Suzanne Sterling, founder of Off the Matt, Into the World, uses the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.
The practice of yoga is, for many people, a life-altering journey of change. It is a practice that asks us to experience and literally bring life to the un-investigated parts of our bodies and our psyches and to change our thoughts, our actions and therefore our destinies.
It is a practice that actively confronts the addictions, tensions and coping mechanisms that keep us safe and yet also separated from our true nature, our families, our communities and the world at large. As we unravel layers of conditioned behavior (personal, cultural, religious, etc.), what is often revealed is an authentic self that is rooted in truth, well being and connection to others.
For many yoga practitioners (there are currently 20 million in the US today) the natural extension of this practice is a stepping away from the distraction of consumer culture and information overload and toward an inspired path of purpose and service. Six years ago, we founded Off The Mat, Into the World to directly support the yoga community in seeing both the challenge and the opportunity of these times and to utilize our yogic tools and values to directly effect positive and life affirming changes in the world.
This last year we launched a sister initiative called YogaVotes, which aims to encourage a conversation within the yoga community about what exactly our values are, and how we might bring our yogic tools to the voting booth, as well as to the entire political process.
A little about YogaVotes:
For some people, the idea of mixing our spiritual practice with our politics is problematic, but the conversation has been intense and lively. As yogis, who are by definition exploring the truth of connection (yoga directly translates as UNION), we are beginning to understand the real and practical implications of this endeavor.
Even if we wanted to separate ourselves from or ignore the state of the world, the fact is that we are, simply by our very existence, having a profound effect on the world.
We are directly affecting the world’s agriculture practices, use of resources, poverty levels, education policies, water, climate and trade development policies and more. We vote with our dollars and our choices every day. So in a very real sense, we are already voting with our VALUES…the question then becomes, are we doing so unconsciously or with AWARENESS.
We have seen in our humanitarian work in bringing yogis to bear witness to some of the deepest suffering in the world today, awareness brings profound change: awareness of our inner landscape, awareness of our choices and awareness of the state of the world and our unique place in it.
As we begin to heal and take responsibility for our own wounds and patterns, we then can use the incredible privilege of this opportunity to become conscious creators of healing change in our local communities, our national policies and in our global future.
Suzanne Sterling is a dedicated musician, yogi and activist. Her unique style is a passionate and ecstatic journey into the heart of creativity, authentic connection with Source, and joyful service. Since 2007 she has been training leaders of activism through her co-founded (with Seane Corn and Hala Khouri) organization Off The Mat, Into the World.®