As an actress and a yoga teacher, I have my own stories that fall under the #MeToo Movement. This hashtag has brought up a number of reflections for me.
The #MeToo Movement and the Meaning of Life
As I was reflecting on these ideas, I did a Google search to ask, “What is the Me Too movement?” One of the options that Google presented was, “What is the meaning of life?” Okay, how do these two questions intertwine? Every individual goes through life on their own path seeking individual quests for purpose and fulfillment. To help us on the journey there are unspoken and unwritten moral guidelines or codes of ethics that have been developed throughout history. Some of these include the Bible, the Bill of Rights, or even the guidelines set forth by the yamas and niyamas in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The yamas are a standard of ethics providing information on how we can act with integrity toward others.
The 5 Yamas and #MeToo
Satya: refraining from dishonesty
Asteya: non-stealing or non-desiring
Brahmacharya: wise use of sexual energy
The rise of the #MeToo movement has come about as people have been disregarding every one of these ethics. People have crossed boundaries forgetting that we are all equal, we are on a quest to live our best lives, and that we have no right to take advantage of another individual to make them do something against their will in any situation.
A Hashtag of Awareness
Since October, 2017, the hashtag #MeToo has been used to bring awareness to widespread sexual harassment and assault, primarily in the workplace. Throughout its use and as people have been telling their stories publicly, there has been mixture of rage and relief in the air across all industries. Whether a person is actively engaged or not, this has become a worldwide conversation. People are finding a unified voice to support and protect those who have been victimized and prevent those who may be in the future.
As I write this, I’m becoming emotional. I moved from a small town in New Zealand to pursue my dreams beneath Hollywood’s bright lights. You can imagine the culture shock I experienced moving from a small farm town where there are more sheep than people when I left my family home for the Hollywood Hills.
Changing History’s Wild Side
I’ve lived in LA for eight years now and I’ve seen firsthand Hollywood’s wild side and how much people can take advantage of others. Last year, just before the #MeToo hashtag started trending, I was shaken up at a backyard BBQ telling the story of how just that day, a photographer tried to have sex with me during a photo shoot.
Throughout my time I have experienced harassment in a variety of forms, from a honk on the street from a passing car to producers saying they’d put me in their movie if I hooked up with them. I put up and shut up. I mean this is the way it goes, right? NOT ANYMORE!
We are fortunate to live in a time when we are changing history’s dynamic by speaking out and standing together.
Many powerful people abused all the yamas listed above. But there has been a lot of abuse of the fourth one: Brahmacharya, the wise use of sexual energy. The beauty in this movement is the compassion that is helping to increase equality. The message is no longer about gender. Rising up is about equality for women, men, nonbinary, and/or transgender people. This movement supports articulating a clear message about rights and refusal. This is important regardless of class, race, gender, or sexuality. The #MeToo movement assures us all: You are not alone and you are worthy of respect.
Reflections on Adjustments
These conversations are relevant on so many levels. As a yoga teacher, it brings up the question for me as to how to adjust a student with awareness. The answer, I believe, is to ask for consent! If a person is okay with you making contact with them be gracious, and at the same time be aware of yourself. You are in their personal space touching their body, so be gentle, be respectful, and treat them how you would wish to be treated. The real deal is that you asked for permission. The #MeToo movement is born out of raising awareness. This is the connection with Yoga. Yoga values raising awareness.
We have worked hard to be able to express ourselves in this moment. Let’s support each other through this process and set a standard for how we continue to treat each other with respect and compassion.