“Perhaps the increasing problem of homelessness is a metaphor for our own cultural homelessness” Anodea Judith
20 years ago when I studied anthropology and archeology, I remember a professor as well as an assignment that allowed me to connect to a group that helped the homeless in Toronto as well as marginalized people. This connection, as well growing up as a teenager in Toronto with a mother and uncle who worked with the native population opened my eyes to the communities within the city I live in that don’t have access to many of the basic things many of us take for granted. As a parent I have tried to teach my daughter how to give back and show kindness to all. However, the reality of her upbringing is that she is privileged. Even myself growing up with a single mom, with mental illness, who suffered abuse, working two jobs most often I know we also had a privilege, the colour of our skin. Why do I bring this all up? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night, that trigger me reading the news, and that brings up a fear that is so deep within me.
A few weeks ago on social media, I posted an article from Toronto Lifeand it dropped me to my knees. I know about the homeless situation in Toronto, I am aware of addictions, and the mental health crisis. I, like many have been personally affected by these woes of our society. But every time I read these articles, watch the news; hear about a friend falling I see the bigger picture. We are all connected, not one us of is immune nor are we free from it. We are suffering, culturally, as a community and a society. This can’t go on.
But maybe I ain't the one.”
The Observatory, The White Buffalo
However, as a person who seems to have the gift of resilience and optimism, as a person who refuses to say it is what it is, I step up and say what we can change? Many people south of me will blame the government, even those within my own city will as well. However, in my personal journey blame doesn’t mean healing. Blame itself is a Band-Aid, it is like all the numbing we partake in; Netflix, social media, alcohol, drugs. These help us just function in this broken world.
So now what? What can we do?
I was blessed with a curly haired lady who steps into my life every so often, who holds space, and opens all my blocks and lets me see my own shadows and junk. Though what that messy process will look like, only time will tell. It also grounds me in reality. I can say I don’t have a student, client, friend or family member who isn’t suffering or knows someone who is. Isn’t that what yoga and spiritual practices are here for? So I look to my teachers, my learning and to old texts. The Bhagavad Gita, is an ancient text that is amazing and has many lessons. Just one small lesson from this text is when Arjuna (the main character and warrior) speaks about families & communities at war with one another Arjuna says (in my opinion) what good does war bring? With the cost, greed, death, would we really be happy in the end? After contemplating this small part of the story, I do what I know best. I practice. I reflect on why we are all disconnected from each other. How can we heal?
One of the areas I also go back to in yogic philosophy is also the chakra system. They are a road map to our energetic bodies. The muladura chakra is our root chakra, our roots, family, community; it is the fundametal right to be here and to have. I reflected on that “basic right, to be here and have,” this is powerful. Do the homeless in Toronto feel this? Do they have this? In the basics of this chakra it houses our inherited trauma and survival fears As a descendent of the native tradition and having a husband whose family was heavily impacted by the Holocaust, these wounds influence us even without awareness. Many of us walk around with similar bruises maybe in the past, maybe current, stories are different, but the basic emotion of fear is there.
The wood element in Chinese medicine can be looked at like a tree, what are our roots or values? What is our trunk our strength, and then the leaves, how can we grow?
So how do we heal as a community as a collective?
Firstly I will say there are so many people out there doing the work, you don’t know their names, they aren’t on social media with hashtags, they are elbows deep trying to save our culture, and I believe they will. It isn’t about money (of course, money, donations are so important) but it's about the smile, the human connection, empathy, understanding, doing your own work so that you can hold the space for others. That means not rushing through the grocery store, holding the door, saying thank you to those you ring through your groceries. It means giving up a Sunday to give back, it means looking at your actions and really reflecting, how am I harming myself? How am I hurting the world around me? These questions are intense, they keep me up, they give me stress, but they also provide me with hope and strength to serve. Whether your service is raising conscious humans (read Awaken Parenting by Shefali Tsabary ),taking care of a sick friend or relative, don’t just do it, feel it. Talk about it. Trauma and suffering is real and an epidemic, however I believe it can be healed with work. Roll up your sleeves. This spring as you plant seeds for your own growth, self-growth and care is so essential to support others, but also plant seeds for what you can see, for our community, city and culture, how can you create change?
“life is hard, and you have to change” Blind Melon