The essence of Yoga is oneness, union, the belief that we are all interconnected and yet sadly this has been a week when the divisions between us have been laid bare in the most brutal way. The first verbal battleground emerged after that interview. We all debated whether or not Meghan Markle was driven to the brink after becoming a victim of racism or is just an attention seeking piece of work who has brain washed poor Prince Harry. Then the hashtag #NotAllMen began to trend as women were urged not to get hysterical just because Sarah Everard was abducted and murdered on her walk home, an “incredibly rare” incident according to Dame Cressida Dick, as if that’s meant to be reassuring.
Accusations and insults have been traded on all sides with most of us being very clear about which side of the debate we stand and that in itself is the problem. Instead of trying to see things from each other’s point of view we are quick to condemn those who don’t share our beliefs. I’ll be the first person to admit that I have been outraged by some of the words that have been written and spoken this week on these two thorniest of subjects. As a woman of colour I know all too well how it feels to be made aware of my differences to others (“But where are you really from?”). I also know how it feels to be walking home alone in the evening when that sickening fear that you are being followed strikes.
I could write at length about the daily injustices that non white people of both genders experience every single day or the inequality that women are expected to swallow in every area of life. There’s a lot to be angry about and it’s easy to become embittered and start seeing things in terms of “them and us.” We absolutely shouldn’t just take these things lying down or just shrug it off with a, “Oh well that’s the way it’s always been, what can you do?”
Sometimes when you experience racism or sexism for the umpteenth time and not only are your experiences not recognised, you are accused of having a chip on your shoulder or a victim mentality, you just want to scream, “How the hell would you know how it feels?” Believe me, I’ve been tempted, many, many times, in fact I may have actually directed this question at my husband. But despite being a white man he too has experienced discrimination at work for not having been to the right school. No doubt there will be some reading this who may have been accused of being a toff, so we have all probably encountered prejudice at some point in our lives.
We always seem to focus on the differences between each other, why? Is it insecurity that makes us judge those who are different to us in a negative way and become mistrustful of them? Why do we always have to see ourselves as being better or worse than other people? I wish I knew the answers. Maybe one day I’ll go and spend a few years in an ashram and have a moment of epiphany which I can then share with you. Until then I’m simply trying to observe my thought patterns more and retrain my neural pathways. We can get stuck in a way of thinking, whether that’s because of our upbringing, social conditioning or cultural influences. Unhelpful and limiting beliefs can become ingrained but we can choose to try and see the world differently. It’s not easy to weed out thought patterns you’ve had for years but not impossible. My Yoga and meditation practice means that I’ve started to observe my thoughts more rather than over identifying them which is a step in the right direction, I hope.
Be honest with yourself, do you make assumptions about people based on their colour, gender, class, education, address? Don’t we all? But while using past experiences to help us make sense of the world might seem like a logical thing to do, it can prevent us from seeing people as they really are. While I’m not quite ready to invite Piers Morgan over for socially distanced tea and cake, I can see that unless we all try to understand each other more rather than putting up fences between us, there can be no oneness.
Bob Marley first implored us to join together in one love back in 1965 but 46 years later the divisions between us seem sadly starker than ever. We all share one planet and now understand more than ever that our actions such as what we buy can have consequences not just for people living in other countries, but also for future generations. It’s easy to dismiss the idea of one love as a hippy pipe dream, but what’s the alternative, more hate, more prejudice and more misunderstandings? It that’s the choice I know which option I’d rather take.