When I found out Shelly Tochluk was writing a book about the intersections between social justice and spirituality, Living in the Tension: The Quest for a Spiritualized Racial Justice, I could not contain my excitement. As a white yoga practitioner and teacher I have struggled with many of the tensions that Tochluk addresses in this book: transcendence and groundedness, appropriation and belonging, colorblind ideology and the reality that race affects people’s experiences in this country. The both/and approach to the book was a beautiful way to hold the possibility of moving through the world from a centered place as well as from a place of increased consciousness, awareness and action.
Yoga teaches that we are all divine, and my yoga practice challenges me to lean into our inherent sameness more than dig into our uniqueness. As my consciousness of race, white privilege and white supremacy grew I felt betrayed by my spirituality because I felt the sentiment of oneness was an act of denial and ignorance. Living in the Tension: The Quest for a Spiritualized Racial Justice helped me move towards healing this either/or mentality to hold the multiple truths. In fact, this book deepened my yoga practice by increasing my consciousness of “oneness” as well as diversity and uniqueness.
Looking into my whiteness, and race in general, is a way to bring wholeness to a part of myself that has largely been in the shadows. Living in the Tension: The Quest for a Spiritualized Racial Justice does not just include the analytical and intellectual, but also how to incorporate the spiritual and physical. Tochluk extends the idea of awareness beyond our own bodies and minds into awareness of relationships, society and systems at large. She offers tools to remain present during difficult conversations and offers those interested in racial justice within a spiritual context expanded ways to approach their work. I am grateful for this book, and I hope it will be utilized in both spiritual and activist circles for years to come.
I am also thrilled to announce that Shelly is coming to Seattle Wednesday, June 29! She will be at Tiger Lily Yoga for a book reading/signing and discussion from 7-9pm.