Yoga, Aversion, and Warsan Shire
This week I feel compelled to share this gut-wrenching poem by Warsan Shire. Its title is simply "Home".
Here it is in its entirety. Shire pulls no punches, so if you prefer light reads, this may not be for you.
Warsan Shire, Home
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child body
I want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
I dont know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here
Wow. Intense, right?
It is not an uplifting poem. You do not feel better after reading it. You feel worse. That is the intent. Sometimes it is necessary to get in touch with your strong feelings, to not sit back, close the computer screen, and return to your life unscathed. If we do not acknowledge the problem for what it is, how are we to improve it?
A common misconception is that yoga asks us to remain happy at all times, that perpetual bliss is the ultimate goal. This is not only impossible, but undesirable. When we seek to feel only joy, we are practicing aversion, which keeps us in the cycle of imbalance, ricocheting between raga (attraction) and dvesha (aversion), never seeing the world clearly or achieving equanimity. A wide range of emotions is essential to the human experience. We simply cannot avoid sometimes feeling feel sad, desperate, or indignant. Instead, to stay on the path to self-realization, Patanjali says we are to be a witness to our fluctuating mental and emotional states, not ignore or deny them.
But what then? Check out my post from last week to read my thoughts on yoga and activism.
...stay tuned for a special post on Friday. We've got an interview with the one and only Kino Macgregor!