Today I’ll go for a short run with Noah. A little father and son jog. Nothing remarkable about that, even considering that it’s been a couple months since I’ve been out on the roads.
Noah’s track season was suspended when school was shuttered, but he’s been getting in some miles on his own to stay in shape. He’s 17. Big, strong guy, 6’2″ or thereabouts now. Mixes in 100 push-ups as part of his study breaks. Keeps him from falling asleep, he says.
The pendulum has swung and now it’s time for him to be charitable about the pace. (Not that I was ever charitable.) He’ll map out the course so we end up with 2.23 miles.
I’ve never warned him about getting too big. Haven’t worried about him becoming dangerous-seeming. I haven’t cautioned him about what he wears when he goes running. When he pops out for a solo jaunt around our mostly white village, he’s just another runner; he’s not “the other.” His presence doesn’t inspire anyone to jump in their van with their shotguns to check up on him, see where he’s going or what he’s doing.
“dear lord help us not to pretend
no more pretending”
Noah is learning to be conscious about his size and presence. He’s gentle-hearted and all that, but his mom, in particular, who is almost a foot shorter than Noah, makes it clear to him that, intentions aside, his towering stature is coded. He may be received by others in a particular way; he likely isn’t as aware of that as we are.
Then again, I’m not as aware as I could be of how I come across. So my lack of awareness and how it ripples outward: that’s on me to address.
We want nothing more than for Noah to feel comfortable in his own skin. The same kinds of things that Ahmaud’s parents wanted, I’m sure.
And yet, we also know that because of Noah’s skin color, the world will react differently to him than they will to his relatives and friends who are not white, who are not male, who are not tall, and who do not share the same geographic, socio-economic or educational background that he does.
With all that extra worry that I don’t have, how different is it for me to enter into the practice of yoga than it would be for Ahmaud’s dad, Marcus?
As much as I think about the loss Marcus must be grieving through these past several months, I wonder, too, whether Noah and I share more in common with Marcus and Ahmaud or with the father and son who sit in the Glynn County jail? Or will I try to turn them into “others” setting them just outside my field of awareness so I don’t have to see them.
“teach us the piety of the open eye”
But of course, all of this has nothing to do with yoga.
When Teddy Macker’s prayer asks “dear lord may our gaze be defenseless/and unshardable” it sounds like Patanjali’s thing about turning towards and softening (abhyasa and vairagya).
But neither Teddy Macker’s poem nor Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras have anything to do with examining the habit-patterns around race or justice in America.
Maybe, technically, I suppose, when Patanjali talks about the yoga of action (kriya yoga) and its eight-limbed path (astanga) and how that path starts off with a reflection on how we relate to others… I suppose, again, technically, and in kind of a cherry-picking sort of way, you could make a case that reflecting on issues of race, gender, sexuality, economic status, age and country of origin might be relevant in the context of what would have to be called a yama practice, a practice of reining in harmful predilections. But…
It’s not like there’s three poses to put an end to discrimination, right?
So, yes. I will run the 2.23 miles with Noah. Even though I haven’t been out in awhile. I can handle that distance.
And, yes, I will deepen my reflection on issues of race, gender, sexuality, economic status, age and country of origin with a defenseless and unshardable gaze. I can handle that closeness. And not just on Ahmaud’s birthday.
With an earthworm’s “persistent, wriggling, moving forward.”
Returning to Teddy Macker’s “Prayer”:
“may dignity lose its scaffolding
faces crumble like bricks
dear lord let grief come to grief”
dear lord indeed.
May I build a world that encourages everyone – whether they run, jog, or walk, whether they breath, move and rest.
May this world be one where everyone can be safe, happy, healthy and at ease,
May the memory of Ahmaud be a blessing,
Al Bingham leads PostureTweak and Breathe, Move and Rest classes online at EncourageYoga.com. Online classes are $5/class however Project LOVE makes them FREE with the code LOVE at checkout. Use the code 1x or 100 times. https://www.EncourageYoga.com/ProjectLOVE