What Yoga Has Taught Me About Human Rights

2015 Meredith Carly

By Carly Meredith

In my past blog posts, I have spoken about the distinct Boulder lifestyle; known particularly for its people’s strong connection to the outdoors, their focus on cultivating and connecting in mind, body, and spirit with the earth and the beautiful mountainous surroundings that Boulder has been blessed with.

Last night, I did something distinctly “Boulder”. I went to yoga class at a microbrewery. The 15$ fee  includes a one-hour yoga class and a beer shared among fellow yogis afterwards. The class is held in the  actual brewery, among the imposing metallic vats, the mounds of skids and the piles of beer cans. The  activities within the brewery continue as the yoga class goes on – a true way to challenge whether you are  succeeding at avoiding distraction and harnessing all of your attention into your breath. It is the perfect reminder that inner peace and strength, if you focus your attention hard enough, can be found in nearly every setting…

My only concern about completing a human rights internship in Colorado was the fear that I would miss out on one of the very important elements that many of my fellow interns are acquiring from their experience: being in the field and experiencing the day to day life alongside the people they are committed to helping.

But as I move into yoga’s final resting pose, savasana, I feel a deep connection through my mind and body and realize that I haven’t missed out at all. In fact, I have learned a very important lesson: doing human rights work, and doing it well, is not dependent on being in a particular place. It is about choosing who you want to help, devoting your energy and love to the people and causes that you care about and finding ways to achieve those things, regardless of where we may be in the world. Doing human rights work is about more than just thinking, or conceptualizing, or acknowledging that certain problems exist. As the founder of One Earth Future metaphorically put it to the interns over lunch the other day: “What good is your hospital if everyone who comes to your hospital dies?”

Believing that we need to be in a particular place, to come from a particular background, to have certain innate characteristics in order to help (while sometimes helpful in understanding the plight of those suffering human rights abuses) should not be a cop out for neglecting to pursue the issues we feel strongly about. Keep an open mind. Be innovative. Embrace the challenge. Take your unique experiences, whether they come from Colorado, Uganda, Iqaluit or Montreal and allow them to shape what you can contribute to the world.

There are days that your mind and body will embrace the challenge more easily. As yoga has taught me: just because you did a certain pose with ease one day, it doesn’t mean that same pose will be easy the next. While this may seem frustrating, it is indeed a beautiful thing that the world around us changes every day. Every single day nature provides us with a different set of conditions; different opportunities to address the problems that may not have been solved the day before, but that may just thrive under the new conditions of the world. Change is not dependent on where we are. It’s dependent on how we use the conditions around us to achieve the things we wish to achieve. As Heraclitus so eloquently put it: No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Namaste.

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