As someone who is newly immersed in putting the yogic principles into practice, I am constantly trying to apply them to the situations I encounter. I find this especially helpful when answering the questions of my eight-year-old son. While he has no qualms about fighting monsters on his iPad or reading the harrowing adventures of Percy Jackson as he navigates the world of the Greek Gods, the real life pain and suffering of others is especially difficult for him to swallow.
In the context of Martin Luther King Jr Day this week and his reading about Abraham Lincoln, we recently had a discussion about the history of African Americans and slavery in our country. He looked at me bewildered and said, “Wait, so back in those days we would have gotten more stuff just because we’re white-skinned?” He found the fact that this happened unbelievable and concluded that, “Mommy, if people believed that, those people were d-i-c-k-s’s.” I don’t disagree, and I certainly didn’t have the heart, or the energy, to explain to him that although things are vastly better, the struggle continues.
It left me thinking about how to approach this with him. I wonder if he’ll read about the Oscar boycott and how he’ll incorporate this with our conversation. I also started to wonder, what is the way a yogi would handle this? I think the answer comes from the starter of our conversation—Martin Luther King Jr.
While I don’t know if he ever practiced asana, this man certainly walked the path. He espoused the value of ahimsa, or non-violence, in his words and deeds. He used his dedication to this practice to make people take notice and to affect real change. He lived in his satya, his truth, in all that he did and this authenticity made him someone to be trusted and respected. He was a disciplined man of tapas, using restraint when faced with evils that certainly would seem to justify an angry, or even violent, response.
So, when my son inevitably brings this up again, when we have to have the discussion about people still suffering because of the color of their skin, I’m going to point to these values and how they set in motion all of the progress that has been made. I will tell him that we hope that the #OscarsSoWhite protest sticks to these values and that people take notice and wake up and make changes. I will point to the people who walk the path and remind him to do the same, even when it seems so difficult.