Being the change: reflections on my brother’s suicideMy intention in telling you the story of my brother Max’s suicide is to help start a conversation—a conversation, I believe, that affects us all, as suicide is something that has likely touched all of our lives, directly or indirectly. It was too late to save my brother. I tried– even long before I found him dying. This is my story and how I believe my brother’s suicide is giving greater clarity to my life’s purpose.
I see my purpose as being a reaction to paradigms that aren’t working. I’m a self-proclaimed radical, and I see my path as needing to confront the social and cultural paradigms that cause the loss of so many individuals to self and community-inflicted violence. This paradigm can leave an individual feeling alienated from other people and from himself. Our population numbers are so large, it’s easy to become lost.
We find ourselves in a crushing pace of life with distractions like entertainment, media, and technology that desensitize us to our own needs and the needs of others. For example, we might be tired, but also feeling anxious. Instead of going to bed and processing the day, we watch another TV show. We further alienate by abandoning friendships because it’s easier to escape than do the inner work that it takes to maintain deep friendships. For men especially, the cultural pressures to hide weakness and suppress emotions, to “man up” and “be a man” disallows men to be sensitive and have their own emotional needs met. Men have differing reactions to this paradigm– some choose suicide. Our social and personal alienation has lead so many to make this choice.
This is why yoga is so vital. Yoga creates space for self- reflection by increasing the awareness of our body, and thus increasing our total awareness. The goal is to realize that we are not on an island. To be human is to be social. Any thought that is self-reflective is inextricably linked to our interactions with others. For example, if we are working on our road rage, it is our fellow humans that we need to willingly share space with. Through yoga, we examine the postural habits and physical and emotional pains that we suffer to gain awareness of our body’s subconscious messages. In order to share with others we must take care to meet our own needs so that we can be present for those around us.
To stop and make the time to move and make shapes with your body with other people is a profound way to take the risk to love yourself and others. You take the risk to love others and to be loved back. This is the intention behind Cardinal Yoga. We intend to create a community in which we can facilitate people healing themselves where someone might discover his or her own answers. People want love. They need love. And there is NOTHING wrong with that. It is NOT a character flaw to need and want love. In our space we want you to feel like it’s your space, where it is safe for you to be intimate and vulnerable, and to also be weird and different, and mostly loved.
Being true to myself has often meant going against the grain of expectations. I wish my brother had been better supported by ALL of us to go against the grain too.
My intention in starting this conversation is just that. It’s a start. It will likely take a generation or more to build a new mindset before we see meaningful change. This conversation will hopefully lead to a safety net of people that will become a catalyst group within the community. This is a social revolution. It’s a revolution of people who choose love over fear.
So, how can we be there for each other? I think we first show bravery and reflect on the ways in which we ourselves are desensitized, so that we can grow our empathy and be in communion with one another.
Think about the opportunities that you missed where you wish you would have said something. When you even knew in that moment you should be saying something, like when relatives make racist, homophobic, or misogynist statements, and you could have simply said “I feel differently about that.” You hold tremendous power to change the world just by simply standing up for people who so desperately need our solidarity. Or maybe it’s making eye contact or saying “hi” to a stranger. If we had the courage to listen to our inner voice and were brave enough to connect with another person rather than being indifferent, that choice of love over fear would not only empower us but could facilitate profound change in lives individually and communities globally.
Be the change.