I watched Oprah speak at the Golden Globes about how speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all own. And, I agree. I was mad at Oprah when I watched that speech. Her Weight Watchers commercials have irritated me. Here are some things I’d like to hear Oprah speak about, other than becoming smaller in body:
- How she overcame abuse and trauma to become the most successful woman of my lifetime
- How white women can be better allies to women of color in the movement toward equality
- What motivated her to start a school in Africa
- How she’s maintained healthy long term relationships with people like Gayle and Stedman in spite of her busy, public career
Those are just a few that come to mind. When I saw her eating tacos, I thought, “Come on, Sister, really?” I realize so many probably thought nothing of this commercial. My eyes have only recently been opened to the way our society’s food and water is poisoned by the corporations who seek to keep women small in body and, ultimately, smaller in power.
I forgive you, Oprah.
Indeed, watching her speech, I set aside my resentment and raised a fist in solidarity time and again. My blood began to quicken, as I know happens when Truth speaks.
Part of the reason I don’t write much here (about myself) any more is I don’t always know which truths are mine to own and share.
One of the wisest things the owner of Karmany Yoga (may he rest in peace) ever told me was that once the toothpaste is out of the tube, you can’t put it back in. He was referring specifically to writing and speaking truth. That line still comes to me sometimes before I hit send or publish.
So many of us whose truths have been swallowed or stifled or shut down – when we begin to speak again, what we say and how we say it is in need of some refining (to say the least); otherwise, it projectile vomits like victimized hate speech. I’ve written things I regret in the name of speaking truth. And, I’ve read things others have written about me that hurt and weren’t true. A Course in Miracles tells me that “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.” I have this written on an altar in my home. It reminds me that haters gonna hate, and I need not always shout louder than the haters.
The Yoga Sutra explains that often our truth is colored by the veil of our ignorance, or false understanding (avidya). Within the mind of each of us are habits of thinking (samskaras and vasana) so embedded in the mind that they shape our inner world and mold our personality, which, in turn, creates the lens through which we view reality.
It’s why I try not to write too in depth about what I’m experiencing currently. Through the lens of time and spiritual practice and reflection, truth unfolds infinitely. More will always be revealed.
I think that’s what my mentor meant with his toothpaste analogy. When it comes to speaking truth, I operate by a few questions: Who will it help? Who could it hurt? And, what can I live with?
Sometimes, with the truth it’s as Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Sometimes, with the truth it’s as Anne Lamott said, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
And sometimes, I still believe the details are better left unsaid. I might as well quote another woman I admire – Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”
I strive to go high.
And, you know, that means operating by what my momma taught me as a young girl, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I mean, some would say that’s not a way to raise our females up, but on the other hand, I don’t want to add to the aggression in our world. And, knowing my mom, I think it was Texas speak for “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.”
Over the past few years, I’ve sought to refine what’s capital-T True. There’s an exercise I do where I write down all of my attack thoughts, and then I rewrite them using the prompt: “Another way I could choose to see this is…”
Donald Trump is the worst thing to happen to the United States.
When I say this, I feel judgmental, disconnected and hopeless – disempowered.
[If you voted for Trump, I’m surprised to find you here but not too shocked because you were in good company. Feel free to substitute “Obama” or whichever political figure felt like doomsday to you.]
Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is the end of the world as we know it.
Much the same effect. I never said this exercise was easy. Examining our beliefs never is. It’s like the adage: the truth will set you free, but first it’ll piss you off. It’s hard at first, which is why I always keep going until I can find something that feels true and hopeful…
Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is exposing our country’s deeply rooted shadow of racism and greed.
Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump will be the impetus for widespread political, global, and economic change.
Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is inspiring Americans to become involved in the political processes we’ve long taken for granted.
Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump will give rise to the strongest, most powerful group of women and the Divine Feminine found in all of us.
Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is one man with tremendous power, and I am one woman with a daily opportunity and moral obligation to step into mine.
Now, I’m starting to feel inspired – or at the very least, Vital.
Before I taught yoga, I taught public school. Before that, I waited tables in nightclubs. Before that, I worked in a cubicle in insurance.
And you know where I’ve found the most pain: in spiritual communities. Herein, I’ve found some of the most judgmental, unethical, bullying, narcissistic folks I’ve ever met. Herein, I’ve also found some of the most generous, compassionate, empathetic, people I’ve ever met.
I mean, the yoga community is just a microcosm of our world, you know? That was news to me. I thought at first everyone was happy.
There’s a reason we were all led to this practice. Life wasn’t perfect…just sayin’ 😉
Saying this out loud, on the page, feels kinda icky. So much so, that I almost left. More than once. Because, as Pema Chodron says, “Nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” I had to learn from a few people, painfully a few times. Years of growth.
So, once upon a time, the truth was:
She took advantage of my kindness. She stole from me. She chose business over friendship. She grew envious and vengeful when I became the top producing teacher. She verbally abused me. She spoke lies about me.
These were a number of she’s. I may have had a slight problem with laying down and letting people walk all over me.
And, with boundaries and (sometimes) walls, therapy and reframing journaling exercises, and the gift of time, another way I can see this is:
These experiences have propelled me to remain even closer to my own spiritual practices (yoga, dhyana), motivating me to examine the ways in which I am allowing ego to obscure Truth. I thank these people who’ve masqueraded as the light for reflecting back to me who I am when all facades fall away. I thank you for encouraging me to do my part to include everyone and exclude nobody. Because of your influence, I understand that friendship, for me, is about wanting the best for a person and expecting nothing out of the person in return. I thank you for teaching me to love the people close to me without condition, giving generously without harming myself in any way. I thank you for pointing me away from greed and in the direction of faith (shraddha). I thank you for showing me what not to do so that I may operate my businesses in a way that aligns with my ethical principles (yamas). I thank you for showing me how to set healthy boundaries which protect my heart and my life’s work (niyamas). I do not seek to share this physical space with you – in asana or otherwise. And, in the same breath, I wish the best for you – the same happiness and success I wish for myself and my closest friends and family (mudita).
This Truth has set me free.