Bryonie Wise & the limits of our practice
(an ode to an Instagram friendship)
“I accept the love
I think I deserve,
in every part of my life-
&, it all starts here.
(Points to heart beating in chest)
I first discovered the work of Toronto based yogi Bryonie Wise from an Elephant Journal article a while back. Her words rang so true that I started following her on IG (you should too - @heart_roars) and immediately started grooving on her images as well as the poignancy of her words. Unlike most social media accounts of yoga teachers, she offered much more than cool poses in hip leggings. Her images and words were more like poetic meditations. I am an avid reader, a yoga teacher and an art historian so, for me, this account was a match made in social media heaven. And after many likes, comments, and even a DM or two we decided to seal the deal and have a gift exchange. I shipped her a pink Onikas OM scarf and a week later received my very own copy of her highly recommended book of “tiny prayers,” Heart Roar. My intention is to get her to Miami for a journaling workshop this spring, but until that happens I want to share an email exchange between her and Jonnyka about the limits of one’s beliefs. We all have coping mechanisms when it comes to trauma, some destructive and others empowering and healing. Whatever your self care ritual entails—boxing, running, meditation, yoga or even yelling into a pillow—her words will ring true.
After the collective trauma of Charlottesville, Irma, Maria, Harvey and Las Vegas self care is a crucial topic. The question posed in this conversation is what to do when you feel hopeless in a world turned upside down. Enjoy their exchange and some of her beautiful images (yes she studied photography!!).
Veronica called to let me know she would be interviewing Bryonie Wise for the blog and asked if I had any questions for her. I had all sorts of mind-body medicine questions swirling in my head, especially in response to one of Bryonie’s IG posts. Like most of her daily musings, it was a heart-centered, direct, intense piece of prose. I knew immediately I had to ask her my real questions. The horrendous violence in Charlottesville had just erupted and I was at such a loss. In spite of my 16 years of yoga and meditation practice and Buddhist heritage, I did not feel that I could process my thoughts and feelings to see the light or love during those days that followed. I was feeling something I don’t feel often - hopeless. So in a flurry I sent the following questions to Veronica for her interview with Bryonie. These are her beautiful, thoughtful, real answers. Although we have never met, her words pierced through all of my sadness and doubt and illuminated a better place in my mind and heart. Thank you Bryonie for sharing your radiant soul with us.
JB: We know the practice and philosophy keeps us centered, grounded and with our highest self at the forefront.
But with the horrendous event over the weekend, the display of such hate and disregard for human value, is it enough to just stay in our practice and close to the philosophy of love and honoring life and each other?
BW: I think that once we see, we can't un-see and so much of what is happening right now is asking us to witness and stay open.
Enough is one of those words that makes me shudder a bit—it's kind of like a trap and can lead to overwhelm and inertia.
And these times are asking us to stay alert and awake.
For some of us, it will take all of sheer will and dedication we have in these bodies that house our parts to remember to return to love and honoring life.
For others, maybe this practice is so integrated that we'll be moved to stand up and speak out and keep loving like we never have before.
I think if we can be gentle with each other and ourselves—encouraging rather than discouraging or shaming, we have the ability to amplify love in all shapes and forms.
What happens when these beliefs will possibly never sync up with opposing forces in the world?
It is too easy for us to give up and walk away—especially if we are not in the direct line of fire.
Part of this shifting paradigm is asking us to wake up to each other.
To treat our neighbours and strangers rights with just as much reverence as our own.
If one of the foundations of yoga practice is to yoke together, to find union, to dissolve separation, how do we step off of our mats and not apply the same philosophy?
There is no separation between us.
There is no division of where practice starts and ends.
It is all one continuous way of living.
We move toward the hard edges of opposition.
We bring with us our tools.
We keep practicing.
JB: What do we say when encountering such evil?
BW: I'm sorry.
I love you.
Please forgive me.
Through our tears. Through our rage. Through our reactivity. Through our fear. Through our terror. Through our disgust. Through our triggers.
I love you.
Please forgive me.
JB: And how do we keep the love in our hearts strong when to be aware/rooted in reality is also to acknowledge this level of terror exists around us?
BW: We find safe places and spaces that will hold the processing of our feelings.
We express what comes up so that it does not take up real estate in our hearts.
We accept that living and healing and forgiving and keeping our hearts strong is a life long process.
We accept that our feeling state of being will change, sometimes, often.
We stay informed and we stay connected.
We take responsibility for the gaps in our understanding.
We study. We ask questions. We unlearn and learn again.
We do not stop living and loving.
We do not stop giving thanks.
JB: It feels impossible to love in 'an extended to all living beings' way—people who embrace such hateful thoughts and complete contempt for human fellow human beings.
BW: I know it does—I know it feels impossible.And maybe that is not your practice—maybe that is my practice. Or, maybe my sister and brother practice that and my cousin practices something else.
We do what we can, when we can.
It is one of the most challenging practices in my own practice—to return extend love in the direction of hate.
But we had good teachers, the ones that came before us, that taught us the immense power of love and light.
They blazed the trail so that we can stand and shine brighter.
Martin Luther King Jr said it best: "I have decided to stick to love ... hate is too great a burden to bear."