Welcome to the Accessible Yoga Podcast where we explore how to make space for everyone in the yoga community.
Amber Karnes 09:09:10
This podcast is brought to you by the Accessible Yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Hi, I'm your host, Jivana Heyman, my pronouns are he and him. And I serve as the director of Accessible Yoga.
Amber Karnes 09:09:24
And I'm your co host, Amber Karnes, my pronouns are she and her, and I serve as president of the Accessible Yoga board of directors.
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Accessible Yoga podcast. Thanks for joining us today. I'm really excited about our guests. For this episode, this is one of my favorite people to talk to Michelle Cassandra Johnson. Hi, Michelle.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:09:45
Hi, thank you so much for being here.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:09:50
Thank you for having me.
Yeah, of course, I like I said, I love talking with you. I'm just a huge fan of your work. And I'm excited to talk about your well the second edition of Skill in Actionaction, which has just come out. And before I do, I just wanted to maybe talk about you a little bit I know that you have well, does it count as three books now that you've written?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:10:16
I think this does count as three books?
Okay, well, because you wrote Skill in Action, and then, you know, the new the new edition just came out, but it's, it's changed a bit, right?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:10:30
Yes, it's, it's much longer. It's a deeper dive. It's what my understanding is different now. Yeah, it's different.
And you know, your I mean, your, your new your other new book is Finding Refuge Heart Work for Healing Collective Grief. And now this is a new edition of Skill in Action that's just come out. You can - so that's basically your third book. You're an activist, social justice warrior, anti racism trainer, intuitive healer, of course yoga teacher. What else have I missed? What else is there about you? Oh, beekeeper, right?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:11:07
Yes, I need to add that to my bio. I am a beekeeper. I just went to see the bees right before this interview.
How are they?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:11:15
They're doing well. They've gone through a whole situation this fall, but they're doing well now. Which is good.
Yeah, I feel like we all went through a whole situation.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:11:27
Who hasn't been through something in the last - Well, years? I guess.
I know. Right? Two years of something. Yeah. Maybe it's just life. It's just kind of never...Alright, so I wonder if you could talk to us about this new edition, like what's different in the new edition of Skill in Action versus the original one? Yeah, actually, and one more thing, I guess I'm curious why, like, why write a new edition too?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:11:58
Well, um, a couple of things happened that led to this edition. So I self published Skill in Action, the first edition. And as you know, like, created this body of work and traveled around and worked in teacher training spaces and with yoga practitioners and inspiring teachers to share more about Skill in Action. And after the murder of George Floyd, sales for the first edition, I mean, I kept getting all of these requests for the, for the book and for work. And prior to the murder of George Floyd, I was, you know, mailing out a few books a week, um, the book had done well, for sure. But right after, it just felt like everyone wanted a resource. And in particular, people who would awaken to this and were part of the spiritual community, and so Shambala publications who you know, well, who published Finding Refuge. Then, my editor reached out to me and said, "Do you want us to take this over?" because I was mailing books out of my house, and all of a sudden, I had like, 400 orders or something? And I was like, There's no way I can do this, right? Like, this is not what I - I mean, I'm a person like working all the time wrapping up these books and mailing them. And so that happened, and then what came from that is a conversation about a second edition and what what that might look like. So that's one reason why. And also that I feel like, you know, my engagement in the industry of yoga and my understanding of justice and yoga and the intersection and my conversations with people who are also doing this work. Like that's just deepened the understanding of what it means to be skillful at this time, and why we need to be skillful. And my you know, studying of the practices has helped me talk more about what skill in action actually means, or have engaged for example, Bhagavad Gita. So this edition really came from my own, you know, the deepening of my own practice and study and experience and from traveling around the country and meeting with people who had the same questions I did or who were suffering With things like how to actually teach this in a 60 minute Asana class, like all the things people asked me that we're not in the first edition, right led to the second edition. So it feels like it's, it's an extension of my story. It's also like community as well. And all of the communities I've been in, in over the past few years talking about Skill in Action.
Exciting, and actually, I think we can give a shout out to Beth Frankel, because we both - she's our editor for both of us at Shambhala. And she's just I know, personally just incredible support for me and my work and my writing. I imagine you feel similarly I just didn't feel like she doesn't get any credit.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:14:41
She's awesome. Beth is awesome.
Beth is awesome. Cool. Yeah, I was wondering about - Well, a couple things. I, I love to talk about the Bhagavad Gita a little bit if that's okay, just because it's basically my favorite texts. And I love to study it and write about it. And I just curious, like, if you could share that, I know that I know that. It was in the original book that you had, like, a moment where you were, like a studying the Gita and you had the realization that these teachings applied was it?
Unknown Speaker 09:15:13
Well, what happened is I was teaching a workshop, and I didn't know anything about the Bhagavad Gita, because it was not part of my 200 hour training. And so I was someone else was, I was co teaching, and my partner was teaching at that time. And she started reading from the Bhagavad Gita. And I was like, What is this? You know, I had no idea. And then it was like, oh, I need to learn everything about this, or as much as I can, because it spoke to my soul so deeply, and really resonated around the way that we live our yoga like, that's how I heard it based on the verses that she read to us. And one of the verses that she read was yoga skill of action. So that's how I was introduced to the Bhagavad Gita. And then, you know, obviously, it's sitting on my desk, like work with it all the time. Yeah. And I wrote a little bit about that in the first edition that I wrote more about the Bhagavad Gita and Arjuna is the circumstances he was like, facing and the the situation in the second edition, I went into more detail.
And what translation is sitting on your desk, and I asked her who you like to study?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:16:15
Well, Stephen Mitchell, and you also told me about one that I need to get. And then I have Stephen Mitchell's in it. Well, I have several I've like five on my bookshelf, but Stephen Mitchell and Swami Satchidananda's commentary as well. There's the two I've worked with the most. But there's the one that you told me about that I want to get.
Yeah, I had. I have a few actually, like, in my new book, I list I think, maybe 10 or 15 different translations, because I really think there's a benefit in studying different ones, because you get a different, you know, their translation, so you're getting the influence of that person's mind. And then yeah, but Swami Satchidananda says, he's my teacher, and that's the translation I first was exposed to. When I became a yoga teacher, and definitely changed my life. I agree. Like, to me the yoga Sutras are incredible. But the Gita really is about, like, he says, skill in action. It's about how to live yoga, not just how to practice personally, but how to take it out into the world, which I think is what you're getting at here.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:17:17
Yeah. Yeah. And there's much more detailed. And there's a chapter that's, you know, what is skill in action and that it begins with a story of the Gita, and Arjuna, and Krishna, and I have a few verses in there as well. And then connect that with what's happening here. And the war we are the battles we're engaged in at this time. And then thinking about like, how do we what is our right role and response to this? Because we have to make, like choice. Right? Like Arjuna ultimately had to make a choice, after learning the things that he needed to learn from Krishna, so, so yeah, excited about it.
Yeah. And it feels like a lot of the time philosophy is discussed in yoga context, it's very intellectual. And I love your work is making it more practical and real life and to help to help us figure out how to live right now with the challenges we're facing, like racism. So it feels like what you've done so powerfully, in my mind is you taken the yoga teachings and apply them to this moment, you know?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:18:25
Mm hmm. Yeah. And I, I don't know if I could do this another way. Because when I entered yoga teacher training, my first one was, as you know, a dismantling racism trainer. And that definitely influenced how I and a Black person right influenced how I heard the teachings and was an activist too, so an organizer and so I heard everything through that lens. Like I'm sitting here on a mat in a circle with you all and we're learning about crow pose, but what does this have to do you know, like, how can you connect this with the world and how we need to show up and so I know that Just my lived experience and my work influence, and I'm sure this is true for others how I experienced the teachings and also then let me know what what's missing, like what is causing us, you know, to not not to talk about these what's happening in real time, right, the relative truth, and instead to come into rooms and act like we can practice without bringing the experience of the relative truth and world into that space. So yeah.
I love that I feel the same way. Because I was an AIDS activist when I came to yoga teaching. And that's how I that was the lens. I saw everything. And it's funny when we're told, like, I still feel like some people are saying, oh, yeah, yoga is not about that. It's not about that real world experience, when what else could it be? I mean, it's about how we practice internally, but also how we act in the world. I mean, how can you separate those things? How can you practice the internal from the external? Right doesn't seem possible. Yeah, I had a funny thing. I just share a little quick little story that I just watched a documentary someone had said, they saw me in this documentary on Fauci that I was in it, I didn't even know that I had, I had had a meeting with him. And they put it in the documentary from back when I was doing AIDS activism. And it just kind of brought all those memories back to me that I kind of, it's funny, it's almost like, I guess I'm older than you. But I feel like there's almost like, times in our lives, like, we have like these whole different lives. You know, like, that was a different life. And I kind of have somehow separated yoga teaching from that activist time. And like, more and more personally, I'm trying to integrate those parts of myself. And like I said, I think that's what I love so much about you is that you just went there directly. How do you how do you find that people? I think people are hungry for that. But it feels like there's some resistance still. Do you find that?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:20:57
Yeah, I mean, I think there's so much bypassing in the, in the world because of dominant culture and superiority. And then that shows up in our spiritual communities as we know. And and, uh, you know, in my anti racism work, our collective trainers used to always say that, and I've said this multiple times that dominant culture teaches us to forget and pretend and lie and deny. And, and so I think there's resistance because of this socialization around for many, like, what we're internalizing, like, we don't talk about these things, or we don't want to reckon with history, or we don't want to understand where like, implicated in these things and need to do something in response. And I see that in many yoga spaces. Although I would say ever since I went through teacher training, which was in 2009. I feel like more and more people are, are working with the intersection of joy at the intersection of justice and yoga, talking about this, integrating these things into their yoga teacher training curriculum. Like I feel like that's happening much more than than I was, was aware of in 2009. And I don't think it was. I don't know that it's mainstream now. But it feels more mainstream, certainly than it. It was not mainstream in 2009. People were like, what's the connection between justice and yoga? I was like, what's the connection between the world and yoga? Do you mean? Like, what's the connection between what you do on your mat and in the world or on your cushion or as you study? So I have always felt that connection between the two. And I think just the polarization that we're experiencing, and I don't think that's new, and the things that like lull us back to sleep, you know, I think the things that distract us, or the moments when it's like hard for people, right, they've raised their consciousness, and then it gets hard and they like are out if they can be out based on their privilege. I think that's the kind of resistance that I see. And I think so much of it is not I think so much of it is willful, actually, I think, at this point in time, like, yeah, maybe some folks somewhere do not know that oppression exists, depending on how they live their lives. Like perhaps that's happening. But many people have come in contact with know exactly what's going on. They may not understand all the complexities or nuances, but they know there's like disruption happening. They know they're worse happening. They know that people are being treated less than, like people know this, it's just that beginning to talk about it would mean that we would have to do something about it. We'd have to like reckon with it and wrangle with it and work with it. And I feel like in so many ways spiritual practice can be like this. For us, it's this this deep practice, and for others, it could be this escape from right like I'm going to go to this so I don't think about the other things. And I'm also going to go to this and practice every day. And that means I'm a good person in the world. We're great, but that doesn't guarantee like your goodness is having a positive impact on anyone beyond yourself and your experience in your personal transformation.
Right. It's like how are you using that? Like you your personal practice is giving you some kind of More energy more power. And from the research I've seen, it can just exaggerate what's already going on in your life, you have to actively work to, to learn, unlearn the way we've been enculturated, especially around racism, I think, and I think that's why your work is so important. I mean, I do think you've made a huge impact. I know that your book has been used by some teacher training programs, and that, you know, so many people are inspired by you and learning from you. But you get tired of it, like, do you ever get frustrated with having to share that same message to be the one doing it? Like, I don't know, how does that feel?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:24:37
Well, I mean, this feels like it's so clearly my dharma and like work in the world. And I would say, not just when I say work, not just skill in action, but the finding, like the things that I talked about in Finding Refuge feels connected to Skill in Action, and it is about grief. But it's also like the grief we feel after we realize or recognize what's going on. Right. So it's, I think, talking about the things that people don't want to talk about, I think that's, and like inspiring people to take action in response to that, and to raise their awareness. I think that's my work in the world. So I have a lot of energy around it. And I also know a lot at stake. So a lot of lot of energy around us. Shifting the tide, as I always say, and changing how we are and how we're showing up. And I'm always inspired by the groups of people I meet with, like, it's rare for me to have an interaction with a group where I'm talking about skill and action, and I leave feeling drained or I leave feeling uninspired. At times that does happen, depending on the dynamics in the group, but it's very rare. More often, I feel like, Oh, there's another group of 15 or 20, people who may not understand like, everything I shared with them, or maybe at the beginning of their journey, but they're on the path now. And, and that inspires me and keeps me going. And I feel fully aligned. Like I feel like this is I've done many other things in my life. And I feel and I felt aligned in those as a social worker, right. As a, I mean, I'm still a dismantling racism trainer, right. And, and because all of it's about healing and talking about the truth of what is is about healing. I feel like it's it's energizing in that way, which may be some I mean, I wouldn't have the same question for you about the work you do. Like we're doing right? We're like, holding the heaviness and talking about it and holding other people's stuff and like trying to raise awareness. It's not easy.
Yeah, that's true. But I don't know, I guess racism feels so overwhelming. And the especially when there's denial, I guess, like I just see that there's maybe not in the people that are coming to your programs and stuff. So that's good. You know, maybe you're, you know, you're getting students and followers who are really interested in learning and growing, but it's just so frustrating to see the the way racism is playing out still in society. And I don't know, I guess I'm just, yeah.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:27:09
Yeah. I mean, I think that's true. And what is yes, I mean, it's different. Our racial domains are different. So specific to racism. Yeah, it's like labor. Right. And I've, I think what I'm saying about my dharma is that I've chosen to labor in this way. And, and it feels like what I'm meant to do, and also I need to, like take care of myself, all of that. And in this moment, I feel like I'm seeing something that I haven't seen before. I'm experiencing something I've experienced where the denial is very present. But it's always been, and the like entrenchment and sort of how much people want to cling on to white supremacy, because they're being challenged, and because like, I'm from Richmond, and the Robert E. Lee's statue was finally taken down, right? I never thought I'd see that in my lifetime. So we have like things like that happening. And then we have, you know, white supremacist doing what they do serve in the capitol or Trump saying things that he said like we have that going on at the same time, but I've never felt it this intensely. Before. I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but there feels like there's something like things I never thought would fall or falling.
Yeah, I do, though. I felt it last year, but like, I feel like it's faded. I feel like some of the I don't know, like the efforts at schools to stop people from learning about racism and all that it just feels like really push push back to what happened through Black Lives Matter. You know, there was such an increased awareness. Like you said, people all of a sudden were more people ordering your book. I hope it's still happening. I do I have helped but I don't know I just I get frustrated and I I appreciate people that keep pushing forward like you are I mean, it just I feel like you have so much energy and enthusiasm and openness, willingness to even come here and talk to me right now about it. I just think is really incredible, that kind of ongoing energy for this work. Even though it's not your work, you know what I mean? It's like it's the work of white people to undo racism. And yet here you are teaching.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:29:22
Yeah, I mean, I do often think about what happened in some of their lifetime that I'm positioned in this way. I do think about that question of like, what happened that this is my dharma in this lifetime, that I'm doing it in this way? And of course, I do work with folks of color, too. And you're right, it is white people's work to dismantle this. And I do think that I've seen less and less people showing up for programs, for example. So I do think people have I don't know if it's their capacity or their resilience. Like, I think you're right, there was this, like, after the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, lots of white bodied folks started to show up, and then I think white bodied folks got tired. And I often say, Well, you know, BIPOC, folks are tired all the time because of racism. So like, you can stand to be a little tired, right? And still show up. Because our lives are on the line. So I'd love to talk to other people who do this kind of work, anti racism work in, in spiritual communities or outside of them. And they're seeing the same thing like, I don't know, I don't know. I mean, I think it's the distractions and the things that move people away. And the effort, like the work that is required to actually dismantle systems like racism, you know, many white bodied folks haven't been conditioned to do this kind of work, and to sustain it over time. It's been like, you go through training, and you learn and then you're done. Well, no, you go to the training, and then you figure out what you want to do. And it's deeper than the training or the 10 books you read about racism. It's like how you are in the world and how you're in closer proximity to power and how you're being assigned privilege. And, therefore, people are experiencing oppression in response to that. It's like the willingness to be aware of that all the time. And for that, to then change actions and how people show up.
Garrett Jurss 09:31:10
Hey, everyone, let's take a quick break to thank one of our supporting organizations YAMAH Foundation. YAMAH Foundation makes yoga art and meditation accessible to some of the world's most vulnerable communities. They strive for diversity and inclusivity and well being and recreation so that all people can meet their fundamental right to feel good in their bodies, peaceful in their minds, live colorful lives and be a part of a caring community. Find out more about their work by visiting their website at yamahk.org. That's yamahk.org.
I wanted to focus on this one, I wanted to read a quote from your book, actually, I found a part that I was thinking about love. And I think it relates to what we're talking about, because I feel like you know, there's this tension to me when we talk about yoga and social justice and anti racism around spiritual bypassing, because on the one level, the teachings say, you know, we're all one, we love each other, but another, you know, in the real world experience, and in the natural world, where we have bodies and minds, our lived experience is totally individual and different. And racism exists, you know. And so, I think it's always challenging in this work to shift back and forth between those two realities, the spiritual one and the earthly plane. And I love what you do, what you talk about love, I think is maybe that connecting force between those two. This can I just read this part, this is from your book. You say love needs to be at the center of our practice. It is an act of loving care to intentionally and continuously engage in liberatory practices. Love is the heart and key to our liberation. But only when love is expressed versus just stated. It is difficult to love in the face of hate. It is difficult to love when ones truth is being questioned and doubted. I'm not suggesting that you must love everyone and reminding us that love asks us to aspire to love every being this does not necessarily mean we maintain a relationship with people who cannot access their love. It does mean we can question what gets in the way.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:33:41
Mm hmm. Yeah, I'm glad you brought this up because I do think it's it's so and me like it's part of it is part of why I do this, this work. And what I said about you know, it's difficult to love in the face of hate. And I'm quite sure that My like mother, and my ancestors instill this in me the capacity to love or be so open. And it doesn't mean that you don't have boundaries for sure. But the like commitment to our shared humanity is so deep for me. And love is rooted in that. And I think that's why I'm oriented in this way. But I also this is a little different than what I wrote in the first edition because I'm, what the sentence of you know, I'm not saying you have to love, love everyone, right? And I'm saying yoga asks us to aspire to love every being there's this like yoga asks for that, because we are every being, but I'm not gonna say everyone has to love everyone or like, need to be boundaryless. Because let's be real, like we're in a world where people are being annihilated right, and, and die, and it's been wounded. And there haven't been reparations. And it's hard to love in that. And so it's, it's like the, it's like, the practice calls us into something bigger. It's this aspiration, right. And it's not always possible for me to love everyone or be in a space of love. Like I may be in May love everyone, but like to be practicing love in the way I talked about, I'm not always able to do that. Because I'm human. And I'm limited. And I don't know what I don't know what I always say, or I'm challenged by certain things. But I'm committed to the practice and what it calls me into around love and humanity and oneness. So I'll be working on that for forever. Right? That's the assignment. That's part of my ancestral assignment at this time.
Yeah. But like, don't you think that it can be misused to like that, that it can be like, I don't know, I find that it can be like, thrown in my face. And, you know, that's your job as a yoga practitioners to love everyone. But it's like, well, actually, I mean, that's what I like that you're I think what I feel like you've done is you touched the real issue here, around the spiritual spiritual awakening, which is that can you be, can you be honest about your human experience? And also your spiritual life? You know, can they can they be integrated, rather than separated?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:36:15
Yeah. And we know that bypassing happens in the name of love and light, right? People bring this up all the time. It's not actionable love they're talking about that's why I said it's, you know, it's just a, it's I said, Love is the heart and key to our liberation, but only when love is expressed versus just stated, like, what does it mean for me to show someone I love them, or I care about them. That's the kind of love that yoga has called me into. That's the practice I want to be engaged in. Knowing that I also when harm is happening, may need to be like, No, I love you. And I'm setting a boundary, because I love you, you know what I mean? Like, there's that kind of actionable love too where I love you, and I'm going to tell you the truth about the impact of your actions on me and others, right. And you love me, and I want you to tell me to like, that's the love I want. These are the kind of relationships that I want. This feels like the practice where there's some, it's not easy, right? It's not easy, the kind of love we're talking about right now. And, and so often in the spiritual community, it's like, it's just a word. And that doesn't feel like the practice of yoga. To me. It's like an empty word.
I love this, because this is one of the things I've tried to address in my new book too, not to know about myself. But this is like, to me, this is the this is really the core or the heart of the issue. And, and one of the things I tried to address it in my book, as I said that, you know, that that kind of what you what you just described, so well is love in action, which is service to Me, which goes back to the Gita again, is that's that's, that's Karma yoga, that's what Arjuna is being asked to do is to like actually put love into the way he is acting in the world. Rather than just like, you know, whatever. Think about it or imagine it. Right. Yeah, it's about service. What are you doing? What are you doing is what you're doing actually an action that is based on love for some other being than yourself? You know, do you actually love me and other people? Or is what you're doing just purely based on your ego mind? And what you're going to get out of this situation? Right. That's the question. I think.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:38:30
Mm hmm - that we need to center all the time in our spaces, right, the actual love that you're talking about, which is as you said, service, it is karma yoga.
Yeah, which you described beautifully, actually, right as actionable love, but I think that's really the same thing as, as an action. I mean, and that's why I always say to me, Karma yoga is the hardest path of yoga. Because it's about everything you do. It's all the things you do. Do they have love in them? Like do all your actions show about love. And it's it doesn't always have to be to another person, it could be to an animal or, or like your bees, you know, or even objects, you know, I think the way you are in the world, the way you the way you see your place in the world as an equal rather than as the center of it. It's like, it's kind of that issue, right? Like, how do we visualize ourselves in our existence? Are we the center of the universe?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:39:28
Right? I would say no, but I don't think we're the center. Like I always I know some people think like, I always feel like I'm a small part of something big. Right? Like, um, that's kind of my, that's my orientation. That's my like, I think I was, I was just like, raised this way. And what I do matters, but it's not I'm not everything, right? Like, I'm not, you know, and I'm so glad my mother raised me in this way. Because she could have said something different, right? Or my grandmother, right? But they were like, Yes, you are very important. And also, you're a small part of a big, something big that's happening that you may not understand or may not be able to see. And I'll come back to that often. And as you were talking about love, I actually thought about my grandmother, Dorothy, because I was thinking about her on Sundays, we would go to her house after church and eat dinner, and I was thinking about her cooking. And like people always say you can taste the love and the food with the way you were talking about love made me think about that. Like how can we like it feel the love and every action? Right? Like, how can we we work on that. And it totally put my mind there. Like she made the best pancakes and it put my mind like in love. essence of who my grandmother's in the world, right? And how loving it was for her to nourish us in, in that way over and over. Right? And what does it mean to bring that kind of energy into how I live my life? So yeah.
How do you do that? Like, do you have anything you're willing to share? That's a beautiful example, my God. But I wonder if you have other ways that you bring love into your life and interactions? And
Michelle C. Johnson 09:41:08
yeah, I mean, one thing, and I'm you may have heard me say this before, at the end of my prayer every morning, I say, May my actions decrease the suffering on this planet, my own and others, and may I be of service right? Like, that feels like love to me. And I'm like communing with the ancestors in front of my alternate feels like this exchange in that way. And I'm gonna move off of the cushion after I finished meditating and praying and then go interact with my dog, Jasper, or talk on the phone with my mother or go outside and see the bees, right? And how can I carry that truth? So it's not just something I'm saying at the end of the prayer. And it's wrote, like, it's just what I do. But I actually mean it. So that I'm always thinking about how can I decrease the suffering, which feels like that's a loving act, and it's actually necessary. It's what what we need to do. And that's the language I use. But perhaps people would use different language, but it really is about I don't want to suffer anymore. And I don't want to cause suffering. And so I want what I'm doing to decrease the suffering or mitigate it. That's one thing that I do.
I love that it's like dedication, I think sometimes. No, at the end of my practice, I often dedicate it to someone or the energy or whatever I've touched at that, during that practice, is like, you're just what you're saying you're making a dedication to the world to the whole universe even. But I feel like we could bring that into all of our practices. Because I worry. I worry that, like I said, I think before, like if you you can practice yoga, and this very internal way and just build up power. But if you haven't, if you really haven't thought about what happens to all that energy and power you're building up, like, where is it going? It's not necessarily going to serve you if it's just a build up what's already in your mind, but if you dedicate to something, your dedication, at the end of your practice to something that you love, whatever that is, it'll actually help you, it helps me, you know, to do that to like, focus that energy on something I love. You know, I often think about my children at the end of my practice, and, you know, it's just, it's like something. Yeah, like, put the energy there.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:43:22
Yeah, and recognize your relationship with others, right? That's part of what happens when we do that the dedication or the offering or the commitment, right, the devotion to decreasing the suffering, that we're understanding our oneness in that way, and our interconnectedness, which of course, is more of what, what we need and what you shared also made me think about this dedication that when my mom was sick, which for folks who haven't are familiar with finding refuge, the first chapter is about her and her navigating the medical system and all of that. But when she was sick, I posted a lot about it on social media. Yeah. And I was like, I mean, gutted. I was just like, I don't know what's going on. I think my mother is gonna die. She's being mistreated. I can't be there all. I mean, so much was happening. And I was doing a lot of it. The actual, like tangible things on my own. But when I posted about it on social media, I know people all over the world, were praying for her. And if I had never said, like, this is going on, and I need your support, or we are in relationship in this way. And people I've never met for, like, I've lit a catalytic candle for her. I'm praying for her like, that was of service to her because that was the energy to and love they were sending to someone they've never met, you know, that they didn't even have to think about Yeah, and I know it was happening, because later, almost every time I see people like that haven't met me before, if they follow me on social media, they'll be like, How's your mom? It comes up. A contractor asked me how my mom was sick at one point. He's like, how was your mom? I'm kind of like, oh, I scared her with everyone. And what we were going through so that they could also hold some of this with me. And that feels like love.
That's beautiful. That's incredible. You're incredible. I love talking to you.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:45:16
Yeah, it's good to just play around with it. It's good.
I know. Yeah, it's funny, though. It's that social media thing just made me think about that. Like in terms of posting, I think sometimes, I don't share that much. Because I don't want to ask that people. Like, sometimes you don't. I mean, it's like funny, because I think sometimes mine, you know, not sharing is based on privacy. But sometimes it's also based on like, you know, not wanting attention or not wanting to make to focus on me and my struggles too much. But it's so meaningful when we can share, honestly, with each other. And I remember when you were sharing about your mom, and it really touched me because I my mom had recently died. And it just Yeah, it was just really powerful for me. You know, and the love that you shared that he basically what it felt to me is that in your distress or whatever it was, I don't want to name it for you. But whatever that experience was for you. It was like, love, you know, just so much love that you were expressing towards her. Mm hmm. That you were sharing with all of us.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:46:26
Yeah, yeah. And I was thinking about how much she's she's just shared with the world, how she's like, the most generous person I know. And I'm so so loving and kind and people can feel that like, when I was growing up, children would come up to her all the time in the store and like grab her hand that they'd she didn't know it. She's like a safe way where people could see it, or feel it from her. And she was a teacher. So it made sense that children did that. And I mean, it happened all the time. And I was like, wow, like they can feel her energy in this way. They can feel her love. And so she's been such a big, I mean, she's such a big inspiration for me. And yeah, so like, yes, it was like I was sharing my love for her. And I was also honoring the love that she's given to us, like, the world, right? Through that question.
I love that I love the idea of just kids coming up to her and holding her hand it reminds me of like St. Francis, and how the animals would come to him, right? When you're so filled with peace and love, then other people can feel it. It's amazing. That's amazing. That's my new goal in life, you know, to have kids come up and hold my hand. Kind of be weird, but
Michelle C. Johnson 09:47:39
you know, the energy of that. I hear you. I know what you're talking about. Yeah,
I do. I do. Like when I think about animals to a lot. I mean, in the way I you know, like, like with you and your bees. You know, I just I'm, I'm really connected to animals and my garden plants and just feel like sometimes it's easier to have those relationships and with people to love a dog that is just so that a dog is just so present and loving by nature. And you can just be there with them. You know, it's incredible.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:48:14
Yeah, we're saying this as Jasper is curled up on the little cushion right next to me here
Well, yeah, my dog May actually she's not in the room with me. But she was so interesting last night. She really I could feel like she just wanted to be close to me, like in a way that she doesn't usually do it so sweet when animals. I don't know when you can sense their need to. Same with kids. Like that's what I loved about young children. And it's harder, my kids are older. And it's a whole nother thing. But like when they were really little. And it's just like, I don't know, there's something so sweet about those years when you can just be present with a child of the baby or an infant and I don't know, take care of them and serve them actually and be loving towards them. I mean that that's how I got the sense of service is by having to take care of like infants. You know, it kids are infants and, and but there's something so powerful about the experience of being able to love a being like that, you know, like a baby, for an MA. Mm hmm. Yeah.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:49:25
Yeah. And that does make me think of service in the way you were talking about it. Like, what if we cared that energy into our interactions with others, right, folks who are not connected to us or direct, like family, you know, blood lineage, but people were interacting with at the grocery store, who are like, what if we hold that kind of care? And love that? Yeah, I mean, that this is yoga, right? This feels like yoga to me.
Yeah, it's hard. You know, sometimes people are hard to love. And I don't know if it's me or that. Yeah. Yeah. What do you think? Can you do that? When you go to the grocery store? I mean, sometimes I can, but just people.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:50:14
I think that, um, it's what I was talking about earlier, with shared humanity, that I can see my connection with others, like, I can feel that. And at times, I'm able to even when someone is doing something to me that may be causing harm, when I can see the harm, and I can still see them too, right? Like, you're behaving in this way. And doing this. But is it you like is this actually who you are like, I can do that? Which feels like a Michelle superpower. Like it really is, like, I can see you I see all the conditioning, I see all the tapes, I see all this stuff that you've been taught to say, I don't actually believe you came out of the womb this way. But you inherited all of these things, right? Or, or chose them in some way or bull. But when I'm able to do that, I feel like that's, that's like yoga to me feels like I can see you. I can feel you. And I know you're not what you're doing right now and how you're acting. So that is what I think I can do that. But I think like the people I don't necessarily know, like at the grocery store, just in my neighborhood, you know, walking with Jasper, like, it's care and connection that I can feel we have this whole thing going on in my neighborhood right now where I'd be. So I've given a bunch of neighbors, honey of chickens, I've given them eggs, one of my neighbors came over and brought me a piece of fish the other day, the other neighbor forged mushrooms and brought them we have this whole leg. Oh thing like when stuff goes down our neighborhood will be fun, because really feeding each other, you know, that feels like yoga and service to in so many spaces I've lived, I haven't even known the neighbors, right? haven't even talked to them. So there, there is something about that too. And that support, which I mean, this is more of what we need to be doing with each other to be in connection and in deep relationship. And -
I love that that's so beautiful. I can I think I can help like when I'm talking to people who are in pain, if they're struggling, I sometimes can help people see that you know that they're more than the pain. Like I can relate to what you're saying in that way. Like I can definitely, but it's hard when it's directed at me like I was really, that's really amazing that Michelle superpower of you know, if the anger or something is directed at me, I think my ego gets in the way. But when I see someone who's struggling, or someone comes to me with a problem, I can usually help them see that they're not that problem. Right? Yeah. Which is more. Yeah. But that's that's the yoga right is to, is to live in, in the both and that you're you know, you're you're perfect. You are Love you're in, you know, none untouchable in one level. And either part of you is struggling and human rights or both are true.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:53:06
That are true, for sure.
All right, anything else you want to share with us? Michelle? I mean, I could talk to you forever.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:53:13
Well, just that for folks who have the first edition, I would say the second edition is like, and then it's a different book. And there's more context, more stories. I mean, it's much it's 100 page 120 pages longer, like it's much longer, it's journaling prompts are there throughout. And then there's an entire chapter connected to how we bring this into our space holding our teaching. So there are different different ways that I've done that that I share. And then there's a resource list as well. So it has more it has like 10 practices, more practices. So I'd say it's, you know, if people feel like they're going to get the same thing, and I wrote like a new introduction, that's not true. What happened with this is that I set out to be like, oh, what I want to add and then I added a whole bunch and change things. And I would invite people to work with this text now because it's also related to what we are experiencing now. Right versus what we were what my idea of what we were experiencing in 2017. It's updated to like, what's happening now and what's happened in the last few years. So just want folks to know that,
Yeah, it is a different book. I read it a few weeks, or even months back now, when it was just PDF. And I haven't seen the hardcopy, but I'm waiting. I'm waiting to get one. But I'm really excited about that, that you expanded on it, because it feels like in the first edition, it was so potent. And yet, there was like more I wanted more. I did. So I'm just so relieved and happy and excited that this new edition exists. So hope people will go and buy it. The new edition of skill and action, which I think is up now people can get it. We can put a link? Oh, yeah, we'll put a link in the show notes. And they can also get your other book, they can have a whole whole collection of your books finding refuge as the other one that just came out just recently. Yeah. So okay, are you writing a new one?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:55:09
I just finished a draft. Well, I'm, it's almost Yeah, yes. I've just finished a draft of the next book. So I'm going to be turning that in very soon. So yeah,
Wait, you finished a draft? You already wrote the book, you already wrote it?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:55:23
And it's actually really almost done. I'm just waiting for one more person to read it.
Can you tell us anything about it? Or is it a bit secret?
Michelle C. Johnson 09:55:30
It's not a secret. Um, so you know, skill and action is like raising consciousness and finding refuge is like, what do I do with this grief now that I know what's going on in the world. The next book is about how we heal together. And all of the practices in it, it has nine chapters, all of the practices in it, they are meant to be done in community with others. So it's like rituals, and and there's a whole chapter on joy. There's a chapter about the honeybees and alchemy. There's a chapter about ritual. So it's I don't know what it will be called. But it's, it's from some work I did around we healing community and coming into community together. And so it's, I'm really excited about it, because it feels like what we're what we need to do, right? How do we come together with one another in this way? And what do we want to practice? There's a chapter on like, not leaving anyone behind, because that was one of the teachings that My dear friend, Cynthia Brown, who transitioned in 2016 said as she was transitioning, right, like it's inspired by all these different experiences. And it also has some voices of folks or quotes from, like interviews I've done with people related to the different themes. So I'm very excited about
it. Oh, how exciting. Can't believe it can't be already read another one. I just started on another. But it's it's a lot of work that says takes so much energy and time. So just amazing. That's incredible. Well, thank you. I hope you have a lot more books coming in the future.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:56:57
I hope that for you, too. And thank you so much for having me on the podcast and connecting with me and sharing.
Yeah, thank you. Thanks. Thanks for being here. And yeah, I hope we can talk again soon. I hope so. Okay, thanks. Bye, Michelle.
Michelle C. Johnson 09:57:15
Thanks for joining us for the Accessible Yoga Podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Amber Karnes 09:57:23
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Amber Karnes 09:57:42
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai