When I was sitting down to teach my daughter chemistry, I came up with a silly saying I just made up in my head, “Seuss gas is Seuss gas in a Seuss world”, and then a disquieting thought struck me: several people had reposted an article that Dr Seuss was a racist who in his early career, drew black people as savages, living in the tropics, dressed in grass skirts. Arabs are portrayed as camel-riding nomads or sultans. He would probably have drawn my race as slitty-eyed, yellow folks living on trees.
Would I have minded? No, in actual fact, because those were the times. Racism is never acceptable ever, but way back then, people globally were just finding out about each other and were perplexed by differences.
Dr Seuss gave us so many beautiful sayings, sayings that my children used to navigate their childhood and built their compass with. In particular, I have one child who has sensory integration disorder which is on the autistic spectrum. How did I explain his difference to him, to tell him that it is OK?
I often quote Yogi Bhajan, Master of Kundalini Yoga, who writes profoundly about women, especially mothers.
In particular, I resonate deeply with Yogi Bahjan’s wisdom, because in my past, I had lived through the pain of loving someone who does not know how to love his mother:
You cannot love me if you will not love your first teacher, who is woman. You are born of a woman. If you do not learn to respect woman, the Supreme Consciousness will not talk to you. You will end up with broken homes and broken hearts.
The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan p. 28
Yogi Bhajan’s teachings give me comfort and keep me on my path, in times of doubt, and this is why I write and quote him.
But people would send me emails asking me, did I know Yogi Bhajan was obese, with an addiction for Coca Cola? How could he be a yoga master if he had such an unhealthy body?
My rationale is, people are born with imperfect minds (Dr Seuss) and imperfect body (Yogi Bhajan). But everyone has a beautiful soul, and we should honour that, instead of throwing the beauty away because of the imperfect minds and bodies. Why are we so quick to judge others?
And here’s the thing: perfect, beautiful souls are housed in imperfect bodies and imperfect minds so that life becomes a journey of learning. Our challenges are our teachers, and we have to learn to learn, rather than run away.
For example, despite being very athletic, I have a very inflexible body. My hamstrings, after years of abuse, have scars which shortened them. I find it difficult to touch my toes. And people would say to me with surprise on their faces, “Oh, but you are a yoga teacher!” or “Oh, but you are Asian, and ALL Asians are flexible!”
It took me many years to learn to smile sweetly at these comments instead of retorting sharply. So you see, my imperfect hamstrings are for teaching me patience and dedication and staying on the path: it would be easier to quit yoga altogether, but I still go to class regularly, to face those comments, to learn. Not about touching my toes and postures, but life’s important lessons, such as those to be found in Dr Seuss and Yogi Bhajan’s writings.