The Juneteenth National Holiday may be new to the conscious awareness of some people. But for many others, we have been celebrating and commemorating Juneteenth for awhile now. For those unfamiliar, Juneteenth (June 19th, 1865) is the anniversary of the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, TX and through General Order #3 informed enslaved African Americans that they were free—a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and over three months after the end of the Civil War with Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.
To me, Juneteenth signifies several things: a) as Jelani Cobb has written, the true meaning of Juneteenth exists in “the vast chasm between the concept of freedom inscribed on paper and the reality of freedom in our lives”. And, b) an opportunity to explore the concept of freedom in an individual, spiritual context—finding my own path in a system that seeks to demean or diminish me.
The concepts of freedom and defiant joy are foundational to my personal and teaching practices. I came to the practice of yoga as a means to process extreme emotional distress at work, and through consistent practice found the unexpected gift of liberation from (what I thought was well-deserved) anger at how I was being treated. Consistent practice gave me the space in mind, body and breath, to check in with what was really happening around me and choose an appropriate response.
What began as liberation from the perceived need to respond in kind to someone who treated me poorly, has continued to unfold into freedom from baser instincts and freedom to love, grace, peace, joy and compassion for myself and all who cross my path. Sadhana and abhyasa have gotten me ever closer to freedom from samskara, getting me closer to my true nature of love, peace, presence, joy and service.
On a broader spiritual level, Juneteenth is an opportunity not only to celebrate the end of chattel slavery in the United States, but as a yoga teacher and practicing yogi, I see it as an opportunity to explore other ways to create freedom in our lives—freedom in our mind, to loosen tightly held beliefs (whether as critique or being attached to outcomes). Juneteenth is a chance to consider how we can use our practices–meditative, physical or civic engagement–to be of service to the liberation of all beings and alleviate suffering in the wider world, not just for ourselves. And not in a spirit of bypass, but being present with suffering and using the tools of the breath, movement, meditation and surrender to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery (as Marcus Garvey via Bob Marley sagely advised) and find freedom in the present moment to take wise action from the heart.
The individual and collective problems we face will require us to do the work internally and externally to cultivate the fortitude and resilience to liberate ourselves from the weight of the past to make space for the possibility of a brighter future. May we find inspiration in the story of Juneteenth and the broader struggle for freedom and embody the courage to bridge the chasm that exists between the freedom we have and the freedom we seek—both as individuals and in our society. May we use the wisdom of history and the tools of yoga and meditation to bring the gifts of freedom and justice for all, beyond the common notions of simply taking care of ourselves.
Peace, grace, health, freedom and joy to all.
Reggie Hubbard is an internationally-recognized yoga and meditation teacher and the founder and Chief Serving Officer of Active Peace Yoga. His yoga and meditation practice have served as a sanctuary of peace and perspective while navigating the stresses of being a black man in the world and serving in pressure filled jobs at the height of politics. He began practicing yoga under extreme emotional distress at work and now shares his practice to all walks of life in service to helping people navigate this thing called life with more peace and ease.
Reggie has taught Members of Congress, Congressional Staff, major labor unions, leading progressive organizations and individuals from all walks of life—simple tools for managing stress and bringing peace to mind, body and spirit.
In addition to his yoga teaching practice, Reggie has held many senior strategic and logistical roles across a variety of fields, ranging from global marketing, digital and community organizing, government relations, international education to Presidential campaigning. He received a B.A. in philosophy from Yale University and an MBA in international strategy from the Vlerick Business School in Belgium.