Care For The Caregivers

Urban Sangha Treats The City's Unsung Heroes

“Have you been busy saving the world?” asks the Facebook Page of The Urban Sangha Project. “We’ve been looking for you!”

The Urban Sangha Project is looking for those New Yorkers who need TLC the most: the caregivers; and they are offering them a free evening of mindful yoga, meditation and compassionate dialogue.

The monthly event, open to all, was founded and is hosted by Leslie Booker, a senior teacher and Director of Teacher Trainings for the Lineage Project, who has taught asana and meditation to incarcerated youth.

Booker explained that the Urban Sangha Project originally came out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the night I attended. “We started directly after the eviction of the park,” she says. “Offering weekly workshops for six months (for the activists) after the eviction, because their work was so deeply needed. We then transferred our focus to social workers, teachers, doctors and nurses, people involved in direct service who are in danger of burnout. So thank you all for taking the time to take care of yourselves.”

We perched on our mats in a circle and introduced ourselves and Booker invited us to reveal what we were doing to change the world. There were social workers, a nurse, teachers, a public defender, people teaching yoga to at-risk youth, and a mom and dad (who brought their young daughter with them)—people who spend every moment giving of themselves.

“I’m changing the world by just taking a second to breathe,” added one person. Now we were all going to get a chance to do just that.

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare’,” said Booker, quoting Audre Lorde. “Movement towards action comes from the fluttering of the heart; your activism can look like love. It comes back to Dr. King, and I love his quote: ‘Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.’

We all sat quietly taking in the profound truth of these words.

“All of us in this room are trying to rectify injustice by leading with our hearts,” said Booker.

We then began gentle yoga with a hand on the belly, breathing deeply, as Booker’s soothing voice guided us to drop our chins to the chest, rolling our necks deliciously from shoulder to shoulder. We placed a hand on our heads and gently pulled a shoulder away from the ear, and extended the arm straight out, which felt amazing.