[0:03] Rachel: Welcome to a brand new episode of the Yoga Girl podcast, Conversations from the Heart. On today’s show, I have an amazing person joining me; she’s a yoga teacher, writer, body positivity advocate, and a mega-fierce voice in the Yoga For All movement. Not only that, she is one of the most herself people I know, and I admire that more than anything in the world. Get ready for a big conversation, and help me welcome to the show Jessamyn Stanley!
Jessamyn: Yay! Thank you so much for having me. That was like, a very generous introduction [laughs].
Rachel: You think so? I felt like man, I could go on and on. How…
Jessamyn: Well no, like…yeah. Go ahead.
Rachel: No, how are you?
Jessamyn: I’m good.
Rachel: [Laughing] I feel like. I’m so…
Jessamyn: I’m good.
Rachel: …excited for this already. Yeah.
Jessamyn: No, yeah, I was just going to say that like, I feel like my only goal ever is to just try to like, figure out how to just be myself, just try to be okay with being myself, and, and so to have you say like “she’s the most herself person I know,” I’m like, “oh, great! Okay, cool!” [Laughs] “So that’s going well, I’m working well.” No, I’m doing well, I mean I think we’re all kind of in a period of great change, and upheaval, and just general chaos, but, you know, I got my, got my helmet on…
[1:29] Jessamyn: …I’m trying to ride the waves, [laughs] just, just trying to get into…just trying to enjoy insanity for insanity’s sake, you know what I mean?
Rachel: You’ve got your helmet on, like we all need our helmets on right now.
Rachel: Like kneepads, elbow pads, we’re just like, in for the ride of our lives I feel. But I think it’s so funny that you…because when I, when I think about you, or when I’m, you know, following you online, seeing your posts, everything you share, you come across as, as a person who’s just always comfortable, in her own skin. Alway fierce, always here for all of it…do you feel that way, all the time?
Jessamyn: Oh, my goodness, absolutely not. [Laughs] I think I don’t feel anything all the time.
Jessamyn: I feel very much like just, accepting every single day that, that I’m not going to feel the same way that I have always felt, that I’m always…that there’s always going to be something new afoot, that, you know…I definitely used to be much more uncomfortable with myself than I am currently, so it’s true that there was, there was a time in the not-so-distant past when I definitely know that I did not feel consistently the way that I feel now. But even in this, you know, period of, you know, just having to accept myself in the way that you kind of have to accept yourself as you get older, I think that even within that, I still have days and moments within those days where I’m just kind of like, “oh, my goodness, I don’t know what’s going on,” [laughs] like there’s just, “everything is upside down,” and I think that it’s very humbling, and it also feels like a part of what the human experience is supposed to be.
[3:22] Jessamyn: Like I think that, I think whenever people talk about body positivity, body liberation, like self-love, all of these concepts that seem like, pretty vague and, and honestly very idealistic, that I think there’s a tendency to think that if you see someone who has come to a certain place of self-acceptance, that you’re like “oh, my God, they must feel that way all the time,” and I just think that I’m kind of getting to a place of feeling like, like I don’t even think we’re supposed to feel that way all the time. I don’t think we’re supposed to feel any one thing all the time, I think it’s just always changing. So anyway, that was my Cancerian way of saying yeah, no, I do, [laughs] I don’t feel this way all the time.
[4:06] Jessamyn: But I do feel much more at home with myself than I did when I was young, by far, for sure.
Rachel: Yeah, but I think it’s such a…it is easy, and that goes for pretty much anyone, if you just, just following them online, it’s so easy, even for people, I think, like you and me who, who I feel —okay, I’m just, tooting my own horn — but I feel like we do a pretty good job not just sharing the rosy, amazing, beautiful, “what a great day and how exciting is my life,” but, you know, some, some form of realness present all the time. And I think…
Rachel: …even following those kinds of people online after awhile, it’s so easy to get caught up in that idea that “everybody has it so much easier than I do. In every way.”
Rachel: You know, do you ever get that kind of…I don’t know that feeling from social media?
Rachel: Sometimes, like, “man,” you know, [laughs].
Rachel: “Everyone else has this easy life.” How do you navigate that? I guess the fine line between inspiration and like, “ugh,” you know?
[5:08] Jessamyn: Yeah, I mean, I definitely engage with things and think like, like the only time that I really get down on myself is when I’m comparing myself to other people. Like, and that’s the main thing that I just try to check is like, regardless, literally no mater what is happening with someone else, I can only be in my own experience, and I find that to be very, very challenging to maintain every single day. And that’s why the other thing for me is just remembering like, you don’t have to feel, I don’t have to feel the same way every single day. Like I’m not supposed to like, I’m supposed to have big ups and big downs because I learn more from the downs than I do from the ups, and there’s no way to appreciate the ups if I’m not really, fully present in the downs.
[5:56] Jessamyn: So there’s, there’s an aspect, too, whenever I’m like, like…it’ll usually happen with someone who, that I follow on social media who I really respect, and I really, like, some people I’ve followed for years, like before…most people I follow now on Instagram, but like I followed them on Tumblr, or like Blogspot, or whatever, and I think that sometimes I’ll engage with people like that, and just like, “damn, man, that person is really like, they’re doing it,” you know. Especially like in the, you know this, in the entrepreneurial game it’s like you’re like, always, like, thinking, like, “oh, I’m building this thing, I’m building that thing,” and then you see other people doing things and it’s like, “oh, man, I see what that person’s doing blah, blah, blah,” but what I, what I try to come back to is like I just can’t worry about what anyone else is doing.
[6:42] Jessamyn: Like, and this is something, it’s one of the many Oprah-isms that are kind of like, embedded in my life, that she, I’ve listened to something one time where she was talking about like, “run your own race,” like “always run your own race.” Don’t think about what anyone else is doing, that the horses that, that don’t do well in the race are the ones that are looking in many different directions and like, totally, like, not focussed on their own path, and so that’s really helpful. And then it’s also really helpful for me to remember that no one’s life is actually like [laughing] what they’re putting out…
Jessamyn: …on social media. Like there’s no way to encapsulate all of those ups and downs in static images, or videos, or anything, that we’re all constantly curated based on what we want other people to perceive. And those are really helpful lenses for me, but I think the, probably the most important thing is just trying to remember that my practice is not about anyone else, and that if I can just really live my yoga, really be in tune with my practice, then that is, that’s where my energy needs to be focussed, and, I mean I think that…again, I just feel that the ups and downs are really important, and really necessary, but they…
[8:06] Rachel: Yeah.
Jessamyn: …also, they offer a lot of insight, I think, into who I really am.
Rachel: It’s easy to forget that, too, you know?
Jessamyn: Totally, totally.
Rachel: Especially when we’re in it, you know, it’s like, I don’t know. I feel like I, I could really use…did you ever use the, the app function on your iPhone that tells you when you can and cannot be on certain apps?
Jessamyn: No. That’s a great thing though.
Rachel: It’s called…oh my God, it’s really good. It’s called like…
Jessamyn: What’s it called again?
[8:32] Rachel: It’s part of Screen Time, which is a function…
Jessamyn: Screen Time.
Rachel: …in the settings of the iPhone app where you can limit certain apps, so like, “okay, I only want to spend maximum one hour on Instagram today.” And then when your hour is up, your phone shuts it down, basically. [Laughs]
Jessamyn: Ooh, interesting! Ooh, that is so interesting!
Rachel: It is really…and you can choose certain times of day, you know, and like I’ll put mine on, “okay, before nine a.m., I don’t want to be, you know, on any social media, I don’t want to be on my phone at all, and then after ten p.m. that shit should shut down,” you know? And then I find myself, like, you have to override it, if you still wanna go, it’s like 10:30 and I’m like, “I just want to check this one thing,” and then iPhone is like, “are you sure you want to go there right now?” [Laughing] And I end up having to like, fight my phone the whole night. But I feel like it would be so good to have one of those little functions for like, when you’re having a low day. Like there are certain days where I can be present in all of other people, what they’re doing, feel inspired, feel like, “go everybody else, this is awesome.” And then there are days where just like, “none of this is, is helping me,” like I dig myself into a pit of, “I’m not doing enough, and look how much everyone else is doing.”
Rachel: Do you think…
[9:42] Jessamyn: I never know like, I rarely feel like I need to be on like, like, I, I know that I, I get a lot from it of, I get a lot of inspiration, and there are a lot of times where I’m like, “oh, wow, this is like, like I’m so glad that I saw this thing or this person or whatever that inspired me,” but I feel like it’s very rare that I’m like, “yeah, I really am glad that I spent my time this way.” Like my whole thing is just like, like what you’re describing reminds me of this period I went through, a couple of years, actually, where I would just periodically take Instagram off my phone, and then I’d be like, “okay, well in order to use it, I have to put it back on my phone, and then it’s like a whole thing to do that,” so that it was a, it was a great way to get me to not really use it because it just seemed like it was so cumbersome to have to download and take off this app.
[10:34] Jessamyn: But then I got to this place of like, “okay, I need to use this,” [laughs] like, “it’s something…
Jessamyn: …that is a, it’s a part of my life and like, it’s fine,” you know? Ultimately if I can find a way to balance it all, and that’s where I keep coming back to this like…the reasons that I’ll get on there or like, why…it’s just like, I dunno, there’s so much to the mindset, but I feel like I can never trick myself well enough, like with…because if it’s not on my phone, I’ll just put it back on there, you know what I mean? I’m like…
Rachel: I know, I know, it’s like you have to…
Jessamyn: And I feel like I’d be pissed at that app…
Jessamyn: …that this thing, the situation you’re describing where it tells me that, it’s like, “well Jessamyn, you know, you said you were only going to do it for one hour,” and I’m like “bitch, what I said, this is me, I need…”
Rachel: It’s like…
Jessamyn: …I need some more minutes now.
[11:23] Rachel: …it’s like Netflix, like “are you still watching?” You’re like, “yeah, fuck you…”
Rachel: …I’m still watching this shit…
Rachel: …stop, stop judging me.”
Jessamyn: You’re like, “yeah, I’m still watching, so what?”
Jessamyn: But I, there’s also this part with that experience where I find it to be so…wonderful to just try to be as honest in my own presentation as possible, just trying to like, really be authentic. Like to show things that I might not want to show, but that are still true. And that is a challenge, because I catch myself centring myself all the time based on like, things that I don’t want to accept about myself, and so trying to get to this place…
Rachel: What’s an example of that, something you don’t want to, don’t want to share but you share anyway?
[12:05] Jessamyn: Well I started, it started with showing different angles of my body that I was not comfortable looking at, which is so weird because when I started to do this, people think “oh, my God, you’re so comfortable in your body, you’re putting yourself out there!” And I’m like, “you’re literally watching my therapy right now, like this is me, I have not resolved anything, I’m just putting myself out there to practice what it is to see myself fully.” And so now that’s like, holding different opinions, and different, like, really speaking to the controversies that rest at the center of my, at the intersections of my identity that are hard, and controversial, and…I mean I think there’s a lot of things as a, as a fat, Black, queer woman who is really, frequently only ever allowed to exist within the stereotypes of those ideas, it’s hard for people to accept that I’m a whole person, and that I have, like, very complex, and contradictory, and problematic opinions, so that when I do express those opinions, people try to police me, and then I’m also policing myself so I’m like, “oh, this isn’t what I’m allowed to say, this isn’t what I’m allowed to do.” I think that everybody kind of has this, the ideas that we think we’re allowed to express, and trying to get to place of “no, this is an opinion that I have that like I just…” I mean the opinion I have been waffling back and forth about whether or not I want to express this today is the fact that I’m not a fan of call-out culture. Like call-out culture being, like, if anyone says or does something that’s problematic, like, that it’s time to call them out, and like, hang them out to dry and…
[13:50] Rachel: Mmm.
Jessamyn: …put all their business out in the streets. I understand the purpose of call-out culture, but I also just, I have, I take a lot of issue with it, but I think there are a lot of people who really feel the opposite of that, they feel like, like call-out culture is great, and they feel empowered by it, and there’s this part of me that’s like, “do I want to talk about this on social media and then have to spend time, at least emotionally, even if I never say to someone else, emotionally defending myself…
Jessamyn: Or would I rather just like, keep this to myself, and like I, I don’t have to prove my opinion to anyone else so….
Jessamyn: I mean I think that opinions like that definitely come up for me, but all kinds of stuff.
[14:34] Rachel: What’s the alternative then, you know, to call-out culture? Because that’s a big thing right now…
Jessamyn: It is, yeah.
Rachel: …and then especially with the current climate.
Jessamyn: I think that the reason, I think the antidote to call-out culture is actually trying to understand within oneself like, why we call people out. And I think that that has a lot to do with seeing within ourselves the qualities, seeing within other people the qualities that we dislike about ourselves, but not wanting to do any inquiry around that. And I think that when we don’t take the…and I’m always like trying to, it’s one of my intimacy avoidance tactics, to use the plural as opposed to just owning the I…
[15:17] Rachel: [Laughing] I do that too.
Jessamyn: I find myself like, not taking responsibility for my own identity, because it feels easier to just, like, be like, “oh, I hate this thing in somebody else, and so I’m just going to, Imma hang them out to dry, but I’m not going to do any inquiry around how that shows up within myself.” So I think that, I mean right now, it’s happening a lot in so many different arenas, definitely in terms of racial identity, and I think that it's more than…I think that the most important thing that we can do to dismantle systemic racism is for each person — everybody — to do the work of dismantling systemic racism within themselves, and I really feel like that work has very little to do with other people, and it doesn’t have a lot to do with like, trying to convince other people that you’ve like, got your shit together, and like…
[16:22] Rachel: Right.
Jessamyn: …you know everything, and that these are the rules by which everyone else should live. It’s basically saying like, “no, actually, I’m racist, I’ve done racist things, I have racist ideas in my head all the time, and I’m going to own them. And I’m going to own my racial identity,” and that that work, I think, is a lot scarier and more complex, and it feels easier instead to just call people out. So, I don’t know, I mean I just think that, I think there’s…
Jessamyn: …there’s a lot to be said for the other side.
Rachel: No, I mean, I mean, that’s a, and that’s a, a huge, huge, you know, spiritual practice [laughs], the practice of…
Rachel: …recognizing in other people the things that trigger me, that upset me, that get me all riled up, you know. Especially the things that I feel so upset about to the point that I need to vent this publicly, if it’s on social media, or telling the whole world about this thing that this person did, that there must be something in that behaviour, that thought, that belief, that pattern, that somehow speaks to me, right? Otherwise I wouldn’t be triggered. It’s so easy…
[17:27] Jessamyn: Exactly.
Rachel: …to separate ourselves from the things that we don’t agree with, like, “okay,” you know. It’s like when people give us, whatever, shit on social media, we have certain things that trigger us. Like I’ll have, someone will tell me, “oh, my God, you’re such an ugly bitch.” And I’ll…
Rachel: …I’ll go, “that’s fun, thanks,” you know? It doesn’t even register, because I don’t believe that I’m an ugly bitch [laughs].
Jessamyn: Right. Right!
Rachel: And then someone will be like, “hey, you know, are you really, should you really keep your kid out in the sun at that time of day? Thats doesn’t seem like good parenting,” and I go, “oh, my God, wait, what?”
[18:01] Rachel: “What time is it? How strong is the sun? Am I a horrible parent,” you know? And I start spinning into this thing is like, “oh, deep down I’m worried I’m not a good enough mom, so yeah, that comment triggers me [laughs] but it’s not about them, it’s about me.” And I think that call-out culture now, it’s like, you know, with the whole world finally, openly, publicly declaring and realizing that we live in a racist society, everybody’s a fucking racist, it’s been a little bit like White people, like White women Olympics of like, “I have learned more…”
Rachel: “…than you. And I read, listened to more podcasts, and I have more Black friends than you do, and I…” you know, and it’s been, it’s been, you know, man.
Jessamyn: Oh, my God, and it’s so intense to a point of being extremely awkward for people that are like, doing all that they can to further a movement and a cause that they don’t understand, and they don’t understand how they are holding up these pillars of racism, and it’s just really, it’s fascinating to watch what it’s like when anti-racism is trending. Because it never really has been before, it’s fascinating to me. And, and honestly, I just think that it’s, it’s better than what was happening before, so there’s only so much shade I can throw. But also, I am witnessing the White women Olympics for sure, and it’s like…it’s very, very interesting to watch, that’s all I can really say.
[19:31] Rachel: I don’t know if you follow — I, I was sharing on one, I don’t know if it was last week’s, one of these podcasts, anyway — a woman named Rebekah Borucki, I think I’m pronouncing her last name right, she’s @bexlife on Instagram, and she told me something so, it was like the most, the most simple thing [laughs] but it really, really, really, it’s become this little mantra that I keep repeating to myself, because I found myself in this conversation having only conversations with White women about, you know, White women calling me out, telling me, “you said that wrong, you did that wrong, you should have done better back in 2016,” all this stuff, you know. And I shared with her like for me, the energy stuck here, it’s, it’s being lost in all these conversations with White people calling me out on all these things, you know. And she told me, “well Rachel, you don’t have to go to every fight you’re invited to.” Like…
Jessamyn: [Laughs] I love that.
[20:23] Rachel: And it just hit me, like “okay, I’m wasting all this time, like this is actually not helpful, not teaching me anything, it’s not the right people to listen to right now…
Rachel: …but it’s become this spiral of, and we’re seeing it everywhere, it’s really, really, really hard I think for human beings overall to have it all to sit in that discomfort within themselves. Of course me included, like, fucking everybody included.
Rachel: Everybody. But do you see, do you see a huge, like, next year, will we talk about 2020 as the year when racism ended, when everything changed? Like what, what’s your take?
Jessamyn: Oh, my God [laughs]. That…okay, so this is literally probably my biggest issue with anti-racism trending is that it feels like a lot of White people have been like, “oh, my God, I didn’t want to acknowledge racism before, but like now it’s time to recognize it and we can pretty much get this fixed by Christmas, like we can get everything cleared up, everybody will read a bunch of books, and we’re going to go to some marches and it’s going to be fun, and great…”
Rachel: Project manage the shit out of this, and it’ll be done, yeah.
[21:29] Jessamyn: Yeah, and I just don’t, I mean, and don’t know if this is me being pessimistic, I’m sure it is, but it’s also after a lifetime of knowing that racism exists, I just don’t really believe that short of completely dismantling capitalism, I don’t really see how racism is going to go anywhere. Especially if people are unwilling to do the real work of dismantling it within themselves. So that to me, it feels like the idea of it being gone by 2021 is vaguely ludicrous to me, it feels like I don’t, I’m just confused about…I would love to see the roadmap. Because I would think that perhaps, maybe in a couple of generations, we will have children…I don’t, I just don’t see it happening with anyone above the age of 20, honestly, but like maybe there will be another generation of kids that’s coming, I think probably in like one to two generations, where they are less polluted by racism than we are.
[22:35] Jessamyn: But otherwise, like it just, there’s so much, it’s just so deep, it’s in everything. The water is polluted, the soil is polluted, and like, there’s really, I think the most we can do at this point is just accept. And there is so little emphasis on acceptance. It’s basically like, it feels like there’s more of a push towards pretend, and/or like, put it into a box that can be then, like, stored away. And I mean even in the, in the resolutions that they make, I know there’s, there’s such a push towards like, donating money, and I’m like, “how much money, how much money will fix racism? Like I don’t…” it feels like infinite amount of money is necessary.
[23:24] Jessamyn: And I would never take a dime of any form of reparations if it meant that in return, that every White person was going to have a conversation with every White person in their life about the ways in which they uphold systemic racism. Like, I feel like there’s no, but right now there’s such emphasis on like, donating money, and reading books…. I mean, how many books, there’s no…the only thing that we, when we read a book and it feels like truth, it’s not because it’s a new idea, it’s because it feels like somebody’s voicing something we already understood. And I think that like, there’s only so many books you can read before the work of just understanding within yourself. So, I don’t know, I mean I just, yeah, I would say I’m not that optimistic, and, and I also just don’t really, I don’t really see it to be the point. But…
Rachel: Right, right.
[24:18] Jessamyn: But I am, I’m definitely heartened by the number of people that are talking about it; that is amazing and incredible to me, and just, like, what has been needed for so long, oh, my God. Like every time that someone has told me that I’m playing the race card, or trying to make them…I had to break up with someone a couple years ago because they, she told me that she didn’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement, that she didn’t understand why it wasn’t more legislated, more focussed toward legislation, and I was like, “like we are having….” She told me that, this was around the time that Donald Trump, the first, the time of the 2016 election, and she was like…her parents are Trump supporters, and she told me that she didn’t feel comfortable having hard conversations with them about Donald Trump, and I was just like…
Rachel: Oh, wow.
Jessamyn: …this is not, like, I mean and these are common feelings, like thinking that, you know, “well there’s not really anything that I can say,” and I just feel like that is the work that’s necessary. Like don’t think that someone is trying to hurt your feelings by pointing out racism, don’t think, like…and I just think that we’re still in this place of people being…like, hurt feelings, and wanting to, to fix it by brunch, and like all these things that just don’t feel in line…
[35:39] Rachel: Right.
Jessamyn: …with the level of catastrophe that it is.
Rachel: No, and I mean this is the society of quick fixes for everything, you know?
Jessamyn: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.
Rachel: And I think this is…if this year, if anything or that this time, this movement now, if anything, it’s maybe the acknowledgment of the problem, which maybe…
Rachel: …I think people are confusing with, with the healing of it. It’s like anything within yourself, like realizing, “man, I have a huge, you know, massive trauma from my childhood here,” it’s the moment you realize that, that’s the beginning, you know? And then you have a lifetime of, of healing and coming to terms with what that is, and this is that, on a massive, global, societal scale that’s just hard…
Rachel: …for any one person to imagine.
[26:25] Jessamyn: And it’s just like, we’re all doing it together. And I think there’s just so much beauty and power in that. Like, knowing that the person right next to you is having just as hard of a time with this as you are. Like, that everyone is dealing with their shame, and their guilt, and trying to understand privilege in their lives, and I think there’s just…there’s so much beauty in that collective healing if we just let it happen.
Jessamyn: Like, don’t try to run from it, just let it happen.
Rachel: There’s something about thinking about the future generations, but it’s also…our parents thought of us as the future generations, you know?
[27:01] Rachel: Our grandparents though of our parents, like, “next generation is going to be so much better,” and yeah, certain things are so much better, and certain thing are worse. There’s no, you know, trusting that the future’s going to take care of everything. It’s like…
Rachel: …doing that work as parents, in the community, as teachers…yeah, that’s really…
Jessamyn: It’s like, I feel like every stage is important though. Like, I think that the growth that happened from my parents’ parents to their generation was incredible. And then the growth from my parents’ generation to my nieces’ and nephews’ is really tremendous. Like the amount that has happened in such a short period of time. But again with like, I think we’re always looking for like, a quick fix, or wanting things to be like, “we’ll solve it immediately,” and it’s like there’s a lot of things that need to be fixed, and I think it’s, I think it’s unrealistic to think that…because I mean, when you think about how long the Earth has been around, and then how long humanity has been around, like a couple generations is, it’s like not that big of a deal.
[28:09] Jessamyn: It’s like, 60 years, you know? It maybe not be, it may not be our lifetime that there’s change, but there’s, I think that us starting this dialogue now, and, and I also, I mean, this is one of the times, honestly, where I had to thank the pandemic. I think that the pandemic was such a huge part of bringing us to this point, and it sucks, there’s a lot of shittiness in this, I don’t want to downplay, I don’t want to make it seem like, “oh, my God, it’s so great, we have a pandemic that then makes people so angry, and like, feeling powerless that, you know, they’re driven to the point of understanding racial inequality.” But, at the same time, that is what happened, so it’s, I think there’s a lot for us to reflect upon collectively, and there’s a lot of healing to be done.
Rachel: A lot of healing to be done. So how have you, have you seen, or felt inside of you through all of this a, a shift when it comes to the spiritual side of things? When it comes to your yoga practice, you’re teaching — are you sensing that within as well?
[29:15] Jessamyn: Yes, and probably more so than I recognize, honestly. I think that the thing that really stands out to me is just how much every moment of practice that I had prior to this, prior to 2020, felt like it was just preparation for all of this. Like, I feel like every, I feel a…a necessity and a sense of urgency with, with my own personal commitment to living in my practice, that I think I did not feel before. I don’t think I was galvanized in the same way that 2020, just as a whole, has galvanized me. Like I feel as though…like I’ve felt for a long time that there’s no way to take care of our communities if we don’t take care of ourselves, and I felt that deeply and fully, but there’s an added intensity to it when I think about just the extent to which people are feeling totally depleted, feeling like, like they have nowhere to turn, that there’s, that there’s no resolution, like, and knowing that I have every…it’s, I can be a part of that.
[30:49] Jessamyn: And I can also not be a part of that, and that if I am conscious and in my practice, that I can share that energy with other people. And so there feels like a…I feel galvanized to practice in a way that I think I didn’t before, and I think, in some ways, because of the obsession with the physicality of yoga, and I think because of the…like, it’s association with exercise, and fitness, and all these, like, really traditional ideas of what it means to be well, that I think there’s kind of a curve that I’m noticing with other practitioners where it’s like “oh, shit, yeah, this is actually a spiritual practice, okay, yeah.”
[31:42] Jessamyn: “Okay, yeah, I can get into that.” So, so there’s this aspect too of being, tying to be open to that, and trying to be like, like, like really just…getting into the idea that everyone needs to find their way to some sort of healing practice. Like, even if it’s, like, you don’t have to call it yoga, it doesn’t have to be, like it really doesn’t matter what you call it, but finding some connection to the eternal truth, and that that’s the only way, that’s our only means of survival at this point. So when I say I feel galvanized, it’s definitely coming from a place of the only way that we can survive is if we’re all individually taking care of ourselves, and that that individual work turns into this collective healing. And I think that it’s helpful to remember that everyone is at different stages in that process, and on that journey, and that that healing looks different for everyone, and just trying to allow myself to try to embody compassion as much as possible. But it’s hard, I think, it’s hard and, especially when there's so much distraction coming from my own personal drama, you know what I mean?
[33:01] Rachel: [Laughing] I know. I, I know what you mean, I know what you mean. And I think it’s been…last time we spoke, this was…I can’t remember exactly, a couple of weeks ago we did the Bathroom Floor, Bathroom Floor thing, we spoke a little bit about, you know, translating, just as teachers in this field, translating the use of these tools, and this kind of storytelling, and this sharing this kind of practice without having people physically present in the room. Is this something that you feel…because I'm contemplating a lot, you know, is there going to be a moment where we come back and suddenly we have trainings, and retreats, or is this just a new way of being where “okay, I’m going to be looking for ways to connect with people who aren’t physically in this space, in front of me?
[33:50] Jessamyn: Yeah, like I, I don’t remember if I said this before, but the introvert in me, honestly, has never really enjoyed in-person anything. I like it for the…there’s a kind of energy you get from being around other people that you can’t, you can’t replicate it, it’s so specific to community. But it also for me proves to be extremely distracting, and very much it pulls me away from the experience of introspection and just coming into myself, and so I have deeply valued this time where we are able to be communal, but not actually have to share the same space. If only because I think that there’s more opportunity for dealing with the hard questions, and, and pulling at this, like, tilling the soil that feels too stiff at times, whenever we’re not, whenever we’re not being pulled away into, “oh, look who else is here!” And “what are other people doing, and what does, what…” I think it’s especially as the, when I’m in a position of leading class, or teaching, or holding space, or however we’re going to phrase this, because really, I always just feel like as much as I, I call myself a teacher, and that’s what the profession is called, but I just really feel like I’m a practitioner who just, I just…
Rachel: I love watching you teach.
Jessamyn: …stay together, like…
Rachel: Like, I caught your classes on Instagram live, I love it, I could just…you’re sitting there, like, smoking a joint, just casual, like…
[35:32] Jessamyn: [Laughing] Yeah.
Rachel: “…what’s up everybody?” And it’s, there’s something about that that’s just so present moment.
Jessamyn: Well, I just…
Rachel: And I know some people listening are not going to agree, because there’s this whole thing…
Jessamyn: Yeah [laughs].
Rachel: …I would love to talk a little about weed too. But there’s something about that, as a teacher, you just being there as you are, versus this idea of “oh, my God, I’m going to teach yoga now, I gotta put on this hat where I now…”
Rachel: “…suddenly transform into this greater knowing person on a pedestal imparting all my wisdom,” where it’s like, “hey, we’re all in this at the same track, we’re all dealing…”
Rachel: “…with the same shit, anxieties, same stuff, you know? And let’s commune in that.”
Rachel: I think…
[36:12] Jessamyn: And it’s like, I feel I can be more in that space when I’m not physically in the same room as people. Because I think that sometimes, there’s a tendency to want to like…I don’t even know, I don’t know if it’s coming from me, or if it’s coming from the practitioners, like I think it’s probably like I’m offering it, and everyone else is doing it too, but it’s this feeling of like, exactly as you were saying, “okay, so this is a hat that I need to put on,” to some degree. Even if it’s just like enough of a hat to be able to like, come in and talk to the other people who work at the studio, like whatever…there’s some level of hat that feels inauthentic to me, or it feels like, unnecessary, it feels not the point. And for me, like being able to have the, just be in my own space and be like, “okay, this is just what…I’m just going to practice, and like, if you’re into it, you can practice with me, and like if you’re, maybe your practice today is to just watch, maybe your practice is to practice a posture and let that be your practice for the day, but like, that you don’t have to feel what everyone else is doing, everyone else is on their second or third sun salutation and I haven’t come out of shavasana, so maybe there’s something wrong with me?”
[37:39] Jessamyn: Nope, there’s there’s wrong with you, you’re living your practice and like, I just feel like I’m able to have that experience more fully without having other people around. But, it does also create the space for showing people parts of my practice that are definitely more unorthodox, and are more, or I guess maybe not unorthodox, but they’re definitely more controversial, like smoking weed in general is pretty controversial I would say, in the yoga world. So I mean, I’ve, there’s also the that holds up a lot, but it also, I think, creates that space for us having deeper conversations about yoga, like yoga has just been so one-dimensional on, on social media in particular, it’s been very one-dimensional for a long time. And it is so much more complicated than that singular dimension, so, I mean, in a lot of ways, I’m really into it. What about you?
[38:37] Jessamyn: Like you, you’re definitely more of an in-person teacher than I am, so like, I’m curious about what your feelings are with this.
Rachel: I don’t know, I’m starting to realize that maybe I’m not…
Rachel: I don’t know, I have friends who used to call me, like I have a friend who used to call me, she calls me “this generation’s Amma,” you know the saint, the hugging saint?
Jessamyn: Oh, yeah.
Rachel: And she would always make so much fun of me because I would teach these classes, and then I would stick around for hours, like way more hours than I spent teaching, just to hug everybody.
[39:09] Rachel: That was like, this thing that I did. And I would hug people for like, six hours and that was like, “wow.” And I’m thinking now like, “maybe I‘m not at all even remotely that kind of person who actually enjoys these big crowds, and all these people, but I had this idea that it was expected of me, so I had to give everyone a little more of my time, a little more of myself, to justify that they came all the way there,” and I don’t know, it’s been a big, for me it’s been a big, emotional learning of…. I actually had, last year I had this, like, basically a big burnout, where I was sick for almost a year, and I had all these groups and retreats that I was still leading. And I had a really, one of my most memorable moments of last year was I had a, a little panic attack meltdown right at the end of a retreat that had been really intense and really, yeah, just beautiful, but at the end I had like a, I almost made it through, and then I had a panic attack.
Rachel: And then I had a friend of mine, I was co-leading this retreat with, she has a, a daughter who was eight, I think at the time, and as she left, it was right after I had this moment of mega-anxiety, and all these people, and everyone wanted to hug me again, you know.
[40:20] Jessamyn: [Laughing] Oh, God, yeah.
Rachel: And, and her daughter came up to me and she said “hey Rachel, this is my intention that I was going to put in the fire,” because we had an intention ceremony for the retreat, “but I forgot to put it there and I realized that it’s actually for you.” So she like put this little note in my hand and she said, “read it later,” like she was all shamanic about it, this eight year old. And then she took off, and I like, unfold this note in my hand, and the intention was “stop talking to strangers.” [Laughs]
Jessamyn: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
Rachel: [Laughing] And I had this moment where like, I looked up at the sky and I just bawled. Like I just cried, I was like, “oh, man.” And like, no offence to anyone, of course like the community, the people who practice with me, I love them so much, but I have had a lot of years of speaking to strangers, online…
Rachel: …on the internet, people passing by, taking a class, and I think I need to gather more of that energy into myself. I don’t know.
Jessamyn: Bitch, I feel you. I cannot overstate…
[41:20] Jessamyn: …the extent to which I feel you. That is so, that is the thing that is, I think, most misunderstood about teaching and practicing, is that if you are like, a deeply emotional person who does this practice like as a means of healing themselves, then it is, there’s this aspect, I think, of, like, vulnerability that we have to, that is a naturally occurring thing in the practice, but then when you’re sharing it with other people and it’s in this capacity where like, there is some, there has to be some aspect of performance, I think, in order to be able to maintain for long periods of time. And so in that space, I think that people come expecting to be, as if they’ve been privy to everything else you’re offering, they feel like they’re privy to your vulnerability as well, and if you have to stack that on top of like, it’s like group after group after group after group, all at the same time, and I just think that that is, it’s so hard to verbalize to other people, and I really appreciate you verbalizing that with me because….
[42:33] Jessamyn: …I so deeply identify with that, I can’t even tell you. That’s why, that’s a huge part of why I’m like, before this, like try to limit when I’m teaching, where, and like why I’ve been so happy sine quarantine has started because it’s not that, personally it’s not that I don’t want to have intimate connection, it’s that I can’t handle it. Like, it’s a lot. It’s a lot to be engaged with in that way. So anyway, I feel that deeply.
Rachel: Yeah, no, there’s a, there’s a component of being just, on, I think it doesn’t…
Rachel: …necessarily have to be that you’re sharing something super specific, but just that on-ness, its, it’s hard to balance that if we don’t have enough downtime, enough introspection, enough, you know, coming down, like turning off.
[43:20] Rachel: And I think last year, that was, that was my burnout, it was, I never turned off, you know? And now I have this note, it says “stop talking to strangers,” it’s on my altar [laughing] and I look at it every day, and I’m like…
Jessamyn: I love that.
Rachel: …it reminds me that i have a choice, it’s a choice, right? I can be on, talk to everybody, and then I can turn that off, and not see anyone, and not communicate, and not even take in information from other people if I don’t want to you, you know, just…
Jessamyn: Literally. I mean that’s even, like, in…I just, I really identify with all of that.
Jessamyn: And if I can just off…just because it’s been on my mind, so like I, my birthday was on Saturday [inaudible]…
Rachel: Yeah, I was going to say, happy birthday Cancer you [laughs].
Jessamyn: Thank you. Yeah, so I’m a Cancer, I’m double Cancer, Cancer sun, Cancer moon, and I have a bunch of different Cancer placements. And one of the things with that is we are so afraid…well, I don’t want to say “we,” because I’m doing that separating thing, so I…
[44:19] Jessamyn: …have such a fear of losing my loved ones, and losing the people that are close to me, that I close myself off in advance, that’s the Cancerian shell is like trying to just like, make…it’s like there’s so many emotions, and I’m scared to have my feelings hurt, so I just like, close off. So I spend a lot of time by myself, like being just like, my little…like just being in my little shell. And through this birthday weekend I’ve had so many people reach out to me, expressing love, and in this way that just feels so…I mean it fills my heart so big, and then I feel that feeling of like, “what if something happens and then no one loves me any more,” and it’s this weird thing of like, “oh, my God, I’m like, I’m so close to…” I don’t even know, I don’t really know where I’m going with this right now.
Jessamyn: But it’s like basically, I just really, it’s hard to, to hold all of the feelings that are coming from other people, because for me it is distracting from the feelings that I have for and by myself. And, and I get…
[45:32] Rachel: But it’s hard to receive. It’s also that people don’t talk about…
Jessamyn. It’s hard to receive.
Rachel: …a lot. We think that we need more, we need to be seen more, we need more love, “if only people appreciated me more,” but then sometimes the truth is, we actually have a lot of that, we just don’t know how to actually open up and receive it.
Rachel: You know? Have you heard that saying, I can’t remember, it’s some movie where they say “we accept the love we think we deserve.”
Jessamyn: Oh, my God.
Rachel: So it’s like we can be so showered with all the love, and all the appreciation, but if we don’t actually believe genuinely we are worthy of receiving it, it’s just going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to be like, “stop looking at me,” you know? Like…
Jessamyn: Exactly, exactly.
Rachel: …we’ll close ourself off first, like go back in the shell a little bit.
[46:13] Rachel: But we can practice that, too, right? Like coming out of the shell, also as the crab and as the Cancer, like, coming out…
Rachel: …of the shell, and bathing in the love and then retreating, like going back…
Jessamyn: That’s why I feel very grateful for the people in my life who are not Cancers, like I…
Jessamyn: …am partnered with an Aries and a Gemini, and both of them are like, so insanely different, and so many people who work with me are like, like are air signs, or fire signs, and we’re like, just so, the…I need that kind of…and I think there’s something that’s offered on the other end as well, but I mean I’m selfish, I can’t get beyond what they offer me…
Jessamyn: …so, there’s always…
Rachel: Can we talk about that, just a little bit? So polyamory, you have two partners….
Jessamyn: Mmm, please. I do, yeah.
Rachel: This blows, it blows my mind with so much, I’m so fascinated, and interested, and I’ve [laughs] learned so much more…
Rachel: …you are the only person I know that’s polyamorous, and I just, I feel like this is a whole world that I have not, that I’m not privy to, like I have not explored. Could you share, like how long have you guys been together?
[47:23] Jessamyn: So my partner, one of my partners I’ve been with for almost a decade, and then my, my other partner, we’ve been together for a little over a year, and we all live together now as well, we share a house together. And it is something that…you know, I was thinking like I feel like a lot of people are low key polyamorous and they wouldn’t, they probably wouldn’t describe their relationships that way, but a lot of married couples who have been married for a long time, I think they’re low key poly; maybe they don’t have sexual relationships, or even romantic relationships with other people, but that they do have other deep emotional connections. And for me, polyamory, it more than being about being with other people, it’s just about radical honestly, and being as honest as I possibly can with these other people, and that the main thing I have to be honest about is that the first relationship that I’m in, the most important relationship that I’m in, is the relationship that I’m in with myself. And that that relationship is always going to come first, and that it has to come first in order for me to be intimate with them, but that if I tell them that the first relationship I have is with them, then that’s dishonest, and that’s not, I’m never going to be giving them what they need and what they’re looking for, and I think that the practice of radical honestly though, is hard as fuck, and I do not think that it is for everybody.
[48:54] Jessamyn: And I think that, you know…so we talk about all this on my podcast Dear Jessamyn, which you can find at dearjessamyn.com, we talk about how, like, polyamory, the…what it’s like to get into it, and what it’s like to practice it, and what it’s like to claim it for yourself that all of these things have really intense repercussions, and that there’s a lot of different edges to them. And I mean, I have learned a lot about myself through my polyamorous relationships, and I mean I’ve said many times that some of the most important yoga teachers that I’ve had have been my romantic partners, because they teach me a lot about the world, and about how to treat other people, and how I need to be treated, and…but I [laughs] and I think that sometimes with people hear that, that hear that you’re poly, that they’re like, “wow, must be like, you’re just like, you’re fucking someone new every night…”
Jessamyn: “…doing all this, like crazy,” you know what I mean? And I’m like, “God, I wish. I so wish.” Mostly, it just means that I’m like, having an emotional breakdown with someone like, every day [laughs].
[50:09] Jessamyn: Like it’s like, we’re like, in a constant state of dealing with the ups and downs, and, and just accepting all these things. But a huge part of why I started talking about it was just because I didn’t know a lot of, I didn’t know a lot of other poly people. I was like you in this like, except I was living this lifestyle and just feeling like, “damn, I don’t really have a lot of poly community,” and so what’s been dope about talking about it more is just, like, having more community with other people who are living this lifestyle. And then also recognizing that there are a lot of people who, I don’t even think that it’s necessarily that they’re interested in polyamory but just they’re interested in honesty and having more honest with their partner, so that’s really cool too.
Rachel: Right. No, and I think, I think that’s, that’s really it, that’s what’s so fascinating, not, you know, not the multiple partner idea, or the sexual relationship of it, but like the amount of truthfulness, and vulnerability, it must take for that to work. Genuinely.
Rachel: And I mean, if you would think of anyone in, you know, in a twosome, or in a partnership like me and my husband, if I was only intimate with him, in terms of vulnerability, or truth-telling, or friendship, I would be really lonely, you know?
[51:28] Rachel: If I didn’t have anybody else, it’s like, we’re meant to have these multiple levels of connection, and I think it’s…
Rachel: …it’s really exciting just to, to expand beyond the box of what that has to look like.
Rachel: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s the…
Jessamyn: It’s scary though, and I think there’s so much around radical honesty, and then polyamory more specifically like, they require, like, actually uncovering like, trauma, and sadness, and the root of jealousy, and where that comes from, and, and I think that for me, that kind of introspection just feels like, invaluable at this point. It feels, it feels like the reason for being a live, honestly.
Rachel: Mmm. Mmm, “the reason for being alive.” Hell yes. I just want to go to Durham, North Carolina [laughs]…
Jessamyn: You should! I dunno….
Rachel: …like go to the river with you….
Jessamyn: Well first, first I’m going to come to Aruba, but after the…
Rachel: Okay, you can start coming here [laughs].
Jessamyn: …I’ll try not to bring coronavirus, I’ll do my best, but that’s.…So maybe not until next year.
Jessamyn: But please come.
Rachel: “Maybe not til next year.”
Jessamyn: Please come. Come get in the river, we’ll blaze, we’ll chill.
Rachel: I would love to, we’ll meet in person sometime soon. So for everybody listening, you know, how can we be of service to you today?
[52:49] Jessamyn: Oh, please. Just…the main way that you can be of service to me is to take care of yourself, oh, my God, please, value your own self-care and healing first. And if you wanna kick it with me on the internet, if you want to practice with me, you can find me @mynameisjessamyn on Instagram, you can hit up my website for when my classes are going to be, it’s jessamynstanley.com. You can go to my yoga studio, The UnderBelly, we’re @theunderbellyyoga on IG and other social platforms, and you can try a free two-week trial of the app on theunderbelly.com. You can also get our merch there, you can get my book, “Everybody Yoga” there. And if you’re into polyamory and you want to learn more about it, then you can hit up dearjessamyn.com, or follow us @dearjessamyn. And if you’re interested in cannabis and you are, like…
Rachel: Oh! We didn’t get to cannabis, yes.
Jessamyn: …wanting to get involved with…yeah! It’s a thing that I think a lot of people, especially as we start talking about, like, dismantling systemic racism, racism and the, it’s many insidious forms shows up in cannabis prohibition, and if you’re interested in being part of that movement, you can check out We Go High NC, it’s an organization that I co-founded, we are, we focus energy on North Carolina, but our thought, in general, is that nowhere, anywhere on this planet, no one should be in jail for weed. So if you’re into that, hit us up, wegohigh.info. Follow us @wegohighnc.
Rachel: Amazing. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Jessamyn: Thank You!
Rachel: And I gotta say the merch for the Underbelly, it’s so cute, it’s the greatest.
Jessamyn: Aye, get it on it, yes!
Rachel: It’s so, so awesome.
Jessamyn: Come through, aye.
Rachel: Thank you so much for joining me, thank you, thank you. I appreciate you.
Jessamyn: Thank you for having me!
[54:43 — End of Episode]