How Do We Focus?

Last week week we had a small Heart Conversation around Brahmacharya, the 4th Yama (part of the 1st limb of yoga that relates to restraints and ways to be in the world). Brahmacharya is commonly translated to celibacy, but I think that is quite a narrow translation of the word.

The word Brahma translates to God or creation and charya translates as “to follow.” If we look at this from a broader perspective than just our sexual energy it is how we follow God, creation or something higher than ourselves. What gets in the way of that higher purpose? Sex can bring us closer to God and can also take us further away. Sex is just one use of our life force that can drive our heart’s calling or pull us out of alignment with it.

How do we bridge brahmacharya and racial and social justice? We had a fruitful discussion of our use of energy towards our higher purpose and how we use that energy. For many years I chose not to watch the news or be aware of suffering in the larger world, and I primarily focused on individual suffering with people I worked with and friends and family. I intentionally did not direct my energy to systemic suffering because it felt too big and overwhelming.

As I became more involved in social and racial justice I began to increase my consciousness around suffering and pain that I previously chose not to look at. I began to become aware that it was a privilege that allowed me to only look at individual pain and it was an option for me to avoid looking at systemic forms of suffering like racism.

From there I noticed a pendulum swing of energy focus. I went from an energy of denying and avoiding information to feeling the pull to constantly look at systemic forms of suffering and oppression, to learn about racism and my part in racism as a white person. I began to feel more anger and had difficulty letting myself rest or take a break from learning. I was becoming aware of ways that I caused harm, and I was, and still am, in an intense learning period.

Brahmacharya in regards to social and racial justice is looking at where I am in denial and avoidance and where I am overworking, fighting and not allowing time for rest and integration. My word for 2016 is integration, and I believe that sometimes we have to go from one side of the pendulum to the other before we can find the integrated middle path. I am currently still in process with this, and I am grateful for mentors (like my amazing co-facilitator, Carrie Heron) who have swung to both ends of the pendulum and found ways to sustainably move forward with social and racial justice.

How do you focus your energy towards your higher purpose? Which ways of directing your energy work for you? Which cause suffering? How do you bring this energy into activism, if that is one of your higher purposes? I would love to hear!

If you are interested in furthering this discussion of integration I am starting a book club on Shelly Tochluck‘s new book, Living in the Tension: The Quest for a Spiritualized Racial Justice in May to get ready for when she comes to Seattle Wednesday, June 29. Save the date!