What I learned in grad school.

February 3, 2017

Long before I became a movement teacher, I wanted to be a professor. So, in a life that seems long ago I studied the history of developing countries and their revolutionary struggles at The London School of Economics and Political Science. My interest was in Post Colonial Nation building and National Identity creation through the framework of Revolution…Algeria was most interesting to me as it really put the ideals of humanism, colonialism and revolution to the test. While becoming a Master of Political Science by learning all sorts of history, economics, politics and theory I learned that I was not, in fact, a very good sitter-downer. And, one must be able to sit still and read and read and read and write and write and write in long stretches. It that I am not skilled.

But, I still read lots and think lots and write some in between the long stretches of movement. As I look out at the world these days there is a huge part of me that wonders if perhaps I could now sit still better…and thoughts of that PhD lurk hard. (At present I am just letting them lurk, at even this paragraph I am ready to jump up and dance around.)

Listening to the all the Alternative Facts bandied around by the Trump Administration, the Alt Right and the fanciful scientists of climate-change and evolution denial has brought me back again and again to the importance a free press and academia play in maintaining a free and democratic society. A controlled press and stifled academia lead to Alternative Facts becoming entrenched as the reality paradigm. That does not bode well for the real reality of people.

I have been hearing in my head the words of Frantz Fanon from his work “Black Skin, White Masks”:

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are
presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new
evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is
extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it
is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize,
ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

Seems a rather true in this time of Alternative Facts.

Everyday in many ways we are all faced with the threat of cognitive dissonance. It can show up in our personal lives in relation to our bodies, relationships, jobs and health as well as in the broader political and economic landscape. How do we guard against being limited by it? How do we stay open to the uncomfortable?

I’d say by being brave enough to look at the world through your own eyes, by educating oneself, listening to a variety of voices and thinking critically.

One way I practice being comfortable with discomfort is with a mindful movement practice. It gives me a chance to learn how I show up and hold space, how I talk to myself, how comfortable I am learning new things and letting go of old habits or patterns. The golden nugget is being kind and discerning, and being available to the information even if it means you have been wrong or poorly informed in your previous approach. Practicing that in our bodies is very concrete, which makes it both scary as all get up and readily available. The payoff to the moments of uncomfortable free floating in a void of unknown is that we become more comfortable with seeing things as they are and grow aware of our own ability to make choices. We are then less likely to sheepishly follow the facts spelled out to us, but to explore them instead. Also, as we practice this way we become more comfortable in our own skin and with who we are, leaving us more open to the discomfort of learning that we might hold views that are at odds with reality as well with the well being of all. And, then we have the opportunity to change and grow. 

Go be quiet and move your body and listen.

Come to class.

I’ve got a Return to Center Workshop Sunday February 22nd @bernalyoga. 1:30-3:30 we will not be talking politics, but quietly, restfully building core strength and flexibility so we can be present and of service to our lives without wearing ourselves out.




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