Inspiring Women - Ana Forrest from Forrest Yoga
Yoga in the West is full of women who are inspiring leaders on and off the mat. One of my swoony heroines who has most influenced me and my practice is Ana Forrest. Her book ‘Fierce Medicine’ is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the lived experience of yoga as both physical medicine and mentally transformative practice. One of Ana Forrest’s messages that really hit home to me was the idea of ‘truth speaking.’ Forrest defines this as speaking from the heart, and telling the truth—with compassion. Many of us have lost the art of truth speaking. I’m not suggesting that we are lying our way though our days and nights, but rather that we have so much fear and so many filters, that we look to say what we want people to hear, rather than what would be the kind or compassionate thing to say to them. Truth speaking asks us to prepare our hearts to ensure they are open and resilient. We need to know, trust and love ourselves before our truth speaking, as we also have to be able to hear it from others. If you have an active self-critic and a dry reservoir of self-love, you can’t pour onto another what you don’t have yourself.
All too often words are used as weapons. It takes time and discipline to turn that pattern off. We are cruel with words to be funny, to be defensive, to be liked and approved of, to lash out or back, or simply because we lack awareness and compassion. Truth speaking has to have a trifold target of ourselves, the person we are speaking to, and the situation, and all need compassion within them. There are many times that the best truth speaking is silently witnessing someone else’s pain with love and empathy, and not giving them the benefit of your wisdom. These are the times when the truth is that they have to work through their own stuff. Your power is in compassion and simply being present and honouring what they are going through. This is a beautiful yogic practice, and actively seeking opportunities to listen without judgement is an abundant training ground.
Truth speaking for justice is a much-needed intervention, and is often a frightening exposure to power and the force of public or majority opinion. As a good hustler, this will be a lightning rod for you, as your practice will be based on working and sometimes fighting for something that is bigger than you, for the greater good of humanity. Sure, this is subjective, and whenever there is a division of public sentiment on a matter, there is an equally passionate argument from the opposing side as to why they are right. Hello wars. Truth speaking here is not about winning the argument or hating the opposition, it is about standing up for what you believe in. That may be just a matter of not letting a sexist, racist, discriminatory or unkind comment pass without asking the speaker not to make those comments in front of you, as you find them offensive.
We often choose to stay silent because it is easier, or we don’t want to become the target ourselves. Or we are frightened that it might impact our careers, or what people think and say about us. And the answer is yes, it might. By voicing your truth in a compassionate way, you are acknowledging the speaker, the victim and your own truth. Whether or not the acid is turned on you is irrelevant. Your path to enlightenment, or even a good night’s sleep and a clear conscience, must have truth in its DNA. It is about the broader commitment to humanity and your own commitment to living as your perfect and divine self. I’m so grateful for the truth speaking of Ana Forrest in her book and practice and life, shining a light to the freedom of living bravely, proudly and openly as who we are.