Voices of Spira: Practicing yoga to regain equanimity for the courtroom.
A few months ago we published an article from Keri on how her yoga practice allows her to find ground as a physician and as a patient. This week Spira reached out to Minda, who is an immigration lawyer and mom when she is not on her mat practicing. When I first read her essay, it brought tears to my eyes. I hope you will enjoy reading her yoga journey and find strength in your practice and life through her experience.
If you are interested in sharing how yoga helps to balance your life write to Spira; please submit your essay to dora@spirapoweryoga. Don’t be silent, share your voice, when we listen to each other’s story, we bring empathy and love to the world, with every shared story we add a droplet of peace to our community!
The following is Minda’s essay:
The yogi next to you: Minda Thorward
As I’ve weathered the fray of personal crises both large and small over the past decade, my feet have found their way to my yoga mat time and time again. Now more than ever, I’m also finding my yoga practice to be an essential part of my professional life as an immigration lawyer – to keep me grounded, to keep me sane, to give me the inner strength I need to fight another day for my clients.
My personal path to yoga was born out of necessity. I’m a survivor of both child and young adulthood trauma, and even much removed from these events, the lingering manifestations, along with a genetic predisposition for anxiety, made my twenties especially tumultuous. Once I made the realization that my emotional crises were largely self-inflicted, I began focusing earnestly on self-care, and more broadly, the path to long-term, sustainable emotional health and wellbeing.
I’d always been an athlete, working as a beach lifeguard in college and running marathons throughout my twenties, so it only felt nature to turn once again to these athletic outlets. But no matter how many miles I ran or laps I swam, I was not able to achieve the deeper sense of spiritual calm and centering that I craved. So about ten years ago, on a whim, I bought a 30-day unlimited pass to a hot yoga studio near where I was living in Baltimore. I started going to yoga nearly every day. By the end of the month, I felt grounded in a more deliberate and focused way that I had at any time in the past. I was hooked. I’ve been a devoted yoga practitioner ever since. It seems so simple now: breathe in and breathe out, with intention, be in the moment, be at peace.
When I moved to Seattle, I discovered Spira and I knew I’d found my yoga home. Spira is an amazing community where teachers, with incredible depth of technical knowledge and students from all walks of life, share their love of yoga, and practice care, love and respect for each other. It is our collective safe haven from the outside world, and I’m so grateful for my weekly respite within its walls. Especially now, the world around me has not felt this uncertain since I was a very small child. Divisions grip our nation. Throughout the world, more people have been displaced by war and internal conflict than it any other time in history. Too often in our collective public dialogue, we forget that we are all part of the same human family. That we all want the same basic things: to love and be loved, to feel safe, to care for our families, to feel welcome and connected in our communities.
As an immigration lawyer, I am acutely aware of the chaos in our own governmental institutions. Under the Obama administration, immigration lawyers were already dealing with some of the harshest deportation policies and strictest refugee vetting processes in history. Working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our communities on a daily basis also means that I listen to and read countless stories of abuse, torture, and terrible losses; stories of people fleeing desperate circumstances because it was truly the only option. Many others simply were just not lucky enough to be born in a developed nation. As more and more restrictions come down from the new administration, and options for relief become fewer and fewer, I find my job exhausting beyond words.
I want to help, I want to offer them a promise of justice, fairness, opportunity, and of continued safety here in the U.S., but too often I feel helpless. Too many of them don’t have legal options under our current immigration system. Or the options that do exist are so difficult to obtain, that it takes herculean efforts (and the help of a competent and diligent lawyer), and more resources than most people have access to, to even make the attempt.
Watching the news, or my Facebook and Twitter feeds, also feels exhausting. It feels, at times, like our beloved nation, a symbol of democracy, freedom, and refuge, is ripping apart at its seams – that the old, still festering wounds of racism, xenophobia and nativism have infected all of us, threatening hundreds of years of progress on human and civil rights. An undercurrent of anxiety and fear permeates all of our daily lives. When I see reports of rising incidents of hate crimes and harassment of minorities, I find myself holding my breath, and worrying for the future of my clients. Can they find peace here?
There have been days in the past few months when I could not stop my tears from flowing, and moments where I wistfully browsed properties in Costa Rica online and seriously considered giving up, giving in, deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts, closing my law firm, and burying my head (or at least my toes) in the sand. It is in these moments that yoga, my safe haven at Spira, gives me the strength to fight another day. I focus on my breath, I feel the ground beneath my yoga mat firm and strong, and I regain my energy to keep working, my spirit renewed. It is my dharma, my calling, to help others obtain safety and peace, so I must keep at it. I may not be able to save the world, but I can do my own small part to make this corner of the world a better place.
While it’s natural for me to feel sadness, grief, even anger, during these dark times, allowing myself to be overcome by these emotions does no good for anyone, least of all my clients, who are counting on me to objectively analyze current immigration (and sometimes constitutional) law and the impact of new immigration policy, so that I can provide reasoned legal advice. My clients need me, perhaps now more then ever. And now more than ever, I turn to my practice at Spira to find the strength to continue fighting for them, and for our vibrant, diverse community I so dearly love. Breathe in. Breathe out. Find my inner peace, remain calm in the face of adversity, and fight on. In solidarity, Namaste.
If you have questions about your immigration status, or if you know someone who needs help and want to schedule a consultation to speak with immigration attorney Minda
Thorward, please call:
Thorward Immigration Law, PLLC, at (206) 607-7976, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow me on Twitter: @mthorward Licensed in Washington State, the District of Columbia (Inactive), and Maryland (Inactive) Admitted to the Ninth Circuit Court Court of Appeals WSBA #47594