06/23/2015 04:48 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016

What About Our Basic Goodness?


This week I've been thinking a lot about basic goodness as our moral power.

We all have the choice to take actions that support and protect life or hurt, harm and take it.

Our actions are not in a vacuum.

So the ways we interact with and talk to our friends, families, colleagues and strangers build a social context in which exclusion, scapegoating, bullying, or harmful words and actions are possible or one where including, resolving conflict, listening, being supportive, inspiring growth through words and actions are shared.

You know, I have to believe we all come in with a basic goodness. I know this is a debate. But whether or not it's true is far less interesting to me than what we do with our gifts and our goodness, what we do with our fear, anger and suffering.

In my experience I've seen it's circumstances of suffering that cause people to harm others. I've seen this in myself when I've snapped at my son because I'm overwhelmed and irritated.

Passing on our suffering is an old story. It's out of the common playbook of human games, often outdated and irresponsible habits. If those old mechanisms of defense and attack have outlived their usefulness perhaps it's time to let them go as much and often as we can.

What events in Charleston and across the nation are showing us is that we can and need to take more responsibility for our actions.

What we are looking at is the need for massive perceptual change within ourselves and our nation.

Things like changing a context that allows for hate by upholding this petition that supports the removal of racist iconography and asks us as a country to stop telling a story that oppresses some at the expense of pleasing others.

But it's not just Confederate flag wavers.

If it's not in service of the growth of our love and inclusiveness it's no longer useful.

It's everyday actions and conversations with friends and family. It's allowing ourselves to feel wrenching horror of tragedies like Tamir Rice or the families of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the pain of our sisters and brothers who might or might not look like us but who are part of our human family.

Because I'm clear about this:

The end of racism and systems of institutional oppression are not going to be ended from out there.

The change is not coming from out there only, but also from In Here.

"Hatred does not cease by hatred. Only by love alone is conquered. This is an ancient and eternal law." -- Dhammapada, 483 B.C.E.


I feel very humble and certainly don't have many answers. Here are a few things I'm going to try:

1. Reminding myself of our own and other people's basic goodness every day.

2. Doing things to cultivate basic goodness, basic caring every day. Feeling into the simple things that bring joy.

3. Cultivating compassion. Remembering we don't know that strangers story. We don't know their suffering. But there's a good chance that if we asked, and listened, we'd see some echo of our own.

4. Holding ourselves responsible for our own suffering. And acting responsibly to heal whatever we can.

5. Holding ourselves responsible for our neighbors suffering as well. Listening, sharing, doing what we can. Extending basic human kindness. Practicing our inherent goodness.

6. Taking anti-racist actions, learning and educating myself and others.

7. Doing every action we are capable of to create a culture of Inclusion and love rather than exclusion and fear.

The aim of so many great teachings, and the yoga teachings are no exception, is unity and oneness. Ahimsa, one of the Yamas, or yogic codes of ethical conduct, invites us to practice this kind of radical healing within ourselves and in the world.

These are a few ways we can take our yoga off the mat and share our goodness with a world that so desperately needs it.

In hope and solidarity,


"The world is made whole
by your preciousness.
Do not rob it of your fullest expression.
Yoke yourself, like mad,
to daring exploration of your true nature.
Dive in. Share your voice. Shine your light."