communities of Care are my vision for this new wave of activism. They are a way to fuse together self-care, intentionality, service, and connectedness, which are all essential parts of sustainable activism / being sustainable people in general. Communities of Care are:

  1. Focused. They are centered around the same aspect / part of social change. It can be overwhelming to try to change every part of the world at once. It can also be counterproductive. Use your Community of Care as a forum for digging deep into one social change interest / subject that means something to you. There are enough people trying to change the world writ large. What we need are people who are trying to change the world in one particular way to find each other and combine forces. Here are some ideas for where to find people you can focus in with.
  2. Connected. They find times to meet regularly. I find that with any practice, be it yoga, meditation, drawing, or journaling, consistency matters more than frequency. Frequency is often the enemy of consistency. Burnout in activist circles often comes from meeting so frequently that the rest of life falls by the wayside until it catches up with us – as it always does – and that frequency comes to a crashing halt. So, do the math. Meeting with consistency, even if it doesn’t seem super frequent, will result in more meetings, more service, than meeting with frequency and then burning out. Here are some suggestions for connecting in an age when we need it most.
    • Host a potluck / make it a rotating potluck where you connect and check in over dinner. Planning and action steps can take place over tea and dessert.
    • Turn your group into a consciousness-raising and action-taking book club. Read books or articles that will help you take the most effective actions possible. Discuss them. Act from that space of intentionality that literature so often fosters.
  3. Practice Self-Care. In practicing self-care together, community members hold one another accountable to being their best selves, and approaching the work of intense service in healthy and mindful ways. Here are some suggestions for practicing self-care in intentional and social justice-oriented ways.
    • Attend yoga, meditation, and/or general exercise classes together. Allow the studio / gym / classroom to serve as a meeting space, or a time to wind down before continuing the work.
    • Share wellness-related skills. Maybe one of you is a massage therapist, another a yoga teacher, and another a chef. Take time during your meetings to share these wellness-related skills in a manageable way (maybe one member shares per meeting). Beginning these meetings with self-care allows the service and even the planning of service to be that much more intentional.
  4. Practice Service. Once you’ve taken care of body, mind, and soul – or even while doing so – practice service. Volunteer. Phone bank. March. Rally. Decide on what service means to you and do it. Here are some places to find action items for those days when they don’t present themselves organically.
    • CTZN Well is an organization devoted to combining wellness practices and direct service – basically the organizational body that inspired me to do this project on the blog. If you sign up for their emails, they will send you daily or weekly concrete action items that you can take to make this world a better place. From their mission:

Our theory of change begins with people. Through personal practice, community building, and collective action we transform ourselves and restructure our world to support the conditions of wellbeing for all.

We engage in deep transformational work around our values; and are led through relationship to issues like access to healthcare, food justice, living wage, climate change and education. From there, we partner with campaigns led by the people most directly affected and respond in conscious and creative disruption and reimagination of our world. We aspire to move and unify our community at a scale that will have an impact at a systemic and global level.