Tag Archives: Madonna

Use Your Words, My Love

This is not a time in history to fuck up in the public forum. Across the world, and even more specifically, south of the Canadian border in the country that tenuously holds onto the “land of the free and the home of the brave” title, a wave of intolerance has been gaining momentum over the past few years. A few months ago I watched the CNN series “The Sixties” and was somewhat educated on how politically unstable that decade was, and how volatile the fight for human rights made the 1960’s. I was pretty shocked to see that regardless of how far we think we have come since then, many of the issues people in the US were giving their lives for to see colour barriers come down and have all humans treated equally seem to be as present today as they were then.

With the current administration in America doing its best to divide people and their opinions, and in an age where those opinions have countless platforms through which they can be expressed, it is no surprise that the US is splintered and fragmented. Those whose history is made up of overcoming hate, genocide, slaughter, slavery, discrimination and dehumanization have every right to be on guard right now, as they do for the rest of time. There are those, goaded on by the president’s apparent refusal to out-rightly condemn hate and intolerance, who take to social media outlets with the sole purpose of instigating conflict. There are organizations with social media bots whose sole purpose is to do the same, resulting in human beings with the best of intentions ending up in Twitter wars with bots designed to amplify the conflict until emotional reaction erupts. We have every right to staunchly stay on guard and be as vocal as the troublemakers so that we continue to fight the good fight and ensure the freedom and happiness of all people.

Late last month, one of my childhood heroines, Roseanne Barr, posted a tweet that read, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” to her Twitter account, referring to Valerie Jarrett, who, among other accomplishments, was a senior advisor to the Obama administration. Rightfully so, within days, Roseanne’s career was over, and within weeks the show she had created and which was in a successful reboot was rebooted once again, this time without its namesake having anything to do with its new incarnation. I decided to boycott anything to do with her, and chalked it all up to her being one more casualty of this period of carte-blanche xenophobia that emboldens even celebrities to spew hate.

Today I listened to an interview she gave to her spiritual advisor, Rabbi Shmuley, in which she talked, among other topics, about her spirituality, how inexcusable that tweet was, how she didn’t know Valerie Jarrett was African-American when she wrote the tweet, and how sorry she is about making herself the poster person for hate, or, in her own words, “A hate magnet”. And as inexcusable and horrific as her tweet was, I found myself contemplating the concepts of forgiveness, right speech (written and spoken), the literalist global society that social media has fostered, and these hypersensitive times in which we must be vigilant to hate and intolerance, and in which, for the first time in my lifetime, we need to censor ourselves for any nuance, sarcasm or double-entendre that might get lost in how our words are received.

A few days ago Madonna posted a doctored photo to her Instagram account of a still image from Beyonce & Jay-Z’s new video, Apeshit. The image, taken from the inside of the Louvre where the power couple were looking at a wall of paintings from some of the masters throughout time, had album covers from Madonna’s body of work replacing the works of art, and the caption below written by Madonna was, “learning from the Master…lol”. Fans of Beyonce and Jay Z immediately took to social media to accuse Madonna of being racist by using the word “master”, alluding to its roots in slavery. Madonna removed the word from the post when the backlash began.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Madonna knows that she is anything but racist. But in this moment in time where we are all super sensitive and dealing with the free-floating anxiety of a US administration using its influence to set human rights back to where they were in the 1960’s, it is only normal that we hold each other to stauncher standards in how we communicate. It is only normal that we ensure that our celebrities be held accountable for how their words may be misconstrued or damaging to the communities and cultures who have suffered intolerable mistreatment and are now afraid that history seems to be on the verge, if not the cusp, of repeating itself.

Let me make something crystal clear for anyone who has the intention of taking my words and misconstruing them: I am not defending Madonna or Roseanne Barr. If anything, their examples exist so that we learn from them, so that we understand that we need to adhere to right speech, using words that successfully convey their intention. To not do that, in today’s social climate, is to invite in a tsunami of rage and indignance, understanding that whether or not we applaud or condemn it, this is where we are in time today, this is where we find ourselves.

Do I think that we tend to overreact to judgement these days? Absolutely. Do I think it’s sad? Yes and no. If I were African-American in today’s social climate, you better believe I would be alllllll over that shit, looking for the slightest bandwagon that the troublemakers could jump on to then use a celebrity’s name and influence to jump onto. I get it, and I think it’s an occupational hazard of all this turmoil that has risen to the surface of our collective consciousness. However, yes, I think it is sad that our ability to receive and appreciate sarcasm and deeper meaning is dormant. Yes, I think that it is sad that we are quicker to sling hate towards those who have transgressed instead of realizing that by doing so, we end up contributing to the energy that we object to so indignantly. Yes, I think that it is sad that forgiveness seems to be a concept of the past. Yes, I think that it is sad that we conveniently forget how timely the, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” passage from the bible is. Every single one of us has fucked up. Every single one of us has said things we immediately regret. None of us are faultless. Yet we attack other people from this high horse of superiority when they have a weak, human moment. I remind myself constantly that when I judge others unfairly, I open up the spiritual channel for others to do the same to me.

So what can we learn from all of this? I think that what we are meant to learn is to take greater responsibility for the words and energy we launch into the world, especially through social media channels. We need to mean what we say and say what we mean, and we need to consider how our words have the power to traumatize. We need to speak and write with right action, not emotional reaction. The same way sending that drunken text at 3am is a bad idea, so it is to express ourselves in the forum of public scrutiny irresponsibly, with no regard to how we may be negatively impacting others and making their load harder to bear.

Years ago, as I watched my sister-in-law deal with one of her young children who was being unruly by kneeling down to his level and saying to him, “Use your words, my love”, I made a mental note to do my best to do the same. It looks like we may all need to take a page out of that book.

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The Queen’s Been Slain

As a general rule, I don’t get up early. I have created a schedule that allows me to sleep in 6 out of 7 days a week, and I often teach the importance of getting as much sleep as possible. And yet on this lazy, rainy Sunday morning I find myself woken up at 7:40am (!!!!) by words forming in my mind that should have been written decades ago, but were not. I suppose that’s because they had to come from me, and, apparently, that is what this morning had in store for me.

Over the last 5 months we have lost too many musical icons to count, influencers who affected the collective consciousness for decades, men who with no apparent hesitation let their freak-flag fly and expressed their artistry for the world to be affected by. David Bowie and Prince, to name two of those icons, didn’t just write songs and get on stages to perform them. They shocked us. They titillated us. They had us buzzing about whatever offering they had most recently thrown into the ring long after the fact, and in many cases, they did it by including blatant sexuality with that offering. Androgyny, outrageously revealing costumes, fluidly sexual dance moves, lyrics that would make the devil pray. These men changed the world for us by pushing our boundaries of what we believed was acceptable and normal, understanding that rules aren’t necessarily meant to be broken, but rather meant to be malleable. The rules have changed because of these Gods, these heroes. And yet with the tsunami of respect, love, appreciation and tributes that have roared across all media platforms since their deaths, there is a conspicuous lack of chatter about how all that same behaviour, all the antics for shock value and artistry packaged as provocativeness, does not get celebrated in the presence of one of our last living pop culture and musical icons. In fact, instead of looking at the examples of how the deaths of Prince and Bowie have affected us, we remain a culture that doesn’t just attack the behaviours of the person I’m alluding to, we attack the person.

I first saw a photo of Madonna in December of 1983 while in Florida. She was wearing a pair of boxer shorts, a t-shirt, a sailor’s cap and three inches of makeup. And she was doing the splits. I didn’t know who she was, I didn’t know what she had done to get into the pages of the magazine, and I didn’t care. I was hooked. And I have been ever since.

In those early days of the 80’s Madonna was brash, unapologetically sexual, dressed up as if a cyclone had inadvertently lashed fabrics to her body in the eye of the storm. And she was quickly dismissed by critics who would sit in the privacy of their writing spaces and throw judgement at a young woman who was bold enough to get up in front of everyone and demand our attention. They called her “Minnie Mouse on helium”, vapid, devoid of any talent. They were wrong.

By the 90’s Madonna was being called “a brilliant businesswoman” (a term that many were reluctant to fess up to until Forbes magazine made her their cover girl flanked by the words “America’s Smartest Business Woman?”) while also being labelled as blasphemous, even being excommunicated by the Catholic Church. She began the conversations about gay rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the hypocrisy of the Church on a global scale. Her pairing of religious imagery with overt sexuality was not new, but the way she brought it to us was. She revolutionized concert tours with her Blond Ambition tour in 1990, ushering in a new amalgamation of pop music, theatrical presentation, Broadway-style choreography and seething social commentary that was guaranteed to leave everyone in attendance slack-jawed and re-evaluating their beliefs about life, sex, religion, politics and gender roles.

In the first decade of the 2000’s Madonna was riding the wave of her late 90’s Grammy sweep. The haters seemed to be at bay (with the exception of the reception of her American Life album and video that challenged George W. Bush’s motives for the Iraq war). She was a kinder, gentler Madonna. Did it have to do with her being married and raising kids, finally appearing to acquiesce to the expectations of a global culture that had always wanted her to conform to the commonly agreed upon roles that a woman should play? Was it because her philanthropic efforts to Raise Malawi (http://www.raisingmalawi.org) were making headlines? I think so. We tend to celebrate what makes us feel good and set fire to that which does not. We were comfortable seeing Madonna write children’s books and accompany her husband to film festivals. She was no longer threatening (insert collective *sigh*). She was inducted into Hall of Fames across the world and her world tours were breaking attendance and revenue records.

Enter the second decade of the 2000’s. Madonna was divorced. She had adopted two children from Malawi and had been lambasted in the media that questioned whether or not she was given preferential treatment throughout the process. She had been criticized for her ongoing Kabbalistic studies, scoffed at (even by some Jews I know) for adopting a spiritual practice that helped her move from self-absorption to empathy and compassion. As she entered her 30th year of artistry and superstardom, the haters pulled out a new card from their deck of weapons. Madonna was now old. Photos of her hands started being reported on. If a wrinkle appeared on the face known the world over, she was torn apart. If her face looked wrinkle-free, she was torn apart. Are you getting an idea of what WE have done to her? Her lyrics got angrier. Her MDNA world tour gave her the platform to express her post-marriage hurt and her objection to the rising wave of intolerance that had been sweeping Europe. She raised her voice to oppose the brutality of the anti-gay policies in Russia, the blatant xenophobia of Marin Lepen’s Front National in France and continued, after thirty years, to champion for freedom. Her Rebel Heart tour that ended recently showed her more vocal than ever, seeing her challenge her “fans” to not come to her concerts if they took issue with what she did and said.

Madonna is still with us. She has endured scrutiny previously reserved for witch trials and public executions. She has done what Bowie and Prince have done, and she continues to do it in her late fifties. And yet instead of being hailed as a visionary, she’s a good businesswoman, lucky, shrewd, a bitch, old, tired and laughable. Over three decades later, nothing has changed except that now everyone is a critic writing from the privacy of their writing spaces, and the judgements are now inexcusably scathing, personal attacks.

Why is it that when a woman acts provocatively, she gets burned at the stake, but when a man does it he is hailed as a genius? It’s time we took a long, hard look at ourselves and started redirecting the judgement we throw around so thoughtlessly so that we can become more responsible and accountable for how we affect our world and the people we are blessed to still have with us paving the way for freedom and basic human rights. Who, in today’s culture, is brave enough to stand up against injustice and hold a mirror up to our faces to reveal the hypocrisy we constantly leave in our wake? Who is resilient enough to withstand the arrows of hate and resentment that today’s critics unleash in 140 characters or less? Who will lead us towards a more tolerant, accepting, live-and-let-live society? Think about it. People like Madonna are few and far between, and as we have seen this year, a dying breed.

Trust that when Madonna’s physical presence is gone, we will not be complaining. We will be deifying what we had been demonizing. We have a habit of not knowing what we’ve got until it’s gone, of not recognizing our heroes until they are gone. So now it’s time to recognize and celebrate the commitment to collective, societal growth that Madonna has been driven by for over thirty years. In 1991’s rockumentary Truth or Dare she said, “I know I’m not the best singer and I know I’m not the best dancer, but I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in pushing people’s buttons, in being provocative and in being political.” She knows exactly what she’s doing. She has all along.

Pay respect while she’s around to receive it. Don’t wait until she’s gone to realize how much she has done for and affected you.

Long live the Queen.

Truth or Dare

So things are changing at Centre Luna Yoga where I spend half of every week, as some of you already know. My extended family (and the founders of the studio) Jenn & Jason have welcomed their beautiful little boy into their family, and are both nesting with the little guy as I take the helm at Luna. Massive change for me, as my admin days there have always been shared with Jenn, laughing our way through each day as we get all that the studio needs to get done completed. My nearly sold-out Santorini Yoga Retreat is less than three weeks away, and I’m teaching more than ever. With this increase in my workload, I’ve noticed that by the end of the week, I need to take some real time for myself. To come back to myself, to recharge, to balance things out. It’s taken me a few weeks to realize that I need this – in the first week I felt like I needed to be everything for everyone, regardless of what point during my week I was being called upon, and what was being requested. From teaching classes to being a soundboard to my friends and family, I felt like I couldn’t let anyone down. They needed me, I was blessed to be needed, so I would make sure I was available for everyone..which left me reeling.

Last week, Cat from Jivamukti London left a status on her Facebook page that seemed to speak directly to what I was experiencing – she wrote that she couldn’t be everything to everyone, not authentically. She wrote that if we can be honest with ourselves about that, we were off to a good start. I swear I felt like she wrote it for me, but that’s what I hear from a lot of my students when I speak at the beginning of my classes and after they read these blog posts…so I guess we’re all living parallel existences…

My take on it, which is exactly what Cat wrote, is this: as soon as we begin to allow ourselves to be honest with ourselves, we can begin to be honest with others. I know that I have a tendency to give until I find myself depleted. With that knowledge, I have begun to pace myself and recognize when I need to say no to things and to turn down offers or opportunities, both of which I have made a pattern of taking on for the simple reason that they presented themselves. What I have noticed in my own life is that the more I take on and commit to, the more I start resenting the lack of time I have for myself. It’s silly, because I LOVE what I do. But what this has shown me is that my internal barometer will always indicate when I’m overextending myself, and so I’m now more attuned to it.

Instead of feeling badly about saying no to someone who’s asking for my attention and energy, I now realize that by explaining to someone that I’m not “fully present” due to running myself ragged, I’m letting them know that I have the respect for them that they deserve, and that while I may be refusing to engage in the moment, I’m also presenting another day and time for us to pick up the discussion…another point in time where I will be 100% authentic, present and able to give them the attention they’re asking for and that I feel they deserve. I am blessed to trusted enough to be the “go-to” person for many people, and I take that responsibility incredibly seriously. With that said, I have come to the understanding that by being honest with myself about these things, I am empowered to be honest with others. And in doing so, I am strengthening the connection and bonds that exist between us. No one wants to disappoint those they care about, or those that seek them out for guidance or a sympathetic ear, but pretending to be fully present while offering a fraction of the energy with a diminished attention span doesn’t do any good. We have to move away from the place where we are afraid to be frank and let people know what our reality is. And instead of letting them down, we’ll see that we are more appreciated than we thought we’d be, only because we’ve let people into our space of truth.

This is what I’m putting out there for you: how honest are you with yourself? What are you avoiding, and what is the worst that you think can happen by simply being real? If the yoga practice opens us up to the infinite truth of who we are and why we’re here, why would we allow that flow of understanding to suddenly halt in our communication with others? I hate to use an expression that is often regurgitated, but the time is now. One huge moment of awakening for me was in 1991 when Madonna‘s concert-documentary Truth or Dare was released. I had a wall-size poster of it on my bedroom wall, and every night before bed I would look at it and read the caption at the top of it: “The Ultimate Dare is to Tell The Truth.” It empowered me to be authentic and honest with my family and friends about my sexuality (was the Madonna poster not a big enough hint?), and not only opened up communication amongst us, but it made the bonds between us virtually indestructible.

So how can you move into a place of 100% authenticity? What aren’t you dealing with? And why not? I guarantee that the fear behind your inability to address these issues is way worse than what the future holds for you once everything has moved into a place of truth and honesty.

So there you are. It’s your move 🙂 Truth or Dare.