There is No Neutral

“What’s your dharma center, teacher, church, synagogue, pastor, Rabbi, reverend, yoga center, ashram, spiritual-not-religious instagram meditation leader saying about Black lives.” Angel Kyodo Williams

Hello, darlings!

It’s been almost a month since my last blog, Inspired Action, on May 24th. The following day, our world saw the police brutality that took George Floyd’s life. The fact that this brutal murder was captured on video, we got to see the killer’s face and body language, and bear witness to what’s been going on for lifetimes for Black and Brown people has awakened and propelled the masses to yet another level of truth, re-examination, demonstration, and activism. We are living through the  most historic and monumental civil rights movements the U.S. has ever seen. And the global impact it is making speaks volumes!

During this time, there has been a call to action to FINALLY listen to the voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous people of color). For those of us who are white (or pass as white), we have been called to educate ourselves on White Supremacy, White Privilege, White Fragility and how knowingly, or unknowingly, we have been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression. These words alone make many people uncomfortable…as they should. Change and growth do not come from being “comfortable.”

Resources of all kinds- from  books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, articles, videos, TV shows to information that has always been available in various formats- have been circulating for us all to truly understand the systems that were specifically created to uphold white dominance. The time to start  dismantling White Supremacy is upon us.  However, the change must start within. Truly taking a deeply uncomfortable dive within ourselves to examine our own biases, stereotypes,  prejudices and discriminations  is shockingly revealing regardless of how evolved, open-minded, anti-racist,  socially conscious or “woke “we think we are. The work we white people (or people who hold white privilege) are being called to do is raw. It’s humiliating, and it’s humbling to say the least…and it’s our responsibility to continue this work day in and day out.

For almost 3 weeks now, I’ve silenced my voice on social media. It started as the “amplify melanated voices challenge” on June 1st, but I’ve kept it going.  This has allowed me to continue to do my  work, keep educating myself, intentionally use my social media platform to share what  I learn and what deeply resonates for me, and share the voices of BIPOC leaders and teachers of all kinds and from all walks of life from whom I’m learning. I’ve also had hard and meaningful conversations with friends and family. Being in community with people who are talking the talk AND walking the walk has provided me with lots of learning opportunities. Re-examining how I spend my time, energy and money has also led me to look at the businesses, organizations and individuals I want to support. I’ve already made a few changes in those areas. I feel like it’s just the beginning, but every little bit matters. Being neutral is not an option in my book. There is no neutral!

While the work is unnerving, heavy, raw, emotional and can be disturbing, it’s only a fraction of what my BIPOC brothers and sisters have been living with for generations. Generations of being dehumanized, oppressed and destroyed! I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it is NOT my place to speak about these experiences because they are not my lived/shared experiences. We white people tend to jump in and throw our voices into the ring- “Whitesplaining” as it has been coined- as if we could even remotely begin to speak to injustices we have never lived…talk about white privilege!?!?!?!

The most profound lesson I’ve learned thus far has been to be quiet and deeply listen….oftentimes, the silence from white people, friends, businesses and organizations,  is actually deafening and clearly speaks to white privilege, white fragility and white apathy. The other thing I learned deals with conversations that go nowhere. These dead-end conversations speak to a person’s unwillingness to recognize and accept that knowingly, unknowingly, and oftentimes unconsciously, as a white person (or a person who passes as white) has internal biases, stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations  built in as a result of being born (or living) in a country where systems and institutions were intentionally created to uphold white dominance.

If a person is not remotely interested or willing to to examine their relationship to the systems they engage in and navigate every day, then I have no desire to waste my energy or resources on them. There’s too much work to do! I want to engage with  people who are truly and authentically making a difference with their voices and their activism. So this is the road I find myself navigating these days.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, White Supremacy is a system we were born into. There are layers and layers to unpack! For the last 400 years, these carefully crafted systems have been dehumanizing, destroying and inflicting racial wounds on People of Color resulting in historical and generational  trauma. When will it stop? How? By whom?

It simply speaks to the fact that dismantling systems of institutionalized racism and systemic oppression FIRST begins with each and every white person (or person holding white privilege). We need to genuinely make a concerted effort to educate ourselves on things what we were not educated on in schools. Are we so arrogant of a species that we feel it is beneath us to do so? The answer is simple: yes, because that’s something that comes with holding white privilege.

One of my biggest history lessons came from the Netflix documentary 13th. If you’ve never seen it, that’s a great place to start! And if you are serious about taking a deep dive and creating change from within, pick up Layla F. Saad’s book, me and white supremacy-Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. The work is difficult but so transformative! These two bodies of work will impact you in powerful and profound ways.

The way I see it is that regardless of our political affiliation, religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we all have work to do. It’s a privilege and an honor to be alive at this precise moment in time. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to waste it or just sit around waiting for others to do the work and then weigh in or criticize the decisions and actions being taken by those who are in the trenches doing the work.

The time for personal truth-telling and reckoning has arrived for all of us. We can truly change the course of the new nation that is waiting to be birthed and the new world that is waiting to emerge. We can all have a hand in the reimagining and the remaking of this  white institution of power that orders our lives and continues to dehumanize, criminalize, incarcerate and kill BIPOC.

I believe the time has come for us to get really clear. This is not a time for neutrality. There is no neutral. This is not the time to sit back. This is a time to take action. This is not a time for spiritual bypassing. That in itself is privilege. This is not a time to say we are all one. We cannot all be one until ALL people have the same access to civil, political, economic and social rights…until we can truly say “liberty and justice for all.” This is not a time to say all lives matter or blue lives matter. All lives cannot matter until ALL Black lives matter….it doesn’t get any clearer than that!!!

And on that note, may we all remember to check in with our black and brown friends. The trauma, stress, frustration, anger, fear, emotional and physical pain, and feelings of overwhelm white people are feeling are no where near what our black and brown friends have been feeling for generations.  They don’t need to see or hear our white narratives, comments or  explanations. They need our support. They need us to listen. May we hold that space for them, and hold them close!

I will leave you with the words of Sonya Renee Taylor:

“If your spirituality  or self-care practice invisiblizes oppression and harm, then it’s just another form of oppression and harm.”

 May we continue to move forward with intention, unity and hearts wide open, JTC

 

 

 

Love and Connection

“Nobody, but nobody makes it out alone. What really matters is love. I mean, that condition in the human spirit that is so profound it allows us to rise. Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, is what really matters. There has always been evil. But there has always been good, and there is good now.” -Maya Angelou

This has been a brutal week. A painfully, heart-wrentching, brutal week that will impact our history and future generations. A week of trauma, intergenerational trauma, that will be inherited by children of the universe and citizens of our world. A week where I’ve been appalled at the righteousness of fellow citizens who believe that everything is “just fine.” A week where I’ve been dismayed at the indifference of others who do not see, or cannot feel, the separation of infants and young children from their families for what it is: inhumane, barbaric and a violation of human rights.

The flip side though is that we are all being challenged to look ever so deeply inside our hearts. That is what we do in times of darkness. It is a time for us to delve into our own individual consciousness and see how it has been influenced by the collective consciousness of our family, ancestors and society at large. We examine these generational pains and traumas in hopes of understanding, healing ourselves and healing the collective consciousness. We move from out of the darkness and into the light!

And on this day, June 21, the solstice and international / world yoga day, I give thanks for my practice. I give thanks for the shadow work we actively do on the path for it leads to greater understanding. These times are what we have been practicing for. These are the times where we seek refuge in our practice and in the loving, kind and supportive hands of our “tribe.” My heart has been so heavy that I’ve been spending more time in prayer, reflection, in community and on “intervention” duty alongside those who are hurting as well. Can you relate?

This morning I felt the need to ease into my day, make a nice cup of Jasmine tea, and read something that would feed my soul. I grabbed Oprah’s book, The Wisdom of Sundays, and decided to peruse the chapter on love and connection. I came across the following by Sister Joan Chittister:

“Humanity is about identifying with somebody else’s pain, with being there. With somehow or other knowing you cannot pass on the road because it’s not your bird and it’s not your child and it’s not your pain. Humanity is the ability to hurt for others. Because that’s the only fuel that will stop the injustice. You must know people are people, and you must do what they need in the middle of their pain.”

And when it comes to those people around us whom we know are suffering, we can show up. We can be there. We can hold that space for them. We can share in their pain. We can join forces, get involved, do whatever it is we are called to do in order to be of service in some way. By the way, if you happen to find yourself in a state of indifference, ask yourself, “Why?” Dig deeper, connect with your own suffering or perhaps reach out to friends to help you with the process.

As Thich Nhat Hanh states in his book, Practices for Happiness, “Anger, fear, anxiety, craving, greed and ignorance are the great afflictions of our time.” And this is where our tools come in handy. This is when we reach into our spiritual toolbox, and pull out whatever we need: yoga, meditation, prayer, mantra, chanting, singing, tapping, dancing, social activism, etc. We try, more than ever, to stay in that present state of mindful living; where our love is then front and center and leads us to taking collective action. It’s not a time to be indifferent. Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and best-selling author Elie Wiesel shared the following with Oprah, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”

Darlings, I share the following sentiment from the section on love and connection with you: We know humanity is in need of the healing power that comes from love in all its forms. Use your life to serve the world and you will discover the myriad of ways the world offers itself to serve you.

Each and every one of us has the power to do just that. In whatever way, shape or form that looks like to you, go out and do it. We have the power to transform not only ourselves but the collective consciousness of this beautiful planet we call “home.” We are all inextricably connected. The more we tap into this knowingness, the more we see and feel the oneness all around. The more clearly we see that we a human race of billions, we are citizens of the world, and that our children are the children of the universe.

Each and every day, I encourage you do ask yourself the following question upon opening your eyes: “How can I be of service today?” And before closing your eyes at night ask yourself, “How did I live in love and connection today?”

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC