I have two things to talk about in this post, to make up for not posting at all for a bit.
Firstly, I’ve been dealing with some rather epic mental health issues, and being honest about that with friends, colleagues and co-conspirators has left the way open for them to be honest with me about their own issues. We need to normalise talking about the more alarming parts of living with a chronic health condition or neurodiversity. So often we use euphemisms or minimise or generalise. We might talk about ‘suffering with anxiety’ but we rarely say ‘I have panic attacks and have a prescription for emergency diazepam’.
So here I am, with my first prescription for exactly that and I have to tell you – it’s so hard to grieve for a younger me who fought, exhausted, through years of this without anyone suggesting that there was pharmaceutical help that could have saved me some of the struggle. Also, so many, many more of your friends than you realise have similar, scary-sounding pills in the back of a drawer somewhere.
So for those of you I know who are suffering right now, I see you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. This article might help, whatever your history.
The revolution will be accessible and trauma sensitive or it will not be a revolution at all, just another retread of the same, toxic, extractive, inhumane, productivity- obsessed culture that got us here in the first place. Which brings me to the other thing.
In between other commitments and a robust amount of self-care, I’m proof-reading the final manuscript of my book. It’s always interesting to go back and re-read what you’ve written, and this passage struck me:
“Neither the detail of guru scandals and the ways in which lineage is structured to protect power, nor the complex entanglements of race, gender, colonialism and religion are the main focus of this book. Yet these ethical failures show that detailing methods of transmission and patterns of authority are more than an academic exercise. At stake is the wellbeing and self-determination of millions of practitioners, and the post-colonial evolution of a vast and diverse Indian cultural phenomenon.
As I will show, embracing post-lineage sources of authority is only a practitioner’s first step in negotiating power, charisma and privilege in teaching and in practice. The formal and implicit hierarchies of multiple schools of yoga collide in every post-lineage subcultural landscape. Each teacher and practitioner must hold the others to account, creating shifting patterns of recommendations, professional alliances, and more intimate connections with their peers.”
Each teacher and practitioner must hold the others to account, creating shifting patterns of recommendations, professional alliances, and more intimate connections with their peers.
I’ve been thinking so much about accountability recently. For the last couple of years, I’ve been helping various yoga organisations as they craft new ethical agreements, both for themselves, and for their members. I’ve also had a number of yoga teachers come to me, privately, for informal advice and more structured mentoring. In most cases, sadly, what they are asking for is a way to hold those organisations or their members to account for what they claim to stand for.
Some of those stories are heart-breaking to hear.
In the end, all the ethical and safety statements in the world mean nothing without processes of accountability to back them up. Without accountability, whether your statements are focused on trauma sensitivity, racial justice, or taking a stand against abusive behaviour – they are nothing but lip service.
Worse still, time and again, those statements are so often the product of hard and difficult work by already marginalised groups – by the very survivors, people of colour, disabled people and other people that a lack of accountability fails to protect.
It takes something deep from me to advise you on how to create safer spaces for survivors and neurodiverse people. It takes more than you know. I’m coming to the conclusion that the very worst thing you can do in response, is to treat those carefully-constructed agreements as optional.
I don’t yet know what accountability looks like, but I now have a really good measurement for the opposite. So I’m going to try judging myself less for needing those emergency pills, and start noticing what situations bring me to the brink. I think it’s going to be an interesting learning experience. Don’t you?
The image for this post is of graffiti spotted in Oregon and shared by Punk Food Bandita on Facebook. It reads:
“If you promise to stay alive just a little bit longer, I promise that we are going to make this world a place worth living in by any means necessary. I ain’t giving up. I swear.”