Since the 2018 Northwest Yoga Conference ended two weeks ago, a group of presenters have been engaging in dialogue with each other about the incident at the Opening Ceremony. As part of this dialogue, they wrote a letter to the community and have asked us to share it on our blog. The letter is posted below:
Who We Are
We are a group of NWYC presenters or long-standing members of the Northwest Yoga Community. Three of us were present at the opening ceremony and directly witnessed the evening events as well as the events that followed.
We the undersigned yoga teachers and conference presenters support the Northwest Yoga Conference and have come together to support its future and the well being of our community.
There Are Two Sides to the Story
The incident which occurred during the opening ceremony was unfortunate and distressing for all involved, and could have been handled differently. We understand people have had passionate reactions to what occurred and we see the need for discourse and community engagement for the pain stimulated by this event.
We acknowledge there were dynamics none of us were privy to, including a disagreement before the speech regarding the time allotted for different aspects of the ceremony. We are seeking more clarity and believe it important to understand there are two sides to this story.
To those who watched the video it may appear this entire incident stems from the Conference Producer carelessly or even rudely cutting off a speaker mid-speech. We clearly see the complexity of a power struggle. We see how the act of taking away a mic from a presenter, followed by the subsequent refusal of the speaker to relinquish the stage, can ignite feelings of abuse on both sides.
We acknowledge that some of us see white privilege emerge in the video as the primary imbalance of power. We also see how this out of context and incomplete video could ignite the flames of an already simmering divide – a profound wound which must be examined in our community and our country. However, to reduce this to a racially motivated incident is false, damaging and does not invite the nuanced conversations around race and power that are necessary for individual and systemic change.
It must be noted that for the duration of the conference there was a boycott, aggressive confrontations by protestors towards presenters and students alike. Sponsors of the NWYC were contacted and urged to speak out against the conference, a petition was circulated to students and then sent to conference presenters with coercive and bullying language. These actions throughout the weekend added increasing complexity to the dynamics of power and caused significant harm and confusion.
Ahimsa (Non-Violence) and Bullying Don’t Mix
We stand together in our integrity even as we have been attacked and threatened with public shaming. We will not participate in a trial by social media, where selections of a video are shown without any context of what led to the incident or what happened after. We will not tolerate verbal abuse, social shaming nor manipulation of events and incidences through half-truths, distortions or assumptions.
Each of us has been engaged in the Northwest yoga community for years and are disappointed that the community we have helped build and nurture is asked to divide itself at a time when we need to gather and enrich each other’s practice more than ever.
We are disheartened that others believe they have a right to bully us, bully other students, fellow teachers, presenters, vendors and other participants of the conference, insisting we participate in a platform that that became unwelcoming to inquiry or respectful dialogue.
We do not support destroying the conference nor the community by a divisive culture created by spreading conflict, rumors and attacks over social media.
What We Support
We support respectful, compassionate conflict resolution between the individuals directly involved and look forward to hearing the outcome: it is our understanding mediation has been agreed to.
Since the conference ended we have not been silent. We have had meaningful dialogue with each other, our students and other conference participants “face to face”. We continue our exploration of racism and discrimination in the context of westernized yoga and we embrace the opportunity to deepen our understanding.
Community (satsang), is a cornerstone of any spiritual path and our community will grow immeasurably richer as we listen and work collectively toward diversity and inclusion through real, nuanced conversations that result in actions.
This incident challenged us to reflect deeply, face our shadows and determine where we stand. For us the question is now, how does the community heal from it all?
We call upon the parties directly affected by this to continue their work of reconciliation with each other as well as to the community at large. We ask for patience, tolerance, introspection and personal interactions within our community to help us all move forward, and we hope the Northwest Yoga Conference can continue to be a gathering place for our yoga community to share equally and peacefully the teachings of yoga.
This Letter Has Been Authored by the Following Northwest Yoga Conference 2018 Teachers and Presenters: