Wrestling with the Baptist Preacher…and myself
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | July 7, 2023
Earlier this week I got a question on Facebook from a yoga teacher asking how I would respond to a Baptist preacher who told her that chakras are evil.
If I hadn’t been hungry, I may have written a short, “oh well, many people are confused about these things” kind of response. But instead of getting a protein rich snack, I got on my keyboard. I pointed out that evil is much more often the result of people with issues trying to control others, not other culture’s misunderstood belief systems – I also wrote something about uneducated, ignorant, hubris-soaked socks. 😬
You’d think I’d be finished but nooooooo, in my low blood sugared state of righteousness, I screenshotted the masterpiece and shared it with my followers.
Shortly after lunch I began to feel the gnawing indigestion of what I’d done and so I deleted the post. I apologized offering instead: “I think chakras are another way of understanding ourselves, even though it comes from a different culture. I am sorry if someone told you chakras are evil. I would suggest he does not understand the philosophical or spiritual traditions from which these insights have arisen.”
Here’s why I replaced the post.
First, although I think it’s important to address incorrect statements about yoga, I also believe that critique should focus on behavior, not personality. I have opinions about yoga. But, opining that someone’s else’s opinion is ill informed is quite different from engaging in name calling (I may even have used the word “blowhard”). Actions can be ignorant, but it’s not helpful or fair to label a person as such.
The second reason I retracted my statement is professionalism. I have built a relatively small, but robust social media following which carries with it some amount of influence (although I cringe at the word “influencer” folks freely use it when asking me to promote their stuff).
I think Spiderman said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I’m not delusional enough to think that I have great power, but I do have some amount of influence in my little corner of the yoga world – which means I have a responsibility to model ethical behavior. I also sit on the boards of some health-related non-profits. Would I insult an unknown Baptist preacher in front of any of my health professional colleagues in any of those contexts? Of course not.
I want to model professional behavior, regardless of what my inner insult gremlins prod me to say or write when I’m triggered, because I want to be a representative of yoga to the broader world, and I want yoga to be taken seriously as a profession – which means I need to behave professionally, in person and online. It doesn’t mean I can’t be angry and have opinions, but it does mean I need to be conscious about how I express them.
I admit that I can get triggered when someone pronounces that yoga (or aspects of it) are “evil” – particularly when they’ve stepped out of their lane to do so. It’s hard not to take it personally. I love yoga and when it’s being assaulted, I feel compelled to stand up for it.
To be clear, I am not apologizing for my anger. Anger can be a perfectly appropriate emotion in situations like these. Like many American women raised in the 70s, I learned that anger was unbecoming, that I should be cool and collected, smile when I felt angry or offended, and make sure I’m never perceived as (or god forbid labeled) aggressive, because that wouldn’t be very nice.
In the late 1980s, I remember watching performance artist Karen Finley, with her body smothered in chocolate and alfalfa sprouts, raging at the patriarchy. At one point she paused, took a deep breath and said, “Anger is a useful motivating force.” She was right, and that statement changed my relationship with my anger. Anger is a valid part of my voice.
Anger can be an important catalyst – it fuels activism which then can initiate necessarily cultural changes. Change won’t happen if someone doesn’t say something – sometimes it’s appropriate to be angry.
If I was having a conversation with this Baptist preacher and he looked me in the eye and told me that I was teaching something evil, I might very well, in that moment, give him a little blast of my inner dragon. And certainly there are times when expressing an angry opinion on social media is warranted. The work, I believe, lies in the discernment.
I think it’s unfair to expect yoga teachers to be Zenned out and unemotional, or above feeling triggered and acting on our feelings. We all have different svadharmas (purposes in life). Some of us have to speak out because that’s who we are. The balance is in finding how to do it without compromising your values. Harnessing the power of anger and using it appropriately is a nuanced skill – one that I’m still working on.
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