Contextualize Yourself

It happened: the new year turned over, and I didn’t set a single resolution. I’m happy to report, no one died.

I used to be a resolution person. When I was living my life completely immersed in diet culture, even in mainstream capitalist yoga culture, I ALWAYS resolved to lose more weight, to practice asana more, to “find myself” and then “improve myself” throughout the year. Resolutions were my bread and butter, and I wrote about resolution setting on more than one occasion, even after I realized the need to ditch my scale and let my body be itself, let my practice bigger and broader than power yoga classes allow it to be.

I’m not much of a resolution person anymore. I’m more of a reflective, intention-setting person, and I’m continually revisiting my intentions, the impact I want to have, and letting those intentions guide my actions to try to create that impact. However, at t the start of the year, Adrienne Maree Brown posted some Emergent Strategy mantras that I’ve been considering and reminding myself of as I walk through this new year. One in particular is the focus of my practice this week:

“I remember that I exist only in relationship to other people and systems.”

As my friends, my family, my students embark on resolutions of self exploration and study, I’ve been asking: What does it actually mean to “find yourself?”

Think about it. If I’m at a party and my friend has wandered off, I might try to find her. But in my search, I already know who I’m looking for. The question isn’t, “Who?,” it’s “Where?”

If I want to find myself, why would I approach the search any differently? So often, I hear seekers of self realization asking, “Who am I?” I think instead, maybe we should be asking, “Where am I?”

Where am I in space and time? Where do I exist geographically? Where do I sit in relation to world events, within communities, in my family dynamic? Where do I exist in relation to power? To constructed hierarchy? To privilege? To pleasure? To need? How can I leverage my unique position among people, within systems, to create more connection? More justice? More liberation? More pleasure?

I am a manifestation of the universal, but a product of context. I cannot find myself if I don’t explore and try to understand that context. And when I understand that the context of a person shapes all that they touch, when I recognize that WHERE a person exists determines so much of how they’re treated, how they treat others, their ability to connect and experience pleasure, how can I NOT want to help build a better context, a more just world, for each and every being to exist in?

I know who I am, because the Self is universal. But where am I? Where are you?

My challenge to you this year is this: contextualize yourself. If you’re a yoga practitioner, contextualize your practice. Learn the definition of spiritual bypassing. Examine your privileges. Interrogate your relationships, whether they’re loving and comfortable, invisible, or visibly strained. And know that I’m taking on this challenge with you, with even more intention than I’ve taken it on with in the past.

I have some preliminary resources for you, resources I’ve either recently engaged with or am currently engaging with myself, and you will most definitely find more resources for self contextualization linked to in future posts–sign up for my newsletter and stay tuned. In the meantime, any of these books is a great place to start:

In addition to future blog posts, I’ll post more thoughts and resources throughout this process on Instagram with the hashtag #contextualizeyourself. If you have resources to share that can aid us all in this challenge, post and tag them! I can’t wait to see what you’re learning from.

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