Baltimore Month Three: Consider This My Dissent

By | Home, Writing

For the past three months I have written a piece every time a new month passes in our new home in Baltimore. Today is the three-month mark of making Baltimore our new home. Today is five days after 25 year old Freddie Gray died after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody on April 12th. Freddie Gray is a black man who was arrested by Baltimore police after a foot chase. All that I have been able to find is that he was “arrested without force or incident” and that police claim he was carrying a knife which we haven’t seen and there are no claims that I’ve heard that he attempted to use it in any way.

I keep going over the published facts. I keep re-watching the video of his arrest. I keep looking for a reason why this man was even arrested, let alone taken down, and is now dead. I want to find a reason to look the other way, to stay distracted, to stay safe and isolated in Canton (which is the super-gentrified part of the city where we live). Here’s the truth: I can’t.

If white silence equals white consent, consider this my dissent. I didn’t feel like I had any license to write about Baltimore because I didn’t grow up here. What right does a white woman from Pittsburgh who lives in an affluent part of town have to write about a city from which she is mostly isolated? And then I remembered the events of Ferguson. And then I remembered that if we’re really all in this together like we keep saying that we are – then we all have to stand up and be counted.

We have to stand up and go to the places physically and mentally that are uncomfortable to say that we won’t stand for continued police brutality. We have to examine the way that we are approaching the work we do for our communities. Are we only doing in a way that is isolated? Are we doing more than writing checks and sending people to third world countries to teach yoga and build schools? That work is important for sure AND there is work of equal importance here that we don’t need to travel so far to find.

I want to write about this city in the future and tell you that it’s not divided into the Haves and the Have-Nots. I want to write about this city and tell you that things changed across America because people, all people, stopped distracting themselves and stood up to say that what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April of 2015 will no longer be tolerated.

I stand for peaceful protesting and I stand for the end of police brutality. I stand for accountability. I stand for all that is love and light in this world and in order for that to happen then I also stand for the end of violence, the end of intimidation, and the end of suspicion because of skin color.

Learning to Flow

By | Home, Writing

To say I’m fiery is an understatement. I’m a hot-headed, anxious, impulsive, passionate, get-shit-done-yesterday Aries. It was never a shock to me that the style of yoga I first fell in love with was heated power yoga. Of course it was.

I subscribe to a gorgeous and whimsical magazine called Flow. It’s a Dutch publication, which is self-proclaimed as a magazine for paper lovers with a focus on creativity, mindfulness, and taking it slow. (Stay with me, I’m getting to the point. Promise.) I happened upon my first copy in a bookstore in December. I immediately back-ordered all of the issues and promptly subscribed to all future issues. I was really excited to put my new address on the subscription. Life was changing. We were moving and I had the new address to prove it.

After two weeks had passed and I had not received anything, I reached out via email. A kind and presumably Dutch man wrote to me in broken English that they had received my order and that it was processing. I waited and waited. Every day when I went to check the mail, I just knew it was going to be the day that all of my issues arrived. That day never came. The days were long and cold and I was uninspired and I was waiting for something that was going to change that.

After another two weeks, I reached out via email again. This time, a little less polite and a little more annoyed that I hadn’t received any of my magazines. After about 48 hours, a polite and again presumably Dutch woman told me that I should not be concerned unless I don’t receive my parcels within 2 months. 2 months! I ordered these magazine in January – was it really going to be March before I had these issues in my hand?

The weeks dragged on. I went to yoga. I accepted a job teaching yoga! I wrote a little. I cleaned often. I met a few people. I walked the city. I showed visitors around the city. I continued to bemoan that Baltimore wasn’t home and that it seemed like everything at home was going on without me.

Slowly, at the beginning of March, Flow began appearing in my mailbox. None of the issues were shipped together. Many arrived with a price tag on their covers and it seemed as though each back issue was hunted down from various bookstores and magazine shops in Holland.

One particular issue arrived soaking wet and many of the pages were unreadable. True to form, I fired off a polite but ultimately short-tempered email including a photo of the “ruined” copy and a sincerely sweet, possibly saintly woman responded that they would of course replace it. She gently suggested that I mention it to my postman to see that he takes more care when delivering the mail.

It’s been two months and I have received (and devoured and passed along) each copy of the magazine already. When I was home last week, I saw the latest issue for sale and true to form, even though it will be arriving in my mailbox sometime this coming month, I grabbed it and bought it.

I’ve had the magazine for 5 days now (including 2 hours at the airport) and I have only cracked open one page (upon which I scrawled the names of every arm balance that I taught to my yoga students on Sunday so that I could post it to all forms of social media) and then promptly threw the magazine back in my backpack to read later.

When I sat down to write about my two-month mark in Baltimore, I realized that I was late. The two-month mark happened while I was in Pittsburgh cramming as much teaching and socializing as possible into 5 days. Clearly, I didn’t need to wait two months to get my “issues”. I’m quick to anger, impatient, and driven to the point of seemingly competitive over-ambition. Upon returning home, people asked how it was to be home and I told them the truth. It was wonderful to see everyone and I also remembered why I was ready to leave as I was completely exhausted from the last 5 days.

A funny and really quite obvious thing has happened after years and years of practicing an intensely physical yoga practice – I’ve gotten strong. It takes way more work than it used to take to fatigue myself so that I can begin to drop into a place of mindfulness, to a place of slowing down. As I often remind anyone within earshot, I didn’t get into this practice to be an athlete. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t keep practicing like one, using my physical practice to burn away my over-analytical thoughts and fiery anxiety.

I had built my lifestyle in Pittsburgh into a “can’t-stop-won’t-stop” schedule. No one made me do it. I loved teaching there and so I piled on more and more yoga classes and events and got in the habit of saying yes to everything that fell under the umbrella of work.

After about 2 solid hours of physically and verbally breaking down arm balances on Sunday, I started to teach from a calmer place. My thoughts were slower and clear and I remembered why I had started practicing and teaching power yoga in the first place.

It’s probably going to be the end of summer by the time my next issue of Flow arrives and since it ships sloooooowly from Holland, it’ll probably arrive more than a little tattered. I hope by then that I have actually taken time to slow down. I hope that I haven’t over-scheduled my days just because I can. I have a feeling that I have a lot to learn from a magazine written by terrifically patient Dutch people.