After Nurture Volume 4 was released, two readers gave feedback that highlighted different perspectives.
Writing these short articles was steeped with the imperative of being valuable for you, the reader. It should be a fair exchange. You invest your time reading and hopefully receive value and even inspire a conversation.
That failed for at least one reader in the last issue.
While another reader said her day would be experienced differently after reading the last issue, another reader advised she’d like to un-subscribe.
I’m grateful both women took the time to read and give feedback, and in particular, to the un-subscriber. She said that she preferred not to read material written by “privileged white men” and that her “work and skills are better served reading blogs from BIPOC and LGBTI people”.
No offence was meant or taken, but her comments spurred deep reflection and research. I’ve read more about BIPOC and LGBTI in the last few weeks than in the preceding 60 years. I’ve also watched videos about the Treaty of Waitangi (an agreement between the Queen of England’s representatives and New Zealand Māori that has served to define the governance, ownership of land and associated customary rights in our beautiful country) to try and understand if I am truly a white privileged male. Despite having swung hot and cold on writing about the three words: privilege, white, and male, it feels important to do so (within the self-imposed limitations of this article format).
Being white and male are baked into my essence with little scope for change, but the word privilege needed more investigation. Yes, I’m privileged to live in New Zealand, but the real question evoked was, “Am I advantaged?”
New Zealand is many miles away from the hotbed of racial and political tension overflowing in parts of the US and in many other global hotspots, but we also have a violent, sexist and racist past. Despite being the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections we still have a long way to go for equal representation in our political governance.
My understanding of the word privilege is deeper and broader now. I accept there are many perspectives to privilege. Some are due to my ethnicity (NZ European), my working to middle-class upbringing and education. Other privileges are thanks to my parents, grand-parents and extended family, who instilled values that meld into my philosophy of living. That largely centres around consideration for others.
But my ethnicity could be seen as a disadvantage by some in New Zealand, because I have no customary rights.
I recall in my late teens wanting to fish for a local delicacy in a river on the West Coast of New Zealand with three friends. We had just turned on to a shingle side road and were heading down a narrow bumpy access way to the river, in search of a local delicacy called whitebait. We had a large fine-mesh scoop-net commonly used for catching the juvenile form of these small schooling fish, migrating from salt to fresh water throughout New Zealand at that time of year, while swimming upstream to complete their life cycle.
With a short fishing season, we were keen to catch our next meal and taste this delicacy. But no sooner had we unloaded our scoop-net than we were confronted by an angry arm-waving elderly Maori woman. Without elaborating detail, the message was very clear.
We hurriedly packed up and left the river, well before getting our net wet. Later that day we discovered we would have been welcome on that river if we had customary rights conferred by heritage.
So what does it mean to be privileged? In its most simplistic form it describes a single or group of advantages. A personal trait of societal position may be seen as an advantage by some and yet a disadvantage by others, depending on their perspective. For example an heir to a leadership position includes expectation of added responsibilities, ways of behaving, or adhering to a certain set of rules. Which for some might be intolerable, perhaps that’s why Meghan and Harry have stepped away from their British Royal roles.
And what is the impact of using the adjective “privilege” on either the labelled and the labeller? If the label is broadly accepted, does that exclude the labelled person from certain communities? If so, are we then creating barriers for sharing knowledge or resources which might help to connect these communities and so, avoid entrenching separatism?
Building a community, at its heart, needs a group of people with similar interests, a unified purpose, and a way to communicate easily and clearly. Implicit is the acceptance of all people who share these desires and values, irrespective of the colour of their skin, their gender or sexuality. To do this we must connect and, as powerfully described by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the best ways to reach that goal is:
“seek first to understand”
Living by this philosophy, bypasses the risk of pigeonholing people through quick judgement or assumption, and will reduce exclusion and separatism. Engaging in conversation and asking questions also bypasses our conscious and unconscious biases, which are counter-productive to building an inclusive, welcoming and safe community.
How can we break down the discomfort of being an outsider, new to or on the periphery of a group and eagerly wanting to join in but fearful of disapproval, rejection or direct confrontation? How can we be more inclusive, welcoming and yet still foster vibrant debate that might advance us all?
With the objective of building community, it may serve to accept and leverage any privilege held by individual members for the good of the community. Seeking to understand, yet not tolerating any voiced racism, bias or prejudice. How might your community improve the way it welcomes new people, regardless of their gender, race or identity.
As always, your thoughts and feedback are invited.
Our world views evolve over time. Bit by bit they are forged from our experiences and will result in a growing list of things to repeat and others to avoid. We’ve built a library of words and phrases that combine to form our life stories, frequently recalled and woven together to define our personality, behaviour and ultimately our identity.
Our world views affect how we look at things and therefore, what we “see”. And if seeing is believing then our truth is created by our world view. So how do we avoid potential cognitive dissonance that living with a new truth can bring?
What happens when our world view changes?
This really depends on the impact of the change itself. It might be a totally private influence that nobody notices through to a major life shift that affects everyone in your sphere of influence and even beyond to the wider community, county, or country. There can be a mass response such as has occurred with the current pandemic, where everyone has been affected.
The responses to COVID-19 are many and varied. Because this was a new human virus, people wanted to be able to do something. In the vacuum of facts, a wide range of conspiracy theories were born with some ending with the death of believers.
How does an altered world view affect the truth, or does it just change “your truth”?
For example, if I became convinced that the Earth is flat, that would then become my truth, but this new perception of mine doesn’t change the shape of the Earth.
If the change only affects my truth then what’s the difference between truth, facts and beliefs?
Facts are undeniable statements of actual existence or occurrence. Facts can be proven and are generally repeatable in the future. They do not change along with your perspective.
Fact: Rivers flow downhill on Earth.
Fact: Oxygen is essential for combustion to occur.
All facts are true but not all that is true can be supported with facts. This how we get confused between facts and truth because the meaning of the word “true” has a continuum from the factual through to holding true to our beliefs.
Beliefs are personal perspectives or opinions, even habits of mind that are believed to be true. They can be shared with others and are often strongly held with a high degree of trust or confidence. These common beliefs may be the founding principles of groups or even bigger communities, but this does not make them factual.
How does our new truth impact our relationship with those around us, our friends, family, or fellow members of our community?
There will be a continuum from a wonderfully positive impact and relationship strengthening to a permanent relationship breakdown and painful loss.
The challenge today is that information sharing and spreading is so rapid and pervasive that there is no when “stop” or “undo” button. The rewards for sharing can be significant and process so easy, a click or touch, and even habituated, a click or touch, that they bypass offline measures such as asking: “Why?” or “Is that for real?”, and next step processes like: let me think about or I’ll dig a little deeper. If this interests you, you might like the book “Contagious” by Jonah Berger.
When our world view changes, how do we keep ourselves and those we care for safe?
With suppression of filtering or critical thinking, the risk of negative outcomes from major change increases. And when surrounded by a group that supports the new perspective our self perception can be as false as the anorexic’s body dysmorphia.
Accepting our fundamental need and desire for human connection, our relationships are critical for happiness. Therefore, it’s important to consider how much you value each of the major relationships in your life and consider the needs and wants of those close to us before committing 100% to any new set of beliefs.
This assumes of course that you are aware of your changing perception. That it is conscious and not an insidious unobservable sequence of shifts which some people believe is happening through and because of our addicition to social media platforms.
Understanding our human behaviour is at the heart of keeping ourselves and those we love and care for safe.
It’s overly simplistic to believe our behaviour is driven primarily by punishment or reward. Although they can be effective motivators, they are both extrinsic, which is why the following statement from Edward L Deci and Richard Ryan might describe why it’s inevitable our world view continually evolves. It is fundamental to living.
“Perhaps no single phenomenon reflects the positive potential of human nature as much as intrinsic motivation, the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn.”
Years ago I drank the Amway cool-aide and ignored or rationalised away doubts and disharmonies I felt from belonging to this network marketing organisation. These thoughts were overrun by deep-seated social norms and personal desires.
I had a young family and was approached by an old school friend who also had a young family similar in age to mine.
I was blind to the indoctrination because of abundant proof from all over the world that the group business principles promoted were genuinely good for all. The community support, friendliness, excitement and seduction of the “promised land” led to our family unwittingly buying into early success as we “tested” out the product line.
It was only after inviting a close friend to experience a large group meeting that the virtual “smack-on-the-head” arrived. A welcome jolt to re-align with my core values.
Another old friend had a more destabilising experience from seductive externally powered influence. Her husband and father of their two young children, although a leader in his chosen profession, became disenchanted as life challenges landed on their doorstep. A religious cult ensnared him with false promises and demands for investment of time and money that diverted his attention and ultimately his mind and heart away from his family. The marriage dissolved and communication between father and children is infrequent 16 years later.
If we’re hard-wired to search, explore, stretch and grow then it is inevitable our world view will constantly change. And to ensure we navigate all change safely, consider: being aware the change is happening, asking “what is there to lose?” just as often as “what is there to gain?” and taking time to discuss the potential impact on the important relationships in our lives with people we’ve known and trusted for at least 10 years will help keep us connected to those we love.
Have you had a world view change that appeared out of the blue?
Are you aware of a specific event or new piece of knowledge that triggered a change in your behaviour?
Have you experienced a belated correction that’d you’d like to share?
Please add your comments or feedback below.
Forced lock-downs, smaller classes and travel bans with or without quarantine combine in a recipe for financial hardship. Be it reduced teaching hours, studio closures or no work at all, and few alternatives, we need community support more than ever. But how do we hold or build community when there is a growing evidence of tribalism and a desperate need to “put your own oxygen mask on first”?
Whatever the answer is, part of the solution will include safe and open communication.
That’s part of the reason this newsletter was forged. Personally, it wasn’t the best time with looming deadlines, prior commitments and immediate challenges arising (more on that later), but in reality and being mindful, there was never going to be a better time!
A few weeks ago Donna and I watched “The Social Dilemma”, a recent film on Netflix that explores and exposes the dark side of the world’s largest human network, Facebook. The film dramatised how we have unwittingly sold ourselves to capitalism for the shiny lure of something for free and without understanding how our very thoughts are manipulated by what we are shown on our news-feeds. Both paid and unpaid content is delivered to us in a controlled fashion by algorithms, specific for each person. What you see on Facebook over any hour or day is unique. Ever wanted to see something you just looked at and couldn’t find it?
And every action, every scroll, every click is recorded and measured. You have a digital avatar, increasingly refined and detailed, and although it is not sold, access to it is, and by default that means access to you.
The film put forward the premise that Facebook and Google (through their platform You Tube) have responsibility for the fracturing of society that we see today. Riots are becoming more and more common place. Tribalism is growing because safe open debate where ideas are challenged is less common.
Echo chambers thrive when critical thinking is abandoned, often as a result of psychologically-derived click-bait rewarding the unwary. This is just one symptom of an increasingly individualistic world, neatly defined in the phrase “I’ve-Got-Mineism”, the first mention of which I can find is in a Humanifesto written by Destiny Kinal in 2008.
I’m not saying that social media is all bad, just that the bad is inseparable from the good and so for now Facebook and You Tube cannot be considered safe for the individual as the underlying driver is the forming our behaviour for money.
The film was long into the production house when the pandemic emerged and these two major global forces are behind the questions posed in the title. The threats and pressures today appear to be antagonistic to building a thriving yoga community. So how do we collectively change course?
A Healthy Yoga Community Is Essential
There’s been loads and loads of feedback to me from yogis in many different countries that I’ve engaged with over the last three years, both online (yes including Facebook) and in-person. The consistent thread arising is that yogis are thirsty for a global community, and perhaps now even more, because the current pressures run the risk of pushing people further and further away from that goal.
Yogis are stampeding to create an online presence, which by its very nature will create siloed mini communities. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you zoom out from the detail, some key ingredients of yoga are cooperation, mutual support, common interest and interdependence. There’s plenty of room for everyone and importantly there are many skills needed to support a thriving community. There are lots and lots of questions and to get the ball rolling …
– What’s changes have you noticed in your local yoga community and how is that affecting you?
– What concerns you most about the changes you’re experiencing?
– Do you belong to more than one yoga community now? If so what new challenges or benefits are you experiencing?
– What would you want from an online yoga community?
– Is this a discussion you even want to have?
Please add your comments and feedback below.