This piece focuses on social justice, equity, and antiracism. I'd like to acknowledge the hard work of many others, specifically the words and experience from the article titled "White Supremacy Culture - Still Here" by Tema Okun, which I've quoted throughout this post. Thank you, for your work.
Have you ever spent so much time away from your home you begin to forget what home feels like? Over the past month we spent 4 days in a heatwave in Brooklyn, NY, visiting my best friend from high school, 4 days dreaming and organizing in Chincoteague for the Waldo's and Company board retreat, and a long weekend celebrating in Louisa, VA at my cousin's wedding (without both kids! See exhibit A. for a goofy photo of us post-drinks and dancing.) After returning home I found myself yearning for routine, for restoration, and a long-ass nap.
There's a rhythm to everything around us; a harmony when things are in rhythm, and a sense of discord when they're not. Think of the seasons and their ebb and flow - think of our daily routines (wake, eat, move, eat, move, eat, sleep). Each area of our lives working in tandem with another, we are constantly creating new actions and reactions, setting a rhythm for the next moment, next chapter, next breath.
A culture out of sync.
So often we deny ourselves the rest we need to find or maintain a healthy rhythm. Why do we diminish the importance of rest? Why are we fueled by this persistent state of urgency?
A constant sense of urgency reflects our cultural habit of applying a sense of urgency to our every-day lives in ways that perpetuate power imbalance while disconnecting us from our need to breathe and pause and reflect.
There is a snowball effect that happens as we move out of sync with our Prakruti, or our "true essence." How does this show up in our lives? What does disharmony look like?
A constant sense of urgency:
forfeits and discards ways of knowing and knowledge that need more time (embodied, intuitive, communal, spiritual);
promotes the use of fear, shame, and self-righteousness to influence decisions;
lends to the compulsion to complete tasks "on time," based on artificial timetables that have nothing to do with how long things truly take, especially when those "things" involve honest connection with other humans, animals, or nature;
includes unreasonable, unattainable standards about how much can be accomplished in any length of time;
reproduces binary thinking because of the supposed necessity to make fast judgements and rapid decisions;
makes it more difficult to tell what is truly urgent and important from what feels urgent; after a time, "everything takes on the same sense of urgency, leading to mental, physical, intellectual, and spiritual burnout and exhaustion."
When we are tired we are, in many ways, compliant - too fatigued to question those in positions of power, or too encumbered to care. We find ourselves too exhausted, not just for the hard work of social justice, but in our day-to-day actions and conversations as well. When we dig a bit deeper it's not a far jump from the characteristics of perfectionism and urgency to a culture of elite power and hierarchy.
We are called on, with this characteristic, to hold the volatile and tender contradiction of an underlying urgency about our immediate need for justice which is with us always, with the day to day sense of urgency that too often defines our organizational and community cultures, leading to the consequences listed above.
Maybe it is in this moment that you have first come to feel the heaviness that a sense of urgency carries. Maybe you've been feeling the weight of it for some time. Maybe you feel called out (I do.) I feel it in my gut, as I drudge through my tasks with little awareness of my bodily and emotional sensations until I'm utterly depleted. I feel it in my heart, as I am left with little ability to use my innate wisdom and intuition to guide me through my relationships and decision making, instead being driven to simply check more off of a list.
What can we do about it? Remedies to a sense of urgency consist of:
leadership that recognizes that things often take more time than anyone anticipates (think of the communities you're involved in - what's the leadership like? Are they willing to dedicate time to the tough conversations, and the space between the ideas, the actions, and the results? "Awareness precedes choice, and choice precedes results." --Aarti Inamdar);
a willingness to learn from one's own experience: how long does something truly take?;
collaboration on the creation of ideas and their follow through, with reasonable timelines;
having a plan in place for how you'll make difficult decisions in times of stress (clarity on what defines a "good" decision is important.);
a realization that rushing judgments ultimately takes longer in the long run because those who were not given the opportunity to express their opinions, may leave folks feel unheard, unimportant, and resentful.
Finding our way back home.
Rest and recuperation are imperative to the work of social justice, equity, and antiracism - the work of yoga. These ideas are not separate from our yoga practice, but deeply intertwined. Creating a personal and communal practice of noticing when a sense of urgency develops, and pausing, with deliberation and intention, to consider the nature of the urgency and the variety of alternatives accessible to you: Responding vs. reacting. Resting vs. exhausting. Taking the time required to draw upon your own, deeply-rooted wisdom and intuition, and the guidance of those who are there to support you in your journey.
Be well, and take the nap, Alison
Okun, Tema (May, 2021). Urgency. White Supremacy Culture: Still Here, 27-28. www.whitesupremacyculture.info