By Mallika Dinesh
I am a yoga teacher in Gainesville and I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about community building and increasing trust in citywide relations.
Contrast teaches us. It is valuable in growth as it is a call to change and an opportunity to grow. Contrast is an indication that we are outside our comfort zone. It is not our enemy. It is our greatest teacher.
My life has been full of sharp contrast. I grew up in an abusive family environment in Mumbai, India, and was bullied, starved and severely battered during my childhood by family members, strangers and friends. I come from an experience where there were no boundaries. I grew accustomed to pain in alarming degrees. Then, after much effort, faith, surrender and the power of intention, my life changed. I turned 18 and left my nest.
It has been seven years since I arrived in the United States to pursue my education at the University of North Georgia. I was fleeing what felt like pain so intense it would consume me if I did not.
In America, I slept in houses so big they could have fit in our entire village. Life felt so convenient, perhaps too convenient. No one seemed to be directly causing me harm. This act of courage taught me that it is OK to sever a connection, no matter how duty-bound you feel to remain bonded to it even after it has become so heavy it is painful. Daring to give ourselves permission to do the best we can with what we have can have profound impacts on our overall well-being.
Coming to the United States allowed me to expand my living library into a rich and vibrant range of experiences as I worked in different countries abroad during my summers.
Through my experience, I have now come to a place where I feel that we, as a community in Gainesville, have asphyxiated ourselves with our own boundaries because they have become walls. Now our boundaries hurt other people.
Even so, I am constantly reminded of love through acts of kindness, hospitality, generosity and love, even in these times of separation and despair. Hope prevails. Hope inspires my action. It seems to me that my work as a Yogini is to focus on perceiving and cherishing the goodness that life offers me at any given moment, no matter if contrast exists around me.
Growing up I was bound by constraints, like lack of money, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. Explicit violence and abuse was normal.
Now here, it seems that our community is suffering from the same evils, in a subconscious and implicit manner. I have once again grown accustomed to pain in alarming degrees. Even though it doesn’t look the same, it feels the same.
My dear people of Gainesville. I have grown here and I have grown there. I have wrestled with myself, enjoyed myself, expressed myself, cried, laughed and zoomed through the range of human experience here. I have made it my home. I did the same in India. I do the same wherever I go.
Let us love this like it us our home, whether just for today or for life. Please, I implore, let us come together. We are all in need of the same medicine: love, kindness, forgiveness and understanding. I plead us to forgive one another.
Can we make space at every table for guests? Can we appreciate the richness of diversity? Can we learn from other cultures? Can we expand ourselves? Can we be humble? Can we respect ourselves and others?
We can. I know we can do it. There is unity in diversity here in Gainesville.
Mallika Dinesh is a Gainesville resident.