From Emotion to Action: A First Step to taking your contemplative Practice off the mat

Emotion & Action

If you’ve looked at social media, viewed news casts, or watched videos of police brutality, and protests, you know the anger, sadness, fear, and even hope present in our communities. Maybe you feel all those emotions in yourself. Sometimes events like the ones we’re living through galvanize us, and we find ourselves signing petitions, showing up to protests, posting on social platforms, and talking to anyone who will listen (and even those who won’t).

But other times the level of emotion we feel can be overwhelming and we find ourselves stuck, or frozen, not knowing where or how to begin. Sometimes the sheer urgency of the call to “Act Now” can be a block. The call to “Act Now” can be daunting and scary and confusing.

Different Responses

Our response to the current global pandemic, police brutality, systemic racial injustice, and the unique circumstances of our own lives will be different for each of us. Sometimes that difference is based on race, and historical and generational trauma. Mary-Frances Winters, thought leader in the field of diversity and inclusion, discusses the physical and psychological effects of systemic racism on Black people in her book Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Body, Mind, And Spirit.

As a white person, I’ve not suffered the negative effects of systemic oppression, bias, prejudice or racism. I’ve had access to the deep rest that yoga practice offers, and the time for me to act, even though I might not know the best way forward or feel confident, is now. So I start with the contemplative practices I’ve had access to as a way to ground and center myself for the work ahead.

Why Contemplative Practice

I continue with my contemplative practices because they sustain me and fuel my action. I take my emotions to my yoga mat, meditation cushion, and conversations with God as a way to acknowledge, integrate, and act on them.

Photo by Anthony on

I know God isn’t afraid of anything I bring to our relationship, so I take it all. And then I listen for the answers, first in my mind, then my heart, then in the cave of my heart.

A First Step Off the Mat

If you’re a white person without a background in activism (like me), one first step is sharing the story of your own inner work. Once you start educating yourself on your role in oppressive systems, you read challenging texts, and you sit with your reactions, you can share that experience. If you notice that you get defensive when engaging the discourse on racial and social justice, if you really have a difficult time acknowledging your privilege, ask yourself what that means. Then start a conversation with another white person and ask if they’ve ever felt that way. Then just listen to them. And be quiet.

Share a bit of your own inner experience with the work. Then just listen.

For more ideas, check out this article by Allison Aubrey, Beyond Protests: 5 More Ways to Channel Anger Into Action To Fight Racism.

It can be hard to know how to begin. It is all a beginning. And if we are committed to social justice throughout our lives, yes we need a plan, but we also need to take one day at a time. Everyday we have a choice to wake up and make a positive difference in the world. Let’s keep practicing.

May you be blessed in your practice and in your action,


The Catholic Yogi

P.S. If you feel this might be of benefit to someone you know, please forward it along!