The path of Higher Self Yoga encourages us to connect with our Higher Selves for the purpose of enhancing our own self-awareness, promoting peace for all peoples, and creating positive change within our community.
In recent years, the waves of crises facing the United States and the world have illuminated systemic injustices and sparked new conversations about how to engage with them. Between the #MeToo movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, and recent waves of mutual aid groups coming together to support those disproportionately affected by Covid-19, it is fair to say that we as a society are grappling with how to relate to a host of long-standing inequities.
As we know, social change starts from within. In the following article, we’ll define these terms and discuss how using the Higher Self can be a tool in connecting to a version of ourselves that has the capacity, compassion, and clarity to be an agent of change in challenging times.
What is ‘everyday’ discrimination?
While many behaviors are overtly intolerant, with reflection, we may uncover that there are casual behaviors that we tolerate for the sake of social, familial, or workplace comfort and self-preservation. In some cases, we may even be guilty of these behaviors ourselves.
These more subtle transgressions can occur as a thinly-veiled comment or gesture that expresses any kind of intolerance. These negative stereotypes and biases can result from false beliefs that are learned through childhood and other conditioning about gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, language, communication style, religion – and any area where discrimination may exist.
It is here where our capacity for awareness of our world and our mindfulness of ourselves can serve us in our work to unseat discrimination from the culture. Because instances of everyday discrimination occur so commonly in our lives, it’s possible we could be missing them. And in many instances, the person who says or does something discriminatory is not aware of its impact.
1. Learn to Recognize Everyday Discrimination When You See It
There are plenty of examples of blatant discrimination that are easy to identify. Any statement that denies the basic rights of someone based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, or religion. “Go back to your country” or “God hates [name of group]” are not exactly examples of subtle discrimination. But there are plenty of other discriminatory sentiments that can fly under the radar.
Here are some examples:
- “You’re really ____ for a _____!” or “You’re very well-spoken for a _____!” are extremely common examples of discrimination masquerading as a compliment. Even if the speaker genuinely believes it is a compliment, the underlying assumption is that members of that social group are generally less intelligent or eloquent.
- “Who is the man and who is the woman?” This question might be asked by someone trying to understand homosexual relationships better, but it reflects a deeper attempt to recast homosexual relationships in a heterosexual light.
- “What are you?” This is a question that can be interpreted as, “Your skin color is different than mine so you must not be from here originally. Where is your family from?” Again, there’s a good chance the speaker might just be trying to learn more about your heritage. Harmless intentions aside, this is not a great way to do it as it 1) is a somewhat dehumanizing phrasing, and 2) it implies there’s no way they could be a native citizen.
2. Reflect on Instances of Discrimination You Have Committed or Witnessed
All positive change in the world starts by looking within. Fighting back against discrimination starts with us examining our own identity, group memberships, privileges, and experiences with discrimination. Connect with your Higher Self, then consider the following reflections:
- Have I ever been guilty of everyday discrimination? Do I have deeply rooted false beliefs I need to overcome?
- How can I be more aware of my thoughts and perspectives going forward?
Once you’ve looked inward, consider times you’ve witnessed discrimination by others.
- Have I ever witnessed examples of discrimination and felt discomfort but I didn’t know why?
- If I spoke out, what happened? How did I feel? If I didn’t speak out, what happened and how did I feel?
Living from the heart and linking with our Higher Selves can help us to find the words and actions to stand up to discrimination and to actively promote a culture of belonging, diversity, and inclusion for all people.
3. When You Witness Discrimination, Take a Moment and Connect With Your Higher Self
Even if you are prepared when you witness discrimination, you may find it upsetting. Connecting with your Higher Self opens you up to your inner wisdom. It can help you recall what you have learned and practiced about being an effective ally. Responding from the heart, which is part of the Higher Self, will allow you to respond in a direct, calm, and appropriate manner.
It is important to pause so that you do not respond from an emotional state, as replying with anger will make the other person react in a defensive manner, even if subconsciously they understand their actions were wrong. A brief pause gives you time to identify your emotions without letting them consume you. For example, if you experience anger at the injustice, you can say, “there is anger” rather than “I am angry”.
Related: 3 Steps For Dealing With Anger
Remember That People Are Capable of Change, Even if It’s Slow Process
If you find yourself struggling to be compassionate towards people who continuously espouse discriminatory ideas, think back to your own past mistakes and transgressions. Have you become a wiser, more compassionate person since then? Have you matured and become more empathetic and aware of the world around you?
It can sometimes be hard to find the patience to deal with discriminatory people. You might start asking yourself, “how can they not understand what they say is so wrong and hurtful?” In these moments, it is essential that we remind ourselves of how we have improved and changed over the course of our lives. Take a minute to quietly thank the people who changed your mind on certain issues, and remember how patient they were with you.
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