Yesterday on the mat I dedicated my practice to Alton’s Sterling family in Louisiana, to people suffering from the consequences of violence, hoping one day we can live in a world where it’s safe for everyone to walk down the street, to drive a car, to sell CDs with a store owner’s permission and the people sworn to protect you won’t kill you. Little did I know that as I was doing it, people locally were living that very suffering.

When people are still killed when they’re unarmed, peaceful, or obeying protocol (and the law), what are we supposed to think? When officers escalate the situation and then expect people to remain calm as they scream, what is someone supposed to think? And so often, the solutions offered are band-aids. Give them a camera they can choose to use so a system that gives near-impunity can decide what to show, if there’s good video at all. Where is the de-escalation training?

Sadhana, surrender, offering, they’re not enough. Prayer is not enough. Hopes, condolences, goodwill aren’t enough. Yet in these times, I don’t know what else to do, where else to start. How can I serve if I am not grounded? I think the idea that we can create a rainbow of good love vibes to heal everything is hogwash, but how do I hope for peace if it doesn’t start with me? How can we see clearly, objectively if our thoughts are shrouded?

When it’s not state-sanctioned violence, often gun sales go up. Preventing violence with more violence. Even though the “good guy with a gun” idea has been debunked. I have no illusions. We’re not gonna live in a world without guns. But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. It doesn’t mean we choose solutions that don’t change the paradigm, when the paradigm itself is the problem. Choosing arms to protect yourself doesn’t change the circumstances that make people need protection. Circumstances that are beyond one person’s power to change.

Nonviolence doesn’t mean weakness. It doesn’t mean complacency. It means standing up and choosing different tools than guns, and seeing those as a last resort. I say this having been a long-time pacifist. And today, the tool I will use is my voice. Using my voice to tell the state to protect people who look like me, not punish us for our skin.

This is why I’m an activist. This is why I’m an advocate. This is why I am a scholar. And last, why I refuse to accept that this is how things have to be, because things don’t have to be this way. I’m contacting my legislators (again), and I’m also telling you that if you need someone to talk to in this difficult time, I’m around.