Lessons From Seane Corn In Yoga, Transformation And Social Justice
By Rachel Nichols
In late January, YogaTree Castro hosted a special workshop -- Yoga, Transformation, and Social Justice -- led by the beautifully inspiring Seane Corn, co-founder of Off the Mat, a non-profit that supports yogis in becoming conscious and effective community leaders. The workshop explored what it means to be an advocate for social change from the inside out, our role as conscious leaders and how to be a part of creating a nation that is inclusive, equal and accessible for all.
Seane led us through a beautiful yoga practice while weaving in her inspiring prayers and wisdom. “We have work to do," she said. "Each and every one of us. The time is now. And we are ready. Because lives depend on us waking up; to do what needs to be done in order to shift the consciousness within ourselves, within our community, our families and our nation; to put humanity first and above all."
So how do we put humanity first and above all?
Take Ownership of Your Shadow Side
First and foremost, Seane said that we must take ownership of everything that lives inside of us. We can’t change the world on a macro level until we address the micro level by getting in tune with all the turbulence that lives inside each and every one of us. We must reframe our narratives and recognize the ways in which we separate from each other. We have to take ownership of the ways in which racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ages of oppression and repression live within us. All of these expressions lower the vibration of the collective consciousness.
You might feel defensive after reading that and say to yourself, “I am not racist or sexist.” But even Seane admitted that all of those things even live in her, not in her conscious mind but in the body. These old passed down beliefs from generations -- intergenerational trauma -- can hide in the body even if we aren’t aware of it in our conscious mind. Adding to that, we also have particular beliefs and behaviors ingrained in us because of our upbringing, our education and our religion.
What blocks us from really knowing life? Our trauma, our drama, crisis, our heartbreak, our loss. “We have to go to it to get through it,” Seane said. “It is our resistance that will teach us surrender; it is our resentment that will teach us forgiveness, and it is our pain that will teach us joy.” The human experience invites us to learn to be present to both, she said. We must bear witness to the human experience and grow with everything that we are. That's what it means to wake up. To honor that process that we all are going through.
So then how do we take ownership over something that maybe we can’t consciously see or feel? Seane said that practicing yoga can begin to bring these beliefs, fears and traumas to the surface. All of these traumas live in our bodies and the practice of yoga can help us gain access to them so we can begin to transform and heal them. When we acknowledge the trauma can we begin to process it, identify it and change it, she said.
“The practice of yoga is an invitation to get out of our heads and back into our hearts,” Seane said. We must let go of what we think we know and move into our vulnerability. While being vulnerable is sometimes viewed as being weak, she said it’s really just a matter of opening our emotional body beyond reason to access the depths of our feelings. “When we're tense, we react. When we're reactive, it's driven by our ego. But when we release the tension in our bodies, it allows us to respond, which means we are more open, available, grounded and present.” And that is place that we want to make choices from.
Recognize That Love is Our Essence
In the practice of yoga, we are being led on the pathway that leads toward enlightenment, which, according to Seane, can take lifetimes and requires experience--that's why we're in these bodies. Although we are living in this human reality, we are spiritual beings, she said. But it's through these human realities that we mature, confront karma, and the life lessons essential for our growth. “That growth, that enlightenment is really just another name for Love. Love that's infinite that's without form or substance. That is our essence,” Seane said. And everything happens that way that it needs to so our soul can mature.
Seane then shared a story about her father with us. “This is a story I’ve been sharing a little more frequently,” she said. “It's good but it took me a long time to practice telling the story without crying. This story, she said, illustrates the essence of everything she was trying to express in the workshop. “This is a story between my father and I that happened a few months before he died of cancer.”
Seane’s father, who was also a yoga teacher, came to her after he found out that he had a short time left to live and requested that they go on an early morning walk down to a lake to watch the sunrise. As the sun was coming up over the lake, her father said that although life can be tough and that life will break your heart that you must let it. “'Let it crack you open. Don’t miss a moment. Feel everything.' And that says everything,” Seane said, echoing his words. “That life happens; we can’t change what is but we can let it crack us open so we can Love.”
Seane’s father also had a message he asked her to share with her students: “Love Big. Forgive Always. Do Good. And try not to be an A-hole. If you can do that it's a life well lived.”
Seane circled back to where she started: “We've got work to do,” she said, “and it's an inside-out job. Love is our essence. And the more that we can awaken to the beauty and the depth and the power of this essence, the more that the light will influence the way in which we live, the way in which we speak, the way in which we create. All we need to do is to say ‘yes,’ to come home and to allow that knowledge to erupt within our soul and bring you back in remembrance, into the wholeness, that is our wondrous grace.”
A huge thank you to Seane Corn for such an inspiring day (and sweaty vinyasa class!) and also thank you to YogaTree for bringing this beautiful soul to San Francisco. NAMASTE!
Train with Seane This April In Oakland
Seane will be coming back to the Bay Area in April to teach a weekend-long leadership intensive, Yoga, Healing, and Liberation, with Off the Mat co-founders Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling.
After a decade of teaching their signature intensive together, OTM founders have created a new training with this specific outcome in mind. You do not have to be a yoga teacher or a yoga practitioner to attend. This training is for anyone interested in deepening their leadership and understanding of the current challenges that face our planet today. We are interested in looking at the current political landscape in a psychological, symbolic and practical way.
The intensive will explore: The myth of individual liberation: interdependence as our deepest truth; the limits of rational thinking: embodiment, ritual and symbols as sources of knowledge; imagining our future: moving beyond criticism of what is into dreaming what we want; and more. Each day will begin with a yoga and somatic practices meant to ground the themes into our body, hearts and minds. The afternoons will be spent doing interactive work exploring the themes and generating ideas and wisdom as a collective.