Downtown Toronto is fenced in, boarded up and empty.
Plywood covers glass in preparation for the hurricane of fury that protesters have promised to unleash in the streets this coming weekend during the G20 summit. Packs of police parade the streets. Pedestrians clutch government issued identifications to gain access to their neighbourhoods and homes. Companies are closed for business. Liquor stores are on lockdown. Homeowners hold their breath, and keep a brave face.
Trees have been uprooted, bus shelters removed, for fear that they will be used as weapons. Residents reel.
“What about our liberties?” ask some.
“When did I chose this?” ask others.
“What’s all the fuss?” say the rest.
Amidst the fury of rhetoric, threats, challenges, brute force, politics and protests, its important for us to stop and take a breath and get some perspective.
Torontonians weren’t asked if they want the summit.
Neither were those displaced from their homes by policies and politics in a majority of the world’s countries. Around the world, the displaced do not get fair warning, press releases and the courtesy of polite police officers. They are not put on lock-down preemptively to uphold their safety and the security of their homes. Their lives, assets and loved ones are the tallies by which warring factions keep score of their victories and defeats.
We are the small percentage of the human population that does not live on a precipice between life and death.
Perhaps rather than grumbling about the inconvenience of this summit, we should embrace the gift that we have to live in a democracy in which we and those around us have the ability to express our beliefs -regardless of whether we agree with how some of us chose to excercise the right.
As members of a free and democratic society, its my belief that is our duty to listen to each other, even when the message is relayed in a destructive and hateful way. There are a lot of issues that surround this summit, and many of the arguments made by protesters deserve good ears. Other messages may not have merit in our eyes or hearts. However, listening and considering the opinions of others is one of the foundations upon which democracy was built. If we can’t uphold the value among each-other, we certainly can’t expect our leaders to.
This weekend, I will be teaching and practicing and Bikram Yoga Centre in the downtown core, a few meters outside of the “traffic zone.” I will be nervous travelling to and from the studio. But my practice and my presence as a teacher will be my version of protest.
The great yogis believe that the violence, inequality and suffering in the world is a mere reflection of the imbalances and cruelties within us. Yoga teaches us to bring harmony into our bodies, into our lives, into our hearts.
“When your body, mind and soul are harmonious, you will bring health and harmony to those around you and health and harmony to the world – not by withdrawing from the world but by being a healthy living organ in the body of humanity,” writes B.K.S. Iyengar.
This weekend, I hope Torontonians will join me and practice their yoga so that we can all bring harmony to our city.