Thesis Part 3: Know when to say No, and Know How

We took a break. And one girl started eating. Is this okay in yoga? Should I say no? It’s not my duty to be her mom or her dietician.

When I left my own abusive relationship, I became addicted to food. Especially chocolate. I ate out 4 meals a day, and in 4 months, I gained 40 pounds.

Would I have been able to change? At the time, that’s what I needed to get through.

Woman or client-defined advocacy, as described by author and professor Jill Davies in her 1998 book on Safety Planning, is when you listen to the knowledge and life experience of the woman who seeks help or services and regard her as a partner with equal, if not more, expertise. She knows what she’s going through and she knows what she needs to do to stay safe and to life a happy, healthy lifestyle.

She knows what she needs in that moment, because she is the one on the ground, with the most accurate perspective. In Peace Studies, we need to understand the same thing. We need to make sure we hear the voices from the grassroots perspectives when we make policy changes to land use, or record stories about the destruction of a village. Local peoples have the knowledge. Sometimes we have to go beyond the “visible” people–the mayor or the village elders, or the postman. Sometimes we have to dig deeper by listening to the “little” people–the people who are affected the most, like tribals living in a forest who know the exact patterns of the flora and fauna surrounding them.

Client-defined advocacy can be a useful tool in domestic violence issues, and throughout the peace field. Think about it the next time you have to survey the area you work in to create a report that will help shape local and national level policies. Then you can be the knowledge and resource base for the people you work so hard to make life better for.

Each of us knows ourselves and our needs best. So if we need a break during yoga class, we take it. This is how we practice peace. It took me those 4 months of overeating before I came back to yoga and healthy living. We all take our own time, and shouldn’t be snobs about it, whether it’s about resolving violent conflict, or the environment, as Donnella Meadows used to write in her weekly columns. None of us are perfect now, but we aim to be better.

Unfortunately, a lot of grants and funders have their own ideas about what they want to do–build up infrastructure or set up women’s shelters or provide low-income housing. But maybe what’s needed is outside the scope of those–maybe they just need a yoga class!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lester
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 15:46:46

    Great observations. I agree completely about the client being the expert – there is, however, a contribution others can make after listening, since people are also shaped by patterns and structures that they may not see.


  2. Sita
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 09:49:05

    Very true. Most of the time food is what we go to (especially when depressed)! I think our mind/brain takes some time to process whatever is happening. Like Lester mentioned listening to/talking to someone helps.


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Word of the Week

Namaste. This section will begin to explore sanskrit terminology associated with yoga. First word: Namaste. This is a salutation, "I salute the light within you that is within me also."
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