Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. ~ Sy Miller & Jill Jackson
One hundred and fifteen yoga mats squeeze into the old school auditorium and on each mat, a person ready to practice. Before the teacher begins, two assistants weave through the maze and leave a small card at the top of each mat. One hundred and fifteen cards each with the name of someone who has died in acts of racial violence and police brutality. Each card is unique. There are plenty of names — far, far more than our numbers here.
I’ve never done anything like this before: a yoga class and peace vigil to bear witness to racial violence in our country to benefit the Black Lives Matter movement.
I’m not a particularly political person. Stories of violence and hatred upset me so I read news sparingly. Even my beloved NPR becomes too much for me. After listening on my way to teach class, I would find myself staggering to the studio feeling buffeted and disoriented by the latest reports of brutality, bloodshed, hatred, and racism, so I often turn it off. But lately, it’s been too much to ignore.
While I am honored to be participating and am grateful for the transcendent leadership of Eboni Bugg, I feel awkward, too. As a white woman, should I be here? Am I offending anyone by tearing up when the card with “Xavier McDonald” is place on my mat? Is it okay for me to lift my fist? To say that this is important to me, too? I honestly don’t know. But I can’t close my eyes to what’s happening. I itch to do something to help.
The yoga vigil was beautiful: the music, movement, guidance, all 115 of us, all with our names. I’m glad I was there, awkwardness and all. And it wasn’t nearly enough. I left wondering what to do next. Organizers promise events in the future, but at the moment, I am at a loss.
I was grateful, then, that a friend shared Patricia Pearce’s article, Three Ways To Be A Peacemaker In A Time of Hatred, as it offers a personal practice of peace-making.
The three ways that the article suggests are:
Stand in Solidarity with Those Under Attack
Love the Person Consumed by Hatred
Heal Your Own Mind
These are practices that I can do anytime. I don’t have to wait for a vigil, a rally or a march. I can be a peacemaker right now, exactly where I am.
It’s impossible to have peace in the larger community unless we have it in our own hearts and minds. So while the Black Lives Matter network addresses the enormous issue of hatred in our country, we can use these peacemaker practices in any situation: in our cities, our communities, our families, and inside ourselves.
As I move through my interactions with others, with the vitriol at National Conventions, with the news on NPR, and the voices in my own head, I can practice being a peacemaker. By supporting those under attack, offering love to the attacker, and caring for my mind, I am making small steps toward the healing I wish for the world.