◀ All Blog Posts

Some Good News About Un-Learning

By Alexandra Wieland

MON MAR 01, 2021

Photo credit MichelleCJohnson.Com
Photo credit MichelleCJohnson.Com

I believe...

Awareness leads to understanding.

Understanding leads to knowing.

Knowing leads to intending.

Intending leads to planning.

Planning leads to action.

And action leads to impact.

Recently I learned the phrase, "spiritual bypassing." I read about it in the book, Skill in Action. Right then, I realized that I had been committing injustices with my words. Every time I said things like - "we are in this together; we are all part of a bigger thing" - depending on the context, I was effectively avoiding the truth... that one life to the next is most certainly not the same, and therefore, it is not fair AND it is inaccurate to claim "we are one."

The social justice groundswell sparked by George Floyd's murder stirred something in me. I believe it's what some call being "woke."

Today, I am still on a quest to better understand others because I want to align my contributions with what is most important to other people, not to what I assume is important to them.

I share this thinking with you because I believe if more of us are courageous enough to acknowledge what makes us different - age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, income level, education level, military service - we will stop being blind biased.

I want to focus on race for a minute.

I'll admit that I used to think it was okay and actually appreciated if I did not draw attention to a particular skin color. I now realize my choice to eliminate any recognition of race can actually counter what diversity, inclusion, and belonging experts recommend.

I am sorry if I ever offended you.

I am sorry if I ever neglected you.

I am sorry if I ever disappointed you.

Yoga will continue to be my guidepost for how to live a more just and whole life. The very word yoga means to yolk. Said another way, yoga means to unite. While I want to use my abilities and passions to unite others, I must remember to not erase differences when I speak, write, and interact. Instead, I am aiming to hold space for a co-mingling of perspectives while providing plenty of room for individual characteristics to be independently valued. This shift represents a departure from being an observer of the social justice movement because "it doesn't directly impact me" to being a participant in the social justice conversation.

If you're like me, writing, reading, and talking about social justice is uncomfortable. It's messy. It also triggers emotions. These emotions sometimes conflict with the voice in my head that's telling me that I don't deserve to feel these emotions because I was fortunate to grow up with privilege and it affords me comfort today. While all of that is true, I believe it is not a free pass for me to duck the conversation.

But here is where I do feel comfortable lumping US into ONE category. All of us have a relationship with social justice. Our individual opinions and feelings will continue to influence how we choose to interact with the idea and more importantly, the reality.

Thankfully, life is a journey where we get to learn, unlearn, and relearn - a skill Adam Grant, writes about in his most recent bestseller, Think Again. Right now, I am relearning that social justice deserves a brighter spotlight and its curtain call won't come until systemic racism and all other isms are uprooted... for good.

When I'm not consulting or coaching my clients, playing with my daughter, or preparing for an upcoming class, I'm watching West Wing episodes with my husband from the early 2000s. Sadly, the issues plaguing Season 2, which include an attempted assassination of the President's black aide and the gun control debate, are still issues today. I appreciate how television can capture a moment in time, and I am simultaneously dejected realizing how much more work still needs to be done.

It's clear - the work we do today, the words we choose to use, and the people we spend time with - it all matters.

If you share my desire to deepen and expand your understanding of others, I have an invitation for you.

Dedicate time to raising your awareness to where you come from. There is an exercise many anti-racist leaders, trainers, and facilitators recommend that involves rewriting the poem, Where I'm From, by George Ella Lyon. By creating your own version of this poem you will have a very specific picture of your past that you can share with others and ask others to do the same.

The importance of Lyon's poem grew for me when I recently had the chance to participate in a discussion with a group of mixed race men and women who came to talk about how this exercise impacted them. One participant had asked her kids, spouse, and a few friends to rewrite the poem after she had done the same. The first half of everyone's poems were pure. The second halves were marred, darker, sadder. She realized that the idea of race, of black being less, of different being bad, of white supremacy becoming an institution, were all learned concepts.

This is actually good news.

What is learned can be unlearned.

To close, I'd like to share my poem with you, and if you feel so compelled, share your poem with me by emailing me at bandbyoga30@gmail.com. I would be honored to know you better.

Here is my poem:

"Where I’m From"

I am from crusty French baguettes

from Gesso and Oshkosh.

I am from rust colored carpet, turquoise linens,

and from multi-mile hikes.

I am from aloe,

whose leaves heal clumsy cooks.

I am from "bad word night" and watching thunder storms

from Edith and Jane.

I am from the manners and dressing in layers for cold weather

and from 'yes, you have permission to watch TV'

from 'if you don't like it, you can do something else.'

I am from Catholic guilt and nature is my church.

I am from the wild jungle and 'Ten hut, at ease,'

from hot sauce and stinky cheese,

from 22 moves and 11 schools,

and from basketball courts,

and a plastic, pink suitcase.

I am from those moments

Beliefs and traditions influenced and introduced by those who came before me.

Where are you from? Here is the poem template