The Yoga Of Inclusion

“There’s only one thing we can be sure of and that’s the love we have for our children,  for our families, and for each other … the love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger.” –President Barak Obama

The 2010 U.S. census identified Detroit as the country’s fourth-most racially segregated city. Yet at a favorite soul food restaurant near Detroit, I noticed that the patronage always reflects a 60/40 black-white racial mix. Sometimes more whites than blacks, sometimes the reverse, but usually a 60/40 mix. I asked my husband why he thought this African American-owned restaurant always had this particular mix of patrons. Without hesitation he said, “Intention.”

And then my “aha” moment: “It doesn’t just happen.”  Racial and cultural diversity are natural outcomes of conscious intention. When we intend to be inclusive and engage respectfully with those who are different from us we attract diversity.

Intentions are the promises we make to ourselves about what we are going to do, not what we wish would happen. Like yoga, inclusion is more than a theory, it is a practice. Once you set your mind on practicing it, you increase your chances of actually manifesting diversity.

Practicing tolerance is not the same as practicing inclusion. An attitude of tolerance carries with it the energy of endurance and indifference. “I am willing to put up with you because it’s the politically correct thing to do, but I am not inspired to engage you or to connect with you because I’m really not that interested.” That’s tolerance.

Since yoga is about engagement and connection, the yoga of inclusion asks us to go beyond our capacity to endure or put up with difference. It invites us to enter into relationship with that which is “other” and/or unfamiliar even if it makes us uncomfortable.

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My ideal community is one that is racially, culturally, and ethnically diverse; a community that offers opportunities for a fuller experience through sharing our unique gifts, talents, and perspectives with each other, rather than one that requires sameness and conformity in order to have a sense of belonging. It is a more complex way to live and requires effort, but I like complexity and I don’t mind doing the work.

This past Christmas my family and I shared dinner with close friends. At the table were our hosts, a blended family, one widowed, the other divorced, a second marriage for both. The hostess is Greek American. The host has Appalachian and Native American roots. Both of their former spouses are Jewish. The gathering included the hostess’s bi-racial grandson, his Jewish/Greek American mother, along with her significant other and his  African American parents. My son was also there; his biological father is African American and his biological mother is German American and Ojibwa. He brought his significant other, who is Puerto Rican and Cuban American. Also at the table were a bi-racial couple, one French Canadian, the other Japanese American, their daughter, as well as my husband and me, we’re both African American. We all joined hands and hearts as we celebrated our loving connection to one another. It may not be for everyone, but this rich world of diversity is one that I relish, savor, and intentionally cultivate.

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If you value racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity, then you need to  invest in it. It won’t manifest in your life just because you want it to. If you make inclusion your intention you can practice it by reaching out and extending yourself beyond your ordinary boundary. Some ideas:

  • Attend a religious service different from your own. Go to a mosque, a Hindu temple, a Baha’i house of worship, a synagogue, a Christian service at a white church if you’re African American, or a black church if you’re white, a Protestant service if you are Catholic, or a Catholic service if you’re not. Invite someone of a different faith to join you in your worship service.
  • Once a month prepare a meal from a culture different than yours, and/or go to a restaurant and try foods you’ve never tasted from another culture.
  • Participate in various cultural events ; a Kwanzaa celebration, a Passover Seder. Go to a museum of African American history, a Jewish holocaust museum, or try an Italian or German opera. Invite friends from other races and cultures to share in your traditions.
  • Learn to speak Spanish, Swahili, Chinese, or Farsi.
  • Travel often and go to as many far away places as you can.

There is a difference between what you say you’ll do and what you want the outcome to be. If racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity are outcomes you are trying to create, then cultivating attitudes, language and behaviors that support that outcome are necessary. Cultural competence, using language that invites and welcomes, and inclusive behaviors all help.

Remember, your actions are what make the yoga of inclusion more than a theory. Small efforts make a big difference. So set your intention and then make it your practice. Take the yoga of inclusion off your mat and into your life.

Namaste

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16 responses to “The Yoga Of Inclusion

  1. Thanks so much Jo, this was a wonderful gift today. I loved reading all the reply’s and I appreciate how you keep all of us in the flow of conversation. I do not know Gail Parker but certainly am glad to be introduced to this blog. I want to stay a part of it. Thanks to all for making this wish an “intention” glo

    • It is wonderful to have you join the conversation. I look forward to your continued readership and any comments you wish to share going forward. And my thanks to Jo for sharing this with you.

  2. Love, love , love this blog post!

  3. Thank you so much Gail. That means a lot to me.

  4. Yes we must begin somewhere and with a wish and or hope, for sure. From the work that I do with women, a lot have been wishing and hoping for a long time and have not anything about it, so I stand with you on action, but getting really clear on what our purpose is! I look forward to your next blog!

    • The women you work with are fortunate to have you as a guide as they search for their purpose and then find the courage to take action. Keep up the good work.

  5. Gail, so perfect, so beautiful! Your words continue to enlighten and inspire me! You look radiant in these photos. Have a Happy Healthy Blessed New Year dear friend!

    • Well you know of course that you inspired me to write the blog in the first place. Thanks for your ongoing support. Happy New Year to you as well.

  6. Kim, that’s an interesting perspective. I think on the way to understanding our purpose as loving, compassionate beings, and being intentional in living from that awareness, we can begin with a wish, a desire, and/or hope. What do you think?

  7. Yes Gail, I do love the words wish and hope, but I think they are 2, among many words that need to be removed from our vocabulary. It is all about understanding what our purpose is of our being and living on purpose intentionally with love, passion, compassion and action. Peace.

  8. Gail,
    Happy New Year kindred spirit. Thank you for sharing such an important message. I think your husband’s observation about intention is spot on. In an area like Metro Detroit, multicultural living requires intentionality. My hope is that more and more people will join us in recognizing the benefits and joys of multicultural “being.”

    • And my hope is that more and more of us realize that an intention requires action to become more than just a wish or a desire. Happy New Year my friend.

  9. Thank you again Gail! I opened up my email on the first day of 2013 and there you are; what a beautiful way to start the day and new year.
    I agree, intention and inclusion equals our soul being. I love diversity and I dream, visualize and ask my intentions, hence diversity wherever I go. Your suggestions of experiencing diversity in our lives will also help diminish ignorance of differences. Differences of others skin color, religion, beliefs and so on. We are all one=HUMAN!
    Happy New Year!

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