Can we make a difference? Can we make the world a better place?
I am getting ready to go on another journey to India, to leave my home in America and travel and teach and go to the red light district to teach yoga to a sex workers co-op there.
I woke up in my warm bed in Venice beach this morning, in sunny southern California, and stared up at the ceiling, my eyes still heavy from sleep. I asked the ceiling and God, (if God is in the sky beyond the ceiling), does it matter? Does any of it make a difference? Why not stay in my warm bed? I could feel my partners body, heavy with sleep beside me. I could feel the soft rise and fall of the blanket with his breath. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have made a home here. I would still be traveling like a gypsy from plane to plane, to spread the word, to spread the good news, as Jesus called it.
You have to look a lot of suffering in the eyes to share the Good News. I think of the friends I made last year with the sex workers in Kolkata. I think of the woman with the burned face, when I asked her about how it happened, she said "they poured gasoline on my face and lit a match". Is it possible for humans to treat each other this way?
I go to teach them yoga because it saved my life. I came from a lot of suffering myself and nearly lost hope for living a few times in this life. I hit a rock bottom in an emergency room and knew if I went to yoga every day, it would make my life possible, sane. A lot of my own suffering came from a background of sexual abuse. So many of the sex workers have similar stories. So many men and women everywhere I teach do. Shame is a terribly binding force on the human heart. There are no easy answers when it comes to sexuality. The sex workers are not victims, they are strong, resiliant, funny women who are finding a way to survive and thrive. They have organized into a workers union and fight to have sex work acknowledged as real work to, to have the rights and respect of any worker. Of course, this work exists on the fringes of society, and most of society would rather turn a blind eye.
What can we do about this? How can we make change, make the world a better, safer place? The more I do the work, the more I realize how big the problem is, how many faces there are, like an ocean that multiplies itself with each new wave. I realize my own limitations and I wrestle with my own ghosts.
My own son has been angry with me for many of the trips to India I have made. When I called him last year from a crackling phone line in Varanasi, he said, "Why are you trying to help people in India when your own son is in pain?". Good question. I just know I have had to. Other times he has told me he is proud of me. My heart goes up and down, but the path keeps unfolding straight ahead, one step at a time. I try to balance it all, to be a good mother (good enough), to follow what is my path. Why do I call it my path? Because it pulls me forward when I don't know why, towards some invisible place, I know it is the truth because I feel it comes from my gut. My guru told me that the spiritual path is standing on the edge of a cliff, knowing you can't go back to your old life, and feeling like you will die if you take the next step off the edge of the cliff...but instead you land on a bed of roses or you fly.
Can we make a difference? I know I have made a difference in myself. I am not good or perfect, but I feel that I am doing what my soul came to do. When I was younger, that was the worst pain I had, was feeling deep inside me that I had to find a way to share and express the work my soul came to do. When I think about going back, I get a funny feeling in my stomach, a loss of gravity as if I am on a roller coaster. It is the feeling my body has when I am afraid. Sometimes it means I need to turn back and sometimes it means I need to walk forward. Not much interesting or powerful work has been created without confronting fear, even fear is a great ally in helping become our best.
I want to teach these women yoga, I want to make their lives and stories visible to the world. Where shame and suffering have been hidden, let us shed light and breath fresh air into old wounds. Will it make a difference? Who knows, I just know what I have to do.
for more info on this project go to: www.couragetorise.org
to support the project, buy the benefit music cd -go to: www.mothermedicinemusic.bandcamp.com