Love is Activism, So Let’s Make Sure We’re Still Practicing Self-Care

2020 was one hell of a year, but of the many things its revealed, was that when people were put under stress and fear that which made them no longer feel comfortable and contained – they woke up.

The world went through serious trauma. Many lost their jobs, were put in social isolation for far longer than humans can psychologically handle, and some lost loved ones to corona virus. We were already on edge, with little to no relief from our government. The lack of financial support felt highly ignored from the administration – an abandonment that proved to its people that our elected officials (in either major bipartisan parties) do not care about you.

Then, the final blow came, when our nation watched the murder of George Floyd in the hands of a police officer, all in 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Witnessing a murder is a type of trauma that can have serious psychological consequences and PTSD. Imagine a whole nation witnessing this together.

So it comes to no surprise that the following days into weeks of protests were serious. People had had enough. For once in a lifetime, there was mass hurting, rage, and sadness that was strong enough for people to come together to demand a change to the system that is full of racism and corruption. And as time went by and more and more murders of black people by police began to surface, people got angrier.

Now, what does all this have to do with yoga? The answer is actually, everything.

Yoga is about practicing accountability. You show up to a yoga class to meet your edge without exceeding it to injury. Instead of making goals, you set intentions that answer the “why” rather than the “what”. You practice radical self-love so that you don’t burn yourself out when you want to give it to the world in a genuine way. And loving yourself first is especially important to activism because it can separate sincere activism with performance.

The difference between genuine activism and performance is that you are personally drawn to addressing a change you want to see in the world (be the change you want to see in the world, sounds familiar, right?). There may not be much personal gain for you personally, but by collectively as a community.

In performative activism, one might gain social acceptance and attention, more likes on Facebook and Instagram, or even intentionally profit off of the struggles of others. Though it might be helpful in the short run to show up to a protest or make a social media post addressing racism, performative activism often leads to dropping off their efforts the moment it no longer becomes the flavor of the week on social media. Corporations are infamous for applying a rainbow to their logo for LGBTQ+ month while doing absolutely nothing to support the LGBTQ+ community. And not just big corporations do this, but people do this. As consumers, they buy the products and goods from corporations that massively harm the environment and take little to know accountability for, or steal from indigenous cultures, or use slave/child labor via third world countries as well as the prison labor system in the U.S.

Now, there are many secrets that large corporations keep that many consumers are not aware of. I only found out recently that, even though that for many years I’ve made an effort to avoid purchasing beauty products made from companies that test on animals – that these efforts were in vain because most “ethical, small-label” brands are owned by either one of two beauty brand conglomerates – Estee Lauder and L’oreal. In a market full of secrets, its easy as a consumer to be fooled, or just flat out not given any other options to buy from.

But in all, it goes back to accountability. We will make mistakes when practicing activism, its inevitable. But as long as we care, and that we are willing to accept our mistakes and are willing to learn, then it is not performance. But if we are in it to look more “woke”, or to support our ego, or for the likes, its probably not for the most genuine reasons. If we are so desperate to seek approval from others as to fake activism, there may be deeper issues with self-esteem that may need to be addressed. This is again why it is so important to practice self-love and self-care in activism. Its to balance the amount of love we put out there for a cause with the amount of love we have for ourselves. It’s also easy to give too much of ourselves away that we may face burn out, fatigue, or indifference – all of which is not helpful for anyone.

Health & Wellness | My Favorite Varieties of Avocado Toast

Avocado toast has a reputation of being a pretentious and overpriced brunch item in restaurants.  But at home its actually quite accessible, easy to make, healthy and satisfying.

Sardine Avocado Toast

  • Whole grain toast or sprouted wheat toast
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 can sardines in olive oil
  • cracked pepper
  • sea salt

Tomato Basil Avocado Toast

  • French bread or sour dough toast
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 4-5 sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 shredded fresh basil
  • drizzle olive oil
  • cracked pepper
  • sea salt

Egg Avocado Toast

  • Rye bread toast
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 over-easy egg
  • sprinkle of fresh cilantro
  • option to add cherry tomatoes sliced
  • cracked pepper
  • sea salt

Finding Contentment in Unusual Times

A message that has resonated so much with me recently has been this: “We are human beings, not human doings”. And yet, we are always doing something. We sometimes forget to take the time to just be here in the moment, to be present, and to appreciate what we have, even through its obstacles, struggles, and uncertainty.

This pandemic has brought so much uncertainty with everything that it can feel unsettling at times. But this also may allow for us to find the gifts that may be hidden in the shadows.

I like to (maybe inappropriately) joke that Covid-19 happened because I wished so hard for change in my life that we are just getting what I wished for.

I was experiencing some feelings of stagnation in my life and was wishing for some sort of change – but when Covid-19 happened, I was like, “No.. not like that!”

So, if the world is in it’s current state because of me and my reckless wishing, I am sorry!

However, through all of the economic loss, including of my primary job and source of income, I have learned to cope significantly through the gifts of yoga, and have revisited the Yamas and Niyamas of Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra, and have resonated with the specific observances of Contentment (Santosha) & Surrender (Isvara-pranidhana) to get me through all this.

Contentment means to look to yourself and your own innate goodness for happiness; that is the only place you will truly find it. It also means being present. Rather than wishing for things to be different in your life, accept and appreciate the reality of what is. Do you really need things to be different to be happy? Choose to be happy now. Cultivate contentment by making gratitude a daily practice. Notice the moments you are happy, even if they seem to be few and far between. Keep a gratitude journal. Count your blessings. Remind yourself often, “I have enough. I am enough.”

The sutra of Surrender can be described in a few ways, in this case as a means of letting go of doubt and making room for faith.

When combining the sutras of Contentment and Surrender, I have found it easier to live life more spontaneously and through a positive, more present approach. I took these two concepts on the road with me recently on a spontaneous trip to Utah. This trip was initially planned to be a rock climbing trip on the north coast of California, but evolved while my husband and I were on the road, finding on our way that the plans needed to change due to Covid-19 closures of many parks and campgrounds. So then, we drove on our way to Idaho, also finding out on the way that there too were many Covid-19 closures. And so, we ended up wandering the deserts of Utah, accepting places to climb that met our ability levels, camped where is was open and welcoming for us, and learned to enjoy the excitement, spontaneity and uncertainty of where to go next.

This pandemic has brought so much uncertainty with everything that it can feel unsettling at times. But this also may allow for us to find the gifts that may be hidden in the shadows. When things become unattainable or closed off, instead of feeling limited, can we find ways to let go of the old and embrace the unknown of the new?

Cup of Change: I Practice Seva Because I Will Never Forgive Myself for Dropping the Ball at the Starbucks Drive-Thru Again

Several years ago during my undergrad, I was often seen wasting my student loan funds at Starbucks buying my morning’s overpriced coffee before class because I needed it. I don’t even want to think about how much money I had spent in Grande Almond Milk Lattes during those years, but one thought that I could never ignore was the time I broke the chain of paying it forward at the Starbucks drive-thru.

For those who may not be aware of the phenomena, sometimes when you go to the Starbucks drive-thru, a customer in front of you may have a spontaneous urge to act in kindness and will pay your tab, so that when you pull up to the window to pay and get your order, the barista will say the car in front of you paid your tab. There is then the opportunity to pay the tab for the car behind you, and so on and so forth. There have been many occurrences of this happening at Starbucks drive thrus across the United States, one setting a record of paying it forward 160 times in a row!

So on one of my excessive coffee run days, I was delighted to find out that the car in front of me had paid for my drink. Unfortunately, I did not know about the pay-it-forward gesture at the time, and didn’t even bother to think about maybe offering to pay for the person behind me. I could blame it on the barista for not asking me if I wanted to pay-it-forward, but honestly I believe that my inability to consider returning the gesture to someone else speaks to my level of selfishness and lack of awareness at that time in my life.

I have no idea how many people had paid-it-forward that day until I broke it, and I’m also embarrassed of how many years later it took for me to one day realize how I dropped the ball on this. But then I realize that I’m not even the same person I was those several years ago. I have gone through many cell deaths and regenerations since then, have created new neural pathways in my brain, and I have learned from my mistakes, this being one of them.

So as I have grown into a more conscious way of living, I realized that I owed a great debt to others I have not even met yet; to give back to those I have received from with no expectation of receiving anything back. Basically paying-it-forward in this Starbucks drive-thru of life.

That is why I practice Seva – the act of selfless service in Karma yoga. Its not that I feel guilty about not paying-it-forward in itself, but because I was not consciously aware at the time of my connection to others, and what others have selflessly given me, whether through their time, energy, money, love, thoughts, etc. At that period in my life, I was a just the typical self-absorbed college undergrad with an inflated ego (no offense to other college undergrads, I also know college grads, post-grads, and those with no college education with inflated egos as well). I recognize now how to live conscious and be present, Be Here Now, as Ram Dass would say. And part of being more self-aware in this moment meant for me a recognition for those who have given to me not so that I would pay them back one day, or just forget them and their gestures, but to shape me into a person who would give back to society.

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”, I know I am who I am because of all who have in one way or another shaped and influenced me into the being I am, who have shared this path of life with me and helped guide the way. This includes my family, my teachers, mentors, friends.. and this also means those who have hurt me, caused me harm, or ignored me completely – for they too offered me learning lessons and opportunities for growth, despite their negative influence. Negative influences have taught me lessons like identifying toxic friends, family, relationships, workplaces, etc., as well as lessons on how to face adversity head on without being destroyed by it.

This had me think about my influence on others and society. That person behind me at Starbucks could have been financially strapped or even recently homeless but needed some source of energy to get through their work-day (as a sufferer of chronic fatigue and low energy I do believe that coffee is an essential item just like other foods). Or maybe they had a rough day and a kind gesture would at least offer them a sense of love and belonging – it feels good to be taken care of every once in a while. This is why I practice seva – it reminds me to get out of the bubble of selfishness and to practice extending my gratitude for what life has given me – both the good for nurturing my soul, and the bad for its learning opportunities and its catalyst to personal growth.

So whether its coffee for a stranger on me, a warm hug for a friend, or telling someone causing harm to go love themselves, Cheers.