By Alyssa Shapiro
At the close of the Dream Eye Cream campaign shoot, actor and model Moose Ali Khan led our crew in a much needed socially-distanced stretch.
"Yoga energy work is very much about getting people connected to their source and to allow people to feel relaxed, destress, get healthy just by breathwork and movement,” he says.
After studying biology, chemistry, and physics, Khan began modeling—”traveling, seeing the world, meeting people from all over the world, different cultures, different ideas about how to live and life, different nutrition ideas,” he says. Eventually, Khan traveled home and applied this new knowledge to the health of family members—and watched them transform.
Wellness is the common thread running through many aspects and locations of Khan’s life (he has lived in England, France, and the US). It was, he says, “My savior to get through all of the troubles of the world, especially any of the resistance to my existence.”
Alyssa Shapiro: You’re using your spirituality and your connectedness and your healing to strengthen yourself against the racism that you’re dealing with. How does that function for you? What advice would you offer to other people who are dealing with these things, about mindfulness and how you speak to yourself?
Moose Ali Khan: It's a big question because in my awakening I realized that there was a very big chance of spiritually bypassing. Even though it's saved me to just rationalize people's actions and to not let that affect my heart and my desire to expand, it held me back a lot, and that rationalization, and then just the general prejudice against anyone who is different to another person, was hard to go through.
Four years ago, I started working in exploring my shadow. I had a mentor for two years in men's groups with this author, psychotherapist, and teacher, Robert Augustus Masters. He wrote a lot of books on spiritual bypassing, emotional intimacy, and one that led me to him was called To Be a Man. I didn't have a dad, I was a new father, and I was freaking out thinking, how am I going to be a dad? And I see all my friends—especially with my white friends that were men—have this innate confidence and ability to just like drive through and get things done. And I was like, why can't I do that? What is it missing in me, where I'm not really a man enough to be able to create and manifest these things?
But it was through the understanding of the shadow work and going through where these resistances were—where the procrastination was—and working back through my psyche, through my life to when I was a kid in London being bullied and having to deal with the strong racism there, and then seeing these stepping stones in my life where I was able to connect the dots together. And then recognize why I wasn't able to do things as a grown man through that exploration: seeing it, embracing it. Then I could see where the triggers were that had me either shutting down or overreacting to certain things. So I started getting calmer, stronger, more confident, more clear.
My eyes were more open. My ears were more open to seeing and hearing the things that stand out as red flags of prejudice. Before, I would just rationalize and just be like, okay, there's nothing I can do about it. But now I realize there's a lot I can do about it; I can call it out and have the confidence to actually have a conversation and say, “What you just said was hurtful or racist and it's not good how you communicate.”
Before, I'd be with friends or with my ex partners, and just not even say that because I didn't want to hurt their feelings, or I was feeling that it was my problem that I was getting affected by it.
AS: How have you noticed your relationships changing since you've been able to call things out as you see them, call racism out, call microaggressions out, especially because you're talking about intimate relationships, like friendships and partners. How have those changed since you've been able to speak what you need to speak?
MAK: Well, thankfully with the people that are really close to me—like my girlfriend—there's definitely a cultivation and a growing intimacy because we can now talk on a way where we can really share our feelings and we hear each other and see each other, we can really be vulnerable and know that the things that we're sharing are going to be held and listened to and then I won't be blamed, shamed, or belittled for the things that I'm sharing.
Some of my buddies over the last 30 years, I know they've said racist things, unconsciously, no matter how spiritual they say they are. This great awakening in America and around the world for Black Lives Matter is opening everyone's eyes up, and I can have some really good conversations… clarify to them that there is no neutral, you can't say “I'm not racist,” and then just completely be aggressively talking about other people. If you're going to be a non-racist, you have to be actually anti-racist, right? There is no neutral.
So I have a greater intimacy with my friends who I can have this conversation with. And I know I have to tread lightly because they're still in the process of learning and having to dismantle their ideas of racism.
AS: So I heard—I'm sad that I missed you leading a stretch on set—that everyone got to stretch with you to close the shoot out. Can you talk to me about healing through movement and how this plays a role in your life?
MAK: Someone on set said, Oh, my back is hurting and that's like a big statement for me to hear, because I was always having back problems. I was always active and working out, and even at my strongest, my back would go out. I couldn't understand why, and it was only by going through the shadow work, the exploration of my inner self, that I know that these stresses and these places of weakness show up [physically] in the body.
My place of weakness was my sacroiliac joint, my pelvis, which is your seat, your throne, how you sit in this world, and having these challenges from my ex partners, what's happening in the world, not being heard, not being supported, having to fight… I wasn't in my sacred seat of feeling confident. Once I worked out that emotional side, the psycho-emotional side, my lower back started getting some inner strength.
So I started foundation training that was developed by a chiropractor, Dr. Eric Goodman. I did two trainings with him and within like 15, 20 minutes, I was already feeling so much strength and relief in my lower back. I did this with dedication for some weeks and my whole posture, my back was just stronger than ever before, without having to do a lot of yoga or anything.
So what I shared with the team at the end of the day, it wasn't really a stretch because we weren't stretching anything. All it was doing was strengthening the lower back because of how we're sitting, how we're standing, you know, this looking on the iPhone, on the computer, driving. Our whole posture was just caving in and we all needed to strengthen the lower back, so that's what I was teaching them. And it's a very strange looking position and it looks like nothing, but as soon as we started working on it, then I think they started to recognize there was something challenging about it.
That is also incorporated into the things that I do with men’s groups. We go on these journeys into their childhood and we do some foundation training. We do some drumming, we do some voicing, anything to just let everything out and be in a place where their hearts can speak and feel safe.
AS: Let's talk more about men's groups and shadow work, because I think there’s been a real surge in awareness of the importance of looking at masculinity, reconfiguring what masculinity is in the world. Traditionally, masculinity has been this hard thing where men are supposed to be emotionless, and it creates problems for everyone.
MAK: Being in the yoga world for all these years, I find a lot of men around me that are creative and artistic that have a sense of openness in their hearts wanting to find support. Because of yoga and the breathwork, meditation, you're going to come into a place inside the heart and the mind that is going to be different. When you get that quieted, you filter out those sounds and you just hear the sound of the inner voice, the heart, soul. It’s a different communication that is calling you to move in a different way.
So the people who don't do anything like that, who just live in the outside stimulus, their ideas of how a man should be is maybe an old, traditional way—the warrior, military, boxers, people that need to feel aggression to protect their families or to just feel strong, to have this power.
As the child grows up, they’re always trained to find power. So they try to take power from other people, which then makes them overpowering, which makes them become aggressive. And they might have an anger that's stored, but they can't express that anger in a skillful way. Conversation becomes aggressive or violent. So the shadow work is to tell the men or to share with the men how to be angry—because you need to actually teach to express a point if it's to support yourself, to protect yourself or to protect a family or to protect community, or to just to have a protective voice for the change in the world right now—to be able to have that anger to make change, but to do it in a way that is skillful and intelligent, that isn't aggressive or violent.
So the shadow work and the men's group is to allow the men to express their emotions, to be able to share their sensitive emotions, their experiences, their vulnerabilities, and sometimes it needs to be fueled to get them to express it. So with the movement, with the drumming, with the dancing, with the screaming or the sounding.
It allows quiet, shut-down men to expand into their voice, and for the ones that have a voice, who are aggressive and strong, let that energy flow out, but then bring it into a place where they can be quiet, calm, and meditative, and then have a chance to talk in a different way. Because they need to let the energy move and to expand it out.
Everybody needs to move the energy. Some need to fuel it up. Some need to calm it down. And some need to just release it. So the men's groups have been really great to be able to do that.
AS: When you think about an ideal present or an ideal future, what does that look like to you? What does community look like?
MAK: That's a beautiful question. It’s something to try to hold onto all the time. It's not easy, but a continual effort from everyone to be able to listen more, to not react or dehumanize other people or things, that the ideologies of people are expanded and fluid and available to be updated, to change, to not be stuck in a rigid, traditional way of saying we've done this stuff for thousands of years and this is how it has to be, because it doesn't have to be! It has to keep on moving and changing.
To recognize if we moved towards a place that we think is good and then we recognize that it's not so good, that we collectively recognize it's not so good and make an effort to make a change. That we're making a change for the benefit of humanity, for all the animals, for all of the land, for the oceans... for the childrens’ future to be in a nontoxic environment, rather than just supporting the investors of the industries that have created that situation.
Right now, the world is running on the investors and the industries and the industry leaders and they are the ones that are governing the legislations and the governments to support them. I want to only keep a vision of humanity supporting humanity for the sustainability of our planet, rather than trying to escape to another planet because we're torturing and destroying our planet.
AS: When you think about the future, is there anything that you get excited about?
MAK :Oh, I do get excited about the shift and the change of the world right now. I'm excited to see my son talking about what he sees the future could be, and how he communicates about wanting to protect the Earth and protect the animals, and his love for the animals and the oceans. He's a genius in visualizing ways for the future, like how we would watch Star Trek 30 years ago and think, wow, flip phones, transportation, how great! Their imagination for what is next is wonderful, but we need for the adults to not suppress the ideas, but to nurture them, but to recognize where to play chess, and recognize how many steps forward could create another problem.
We have so many genius minds in our world that are being just used to create another app or another piece of technology in some tech way, rather than being used to deal with famine of the world or the water storage or just the challenges of the world. And if those great minds would go into staying in the world, then wow, what a shift we would have.
AS: If you could get the world to change its collective mind about something important to you, what would it be?
MAK: For the collective mind to recognize we need change by going into our own hearts and really listening to what the heart is saying outside of anything we've felt from the past; by recognizing not the wounds that are playing our judgments, but to say, if I had no wounds, where would my heart be? If nothing ever was bad happening to me, where would my heart be? If I didn’t have any fear, where would my heart be? What would it be saying?
AS: What does it mean to dream beyond?
MAK: What does it mean to dream beyond? It is beautiful. It sounds like a song that's coming into my mind that I started to write a few days ago. And the words were,
To dream beyond is to dream in our hearts and minds, and the vision that we hold for paradise and heaven on earth, and not a heaven that we imagine outside of earth... that the reality is now and the reality that we express in ourselves is our dreams manifest right now. Rather than looking towards the future of our dreams, we’ll just come right now and say, “I’m going to live my dream,” and act as if my dream is reality right now and move forward in that. I think it's the only way we can cultivate and fuel joy in our lives, and make that joy the beacon, the magnet, for the direction in our lives.