Consent As An Inner Method / by Jenna McDonald

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Almost 3 now years ago I had the most impactful #metoo moment of my life.

Not because it was violent, been there - healing that.

Not because it was truly scary, been there - been there healing that.

But because it happened in sacred space. In a yoga space where I was in the habit of sanctifying my heart, mind, and body. It had been a temple for me, a sacred space.

Then some visiting ‘teacher’ man with a lot of charisma and outer charm decided he could run his fingers through my hair and whisper plans for after class drinks (I had quit drinking). I was in Supta-baddha-konasana (a vulnerable position, with my eyes closed) when he decided to approach, whisper weird things to me and caress my neck, hair, and shoulders with a creepy sneakiness.

I had taught yoga long enough to know: It wasn’t normal and it wasn’t an adjustment.

It was bullshit. It was a man looking for enjoyment.

I lay there fuming for a few minutes. How was that ok? Sneaking in subtle sexual harassment in the middle of a practice. I couldn’t believe it. My yoga bubble was popped. It triggered my past #metoo moments all the way back to middle school.

I simultaneously realized at that moment the beauty of the path I had walked in yoga until that point in studio culture. That my teachers had all been so genuine and well-meaning and that they had studied ethics before asana.

Then, I stood up and walked out.

And whether I would like it to be or not.

My life hasn’t been the same since.

It was my LAST straw.

Fast forward 2 years later. I own my own studio, where teachers sign conduct agreements.

I teach smaller studio classes, meaningful events, and yoga teacher training program. I believe in ethics before asana. And I am searching out ways to heal the culture of “non-consent” in me - as much as I am looking to bring awareness to it in the world.

Because the behavior is not ok. But neither are the seeds in our collective mind - that CONTINUE to sprout into abuse, lack of consent and pain.

After yet another #metoo moment this week, I have been deeply considering how to “weed out” non-consensual experiences from my life.

To me, it goes without saying that the person perpetuating sexual misconduct has got some serious restitution to do - both in life and inside.

But I am also deeply curious about how I plant seeds of non-consent, how do I not listen or push something when it's not the right timing. I remind you; this is an inner practice. A sadhana. Not a social justice topic in the context of this article.

So here is the teaching I have been SO grateful to utilize and link to consent in my life:

“Just be yourself and the problems of the world will fall away as the illusions that they really are.”

Not being myself, moving apart from myself is both a non-consensual way of being AND the very opposite of yoga.

I have been sitting with this teaching for over a month now, daily. I guess I always loved the quote above, but never thought to practice it as my primary yoga (practice for self-realization). It is so simple.

On the one hand, it goes without saying. I am always myself anyways - regardless of how hard I try to mimic what seems to bring happiness to others. I am undeniably, me.

On the other hand, it is the greatest challenge of a lifetime.

To truly “just be myself” requires that I rather systematically release all dogma, all false dreams I ingested as part of the culture and find what moves me from the inside. This becomes increasingly difficult as I reckon with the fact that I am ever in flux, growing and changing and evolving and what inspired me last week, or last year - may have little impact on my heart now.

To be ever honest isn’t that easy. In fact, it requires us being able to say, “I know I wanted that, loved that, said yes to that - but now, in ALL HONESTY, I want something different. My desire has changed based on my growth and learning. I see differently. I have ripened and so have my true hearts’ desires."

To live only in accordance with old or outdated desires creates a brittle shell sensation. It creates a bitterness - ‘that only I know’ - exists within me. Eventually, my lack of harmony with myself can be seen and felt by others - at which point, surely, it has taken a toll on my own happiness.

I have seen that by not BEING MYSELF, I have lost the capacity to ask myself for consent. I am just going through the motions and taking my resistant, disconnected self along for the ride.

How do you know if you are struggling with lack of self-consent?

  • You continue to stay in relationships that shut you down or make you feel small.
  • You stay in a job that depletes your creative force.
  • You stay in friendships that bog you down or keep you happily rehashing old wounds.

   ...for example, how does it show up for you?

Notice the difference between non-consensual ways of being with yourself and the sacrifice it often takes to exchange short-term pleasure for bigger picture goals.

I am not advocating that you relinquish things that feel difficult. We must be subtle and alert to weed out the true ways in which we separate from ourselves.

So how do I practice “Being myself to allow the problems of my world to fall away like the illusions that they really are?”

I pledge not to get “stuck or fixed” on any one thing. Not on my triggers, my wounding and even my primary attachments such as partners, children, and job.

I pledge to stand up and speak or walk away from, disengage in people and situations that can’t honor ALL of me.

I continue to broaden the scope. I go further. Like a child, I seek the wild, and open spaces within me and out of doors.

But most of all. I check in with my heart every step of the way.

Is what I am doing, bringing me home to myself or further away?

Learning true consent in myself, I can offer it to everyone else.

Learning to respect myself, I can offer it to everyone else.

May you find joyful and wholehearted ways to “Just be yourself and allow the problems of the world to fall away as the illusions they really are.”

OM.