Tag Archives: personal accountability

What We Don’t Know

I am currently studying Islam and the Quran through an online course with Harvard University because I was aware of my ignorance when it came to the religion and belief system that over a billion people ascribe to today. I suspected that what I had been exposed to through media and the opinions of others wasn’t entirely accurate or fact-based, and as someone who believes that all talk of God should be talk of peace, I wanted to investigate.

It turns out I was right. Islam, from my very little time exposed to it, seems to be about compassion and mercy. Aligned with the Judeo-Christian history of revelations compiled into book form, Islam is also very aligned with the Yoga teachings which ask us to place God above all else. Not what CNN would have us believe, apparently.

The first question we were asked in this course is how do we know what we know about Islam and Muslims? A seemingly innocuous question, at least until I really started thinking about it. Which led to asking myself how I know most of what I think I know.

We talk shit a lot of the time. We babble on about topics that we are not properly informed about, and yet we keep on talking.

This week’s classes will bring all of this together by asking students the following questions:

How do you know what you know? About what’s right for you? About what’s right for others? About what’s right and wrong? About what you’re meant to be doing with your time? About how you’re meant to love? About who you’re meant to love? About how you receive love? About money? About sex? About rest? About stress? About health issues?

What is your source of information? Is it Google? Is it your parents or guardians who brought you up? Is it the media? Is it what you overheard from others? Is it through the news wire? And is it viable? Is it a source that speaks from fact or from assumption? Is it based in truth or in fear?

Now let’s look at what you know even though you don’t know how you know it. About the difference between right and wrong. About how to treat others, regardless of their skin color or the language they speak or the god they pray to or who they feel compelled to love. About what your life is meant to represent. About what the lives of others are meant to represent.

1) Know that ideology, on any subject, is dangerous without applying that ideology face to face with the people it involves. One can have a million opinions, but those opinions can also be transformed in a second by seeing the faces and walking in the shoes of those they involve.

2) Trust that if it makes you uncomfortable or invokes fear, you need to know more about it. That sensation or emotion of fear is a messenger begging you to look a little deeper. If we all made the effort to dig a little deeper we would find commonality. Every time.

3) If you’re gonna talk, speak fact. Opinion is already saturating our culture. Opinion is killing us. From the mind-numbing chatter of all the talking heads employed by news media conglomerates to endlessly babble stupidity into our personal spaces to the cowards who sit behind the safety of their black mirrors, puffed-up with their false sense of self-importance, spewing hate and judgement through social media on 140 characters or less. Opinion is harming us. What you put out into the world, whether it be through your word (spoken or written) or your actions, has the potential to heal or to harm. Unfortunately, the default when mindlessness is part of the equation, is harm. We harm easier than we heal. Changing that vibration into one of healing can only happen by speaking fact, not emotionally charged opinion. More importantly, we must be able to say, “I don’t know” when we really don’t have enough information to responsibly contribute to the narrative. Even more importantly? Know when not to speak. Silence, in the proper contexts, is golden. It’s grace, it’s power, it’s action disguised as inaction.

We have got to start taking more responsibility for what we project into the world. If it feeds hate, judgement, separation or fear, then we have to acknowledge that and do the work that is ours to do, a teaching that is rooted in the Bhagavad Gita. If it feeds healing and love, then we are living in alignment with why we are here and what we are meant to do with our time.

We are not here to judge or hate or blame or fear. And why does it take disasters that shake us to the core to wake up to that realization? Because we are asleep. We are encouraged to stay docile and meek because that’s how we can be herded in whatever directions governments and corporations want to us to move in.

Let’s wake up a bit more today. Let’s set an intention to continue waking up a bit more every day. Set that intention every day, and every evening, before sleeping, identify how you’ve become more awake in the day that is ending.

This is up to us. No one is going to do this work for us. For you. For me. So let’s do it. It can only lead to good.

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The Wolves in Sheep’s Yoga Pants

lululemonThey say that any publicity is good publicity, and it seems like this past week is no exception for Lululemon. In an interview for Bloomberg TV, Lulu founder Chip Wilson was responding to issues with the pilling of some of the company’s women’s yoga pants when he said, “There’s always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work [with the pants], or they’ll wear a purse that doesn’t work, or quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.” The media jumped all over this, as did what seems to be the entire yoga community. The media’s behaviour is never going to change, because they emphasize what serves to draw in viewers, readers, and hits to their websites. I’ve got a message for the global yoga community, however, and I want you to pay attention.

I don’t know Chip. I’ve never met him, and I may never. My relationship to him is irrelevant. The fact is, he’s a guy. A human being. And every single one of you reading this has said something at one point or another in your life that, if recorded and turned into a sound byte to be replayed over and over again, would make you look pretty stupid/insensitive/selfish/callous, etc… I’m not going to defend what Chip said, because it sounds pretty hard core. However, I understand what he was trying to say. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my lifetime, and I know what it means for my jeans to feel tight on me when the weight I’ve gained on my thighs causes the fabric between them to start to wear away from the friction of them rubbing together. If the president of Levi’s came out and said that some people just don’t have the right body type to wear the jeans, insinuating that I’m the cause of the wearing away of the fabric, I’d be pissed off as well. I’d resent not having the head of the company fess up to the fabric itself not being resilient enough to handle my body type. But as Wilson says earlier on in the same interview that very few people have stopped to listen to in its entirety, “The thing is when you push technology…we are a technology company, and when you push technology that’s not like software, an actual physical product, there’s a thousand things that could go wrong on a technical fabric. It’s almost impossible to build a quality control case for each one of those combinations.”

The work Lululemon is doing with clothes and technical fabrics is always a work in progress. I know this because I have sat down with designers and buyers to discuss existing issues with the clothes and what could be done to improve the quality, wearability, design and durability of the products. Chip admits to having made mistakes in the past, and his choice of words relating to the pilling issue may just be the latest one he’ll make. But it won’t be the last one. You know why? Because the guy is human and he’s doing his best, just like every single one of you were the last time you fucked up in public and had the reflection of your words or actions mirrored back to you by the people around you.

The fact of the matter is this, yogis: we should know better. We should know better than to start spreading hate and judgement all over the internet because we feel wrong done by. Every single second of every single yoga or meditation practice we’ve ever chosen to spend our time and energy on was intended to teach us that connection is our goal. We are being divided and separated by our governments, by lobbyists, and by heads of companies that have something to gain by making us feel less than, and if Chip and Lululemon fall into that category for you as an individual, then so be it. But hold on a second – every single thing we’ve learned from the yoga teachers and teachings is meant to be applied between stimulus and response. We get riled up by something, and…HANG ON…how are we going to react? How do we want to impact the world? We’re supposed to know better. What promotes unity and evolution when faced with the threat of separation? Throwing judgement and venom around or doing every thing you possibly can to do your part to make sure it doesn’t happen again? For those of you who have gone off on a downward spiral of self-indignation and anger, did you take a moment to write a letter to Lululemon’s team in Vancouver or to a store manager in your community to suggest that the issue of the fabric should be looked at again as the strive to produce technological fabrics that work with all bodies evolves? Did you decide to give Chip a break by remembering when you too said something that might offend and focus on what good Lululemon has done so far in its evolution as a community-driven company?

I’ve already written about what Lululemon means to me and how this company has been by my side as I’ve found my feet and worked harder than I’ve ever worked before at bringing connection back to the world. You can find those posts here, here, here, here & here. The team at Lululemon has sent me flowers to congratulate me on the evolution of my career. They have invested in my well-being so that I can continue to effect change in the lives of others. They have helped me get teaching gigs at major international yoga festivals, and they are holding a special event to help launch and promote The Examined Life, a book I diligently and painstakingly worked on for over 18 months. They have and continue to be my family, and if your brother made an off-the-cuff comment on TV and the world turned on him to beat the crap out of him, you’d get defensive as well.

The fact of the matter is this: Chip has created an incredible company. Nothing is ever one thing, and there will always be growing pains, so those of you who are content listing every bump in the road that Lulu has endured to post online and stir up the tsunami of anger can continue on. But you’re missing the point entirely and just contributing to separation. We should be coming together as a community to help Lulu get over this bump and be better for it instead of trying to tear them down. I’ve written about this in the book – we build up the people and companies that we find revolutionary and in keeping with how we want the world to be, but when those same people show the slightest hint of humanity, we tear them down and set fire to them. It’s time to grow up and ask if we’re pulling our community down or contributing to its growth and long-term well-being with our thoughts, words and actions.

You may not agree with my thoughts and opinion, and that’s how it should be. I’m as much of a work in progress as Chip and Lululemon are. I’m as much of a work in progress as you are. Let’s do what we can to make things work for everyone, ensuring that we create the space in which anyone is allowed to fall and fuck up, knowing that they will have support and helping hands to stand back up with. No one gets it right on the first attempt, but to try and shoot everyone down who tried something new would ensure that we stay stuck and stagnant, and my entire career is based on moving forwards and re-instating connection. Don’t get distracted from what you seek long-term, and make it your mission to see that become reality no matter what you have to give. Stand up and contribute instead of branding those who display the slightest shred of humanity with a scarlet letter. We know better, so let’s apply what we know.