MHY’s philosophy of social justice derives from Paulo Freire’s concept of praxis as the foundation for skillful social action. Praxis is the integration of theory and action; as one alone is insufficient for moving collective minds into adaptive, purposeful action, or for moving people from their mats and cushions to the streets. Thought-less action without theory can turn quickly into violence and theory without action is use-less knowledge. Theory and practice are pragmatic, integral parts of skilled social action, which in turn is a foundation for social justice. While the personal practice of meditation, breathing and postures open us to the Heart of Yoga and the essence of Buddha’s teachings, there can be a disconnect between our selves that are practicing in the zendo or studio and our selves that are suffering from abuse, oppression, malnutrition and neglect on the streets. When spiritual practice (internal) and social action (external) converge, service becomes the hub.
In order for us to serve oppressed people, we must know what part of ourselves oppresses others. Here introspection plays a major role in the psycho-spiriutal process of turning deep practice into compassionate social action. Introspection and cultural competency training help us discover our unconscious biases, prejudices and beliefs that obstruct relating to and working with marginalized populations. Without appropriate socio-cultural self-knowledge, i.e., understanding how our history and worldview become the lens through which we see ourselves and others in the world, there is the chance that we end up oppressing the very people we hope to serve. And so here, in this intersection between spirituality, social justice and psychology, one’s own insights and revelations about one’s self and the world become bound inextricably to others’ well-being.
The process of cultural introspection and social action is multidimensional:
- Use introspection to discover your worldview and uncover socio-cultural biases and beliefs (e.g. If you are White, have you become aware of unearned privileges given simply because of your race? As a person of color do you recognize how internalized racism alters your concept of Self? Or how internalized homophobia affects people from the LGBT community? If you are wealthy, do you understand how social and health disparities are created by the unequal distribution of services, resources and goods?) Do the intrapersonal introspective work necessary to become aware of the impact of social conditioning on your worldview and personal perspective on other cultures.
- Open your hearts to the suffering oppression causes for all people and things, the oppressed and oppressors alike, as we all lose our humanity and sense of interdependency when oppression occurs. Watch documentaries about social and health disparities, on sex trafficking, effects of drought on rural communities, etc, and cry. Cry for the suffering of the world and in the process your spiritual body will expand to include all beings and things within its ever growing boundaries. Move away from grasping things you want and averting from things that cause you pain and concentrate on other beings’ suffering.
- Move to action: once the heart opens, watch how the mind is compelled to act, to move, to stir. Follow that intuitive guide and begin your service. Start serving at a soup kitchen, tutor underserved youth once a week, teach yoga at a local homeless shelter, volunteer your time so your mind and hands move and act in harmony with your heart.
In our community links page there are many organizations that promote social change through spiritual processes. Please take a few moments to explore those sites and come back with questions about how you might begin your own service.
MHY provides community trainings in diversity, cultural competency and social justice with a special emphasis on spirituality and psychology. Please contact us with questions or to book Michael for a training for your own organization.
This section contains essays I’ve written on the practical elements of Buddhist Dharma, Yogic Philosophy and Ayurveda. Please click on a topic below to access the essay:
- Using Ayurvedic Principles and Yogasanas for optimal health in body and mind
- Yogasanas and Health
- 3 Gunas and the Order of Creation
- Yogic Communication and Healing
- 5 Koshas (sheaths)
- Ayurveda and the Mind: Using the Yoga Sutras to understand Healing
- Tricks of the Trade and Habits of the Mind: A Companion to “Ayurveda and the Mind”
- The Many Lives of Meditation
- Karma and Karma Yoga: Same Same but Different
- Ayurvedic/Yogic Daily Routine (not definitive)
- A Brief History of Yoga
- Raja Yoga’s 8 Limbs (Ashtanga)
- 4 Paths of Yoga
- Understanding Suffering from a Yogic Perspective
These articles and essays were written primarily as a supplemental tool for my students in the Satsang Yoga Teacher Training. All of the material has come from my personal experience while studying both Buddhist Dharma and Yogic Philosophy. And that means some of the more technical information might be just plain wrong! To correct these errors I am including a Primary Reading List of books I whole-heartedly recommend.
Please contact us if you’d like to borrow any of these books!
Robert Svoboda’s Aghora series: Aghora: At the Left Hand of God; Kundalini: The Law of Karma
Dr. Frawley’s Inner Tantric Yoga: Working with the Universal Shakti (Lotus Press)
Swami Satchidananda’s The Living Gita; Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
Richard Miller’s Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga
Dr. Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda; Yoga and the Mind
Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika; Yoga Nidra; Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha
David Swenson’s Ashtanga
Erich Schiffman’s Moving into Stillness
Michael Stone’s Yoga for a World out of Balance
Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination
Eknath Easwaran’s The Upanishads
Ryokan’s One Robe, One Bowl; Dew drops on a Lotus Leaf
Suzuki Roshi’s Beginner’s Mind, Zen Mind
Dr. W Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught
Jack Kornfield’s A Still Forest Pool: Insight meditations of Ajahn Chan; A Path with Heart; Ecstasy after the Laundry
Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha
Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx
Bo Lozoff’s We’re All Doing Time
Josepth Campbell and Bill Moyer’s The Power of Myth
Coleman Barks’ The Essential Rumi
Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet
William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Hafiz’s Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved
John Neirhardt’s Black Elk Speaks
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
Rabbi David Cooper’s God is a Verb
Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude; Seeds of Contemplation
Vedic Athletics “Mindful Exercise”:
John Douillard’s Body, Mind and Sport
Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running
Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion
Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run
Neuroscience and Dharma
Daniel Siegel’s The Mindful Brain; The Mindful Therapist
Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom
Social Justice and Cultural Competency
Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Beverly Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”
Derald Wing Sue’s Overcoming Our Racism
Thomas Kochman’s Black and White Styles in Conflict
Paul Kivel’s Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice
Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell’s Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive
Inda Schaenan’s 7 O’clock Bedtime: Early to bed, early to rise makes a child healthy, playful and wise
John Douillard’s Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know