Yesterday, I wore as much purple as I could muster. Even my eyeshadow was purple.
October 20th is Spirit Day: a day of awareness for bullying and suicides in the LGBT community. Coincidentally, I also watched Boys Don’t Cry for the first time the night before—a film based on the true story of Brandon Teena, a young man with a vagina who was killed in a small town for being different. I am not a boy, but man, I cried. That is a sad movie.
I started every one of my classes yesterday by drawing attention to my colour choice and talked about the bullying and homophobia that’s caused several young people to kill themselves recently. It might seem strange to theme your yoga classes on suicide—and honestly, it probably was a bit strange for some unsuspecting folks.
But we talk so much about love in our yoga classes, about living from the heart, finding compassion. But how can we possibly do that if we don’t acknowledge the reasons why we need to do it in the first place? I can’t imagine a human in the world that would say they hate love. But homophobia is like a classification of love—a statement that my love is okay but yours isn’t. It’s choosing the opposite of love.
See, when I get really sad, I always reach for this book I have called Love Poems from God. It’s a collection of beautiful love poetry from different spiritual writers of all cultures, creeds, genders, and even time periods. And the reason I get so much comfort from this book is because even though the poems are uplifting and often funny and sweet, many of them get that way because the writers are quite honest about a world that has always contained struggle, but always offers the possibility of love.
I am not a “sunshine and flowers” yoga teacher at the best of times—I don’t tell everyone to smile even if they don’t want to (unless my students are glaring at me during core exercises), and I don’t admonish folks to start opening their hearts for no reason. Well, not exactly.
I don’t practice yoga because I believe the world is “sunshine and flowers.” I practice yoga because I know the world isn’t that way. For me, yoga is a tool for dealing with the struggles that are inevitable in life, and make the ease and sweetness more visible, more possible. Yoga is a practice of choosing love and compassion not because it’s a given, but because there is so much out there in the world that really needs it.
Take St. John of the Cross (1542-1591). He was imprisoned and tortured—by priests—in the basement of a monastery for his religious beliefs. Through his ordeal, he found comfort in his relationship with God, and wrote some very sweet poems during this time and afterwards. Here’s one of my favourites:
A RABBIT NOTICED MY CONDITION
I was sad one day and went for a walk.
I sat in a field.
A rabbit noticed my condition and
It often does not take more than that to help at times—
just to be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing,
so full of love
that they don’t
they just gaze with
Many of these poets don’t seem to be subscribing to any really specific doctrine about what God is and means. Though they have specific faiths, the general sense you get is that God=Love. Anyway, the mystic poet Mira says it much better than I ever could:
MIRA KNOWS WHY
The earth looked at Him and began to dance.
Mira knows why, for her soul too
is in love.
If you cannot picture God
in way that always
you need to read more of my poems.
Of course I don’t like to think about St John being tortured in a monastery basement. Of course suicide is a depressing topic and bullying is all too real in our world. Of courseBoys Don’t Cry made me cry. But it heartens me deeply that folks like St. John can choose not bitterness and despair, but more love, more compassion, more faith. That Dan Savage can create an amazing global project based on youtube videos of LGBT adults living happy and whole lives telling their stories to youth so that they know that It Gets Better. I am proud to wear purple to say that I don’t consent to bullying and homophobia, and that I am one of many purple-wearers and others who are working really hard to make the world better and brighter in all sorts of really necessary ways.
So of course it is a choice to believe the world is good, that there is beauty in it, and that love is possible. And it’s not easy to choose that. But we are doing it every day, many of us, and have been since long before St. John wrote this poem in the 1500s:
IF YOU LOVE
You might quiet the whole world for a second
if you pray.
And if you love, if you
our guns will