The Culture of Fear…Us vs. Them

What if our religion was each other? If our practice was our life? If prayer was our words? What if the temple was the Earth? If forests were our church? If holy water- the rivers, lakes and oceans? What if meditation was out relationships? If the Teacher was life? If wisdom was self-knowledge? If love was the center of our being?” Ganga White

Oh to live in this world and in that way! Guess what though, darlings? We can if we choose to!

Love is a way of life. Pure and simple. And when we stray from that, most likely, we’ll find ourselves operating from a place of fear. Fear divides, separates, isolates and harms. 

On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I find myself thinking about the “culture of fear” that took hold in the aftermath of 9/11.  A culture of fear that has permeated every area of life, society, politics  and humanity. A culture of fear that we saw at the onset of war 20 years ago all the way up to the insurrection this past January and everything in between, and we continue to see…. despite different presidents, administrations and policies and the downside of social media.

The questions  that continue to resurface for me time and time again are:

“How have you shown up in the past 20 years?”

“How do you want to show up in the next 5, 10, 15 or 20 years?

“What is your relationship with fear?”

“Do you operate from a place of fear or a place of love?”

“Are you able to look at others who are different from you from a place of love?”

“How do you feel when you encounter someone who looks different than you? Of a different race, religion, color, or culture than you?

“How have you bought into the culture of fear?”

“In what areas of your life do you operate from fear?”

“Are you able to “ignore the story and see the soul” as one of my beloved teachers and author of  Revolution Within, Seane Corn, encourages us to do?

The greatest poets, mystics, spiritual and religious teachers have taught us and continue to teach us that separation, division and fear separate us from our truest essence and connection to the Divine- that which is pure love- God’s only religion (and when I say God I mean the God of your own understanding be it a higher power, the Holy Mother, Mother Earth, the cosmos, the universe, etc). 

Fear separates us. Fear makes us do  crazy things. Fear makes us operate from a place of scarcity. Fear gets us into wars. Fear kills, maims, ostracizes, isolates, and destroys everything in its wake. Fear is the great divide. Fear divides us into two clearly distinct camps- us vs. them. 

In my humble opinion, It is in the wake of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that we all should be doing some MAJOR self analysis, self-inquiry and inner investigation (just a few of my favorite things) because our future, our world  and our legacy depend on it. I found some inspiration, as well as a deep sense of grief, in the words of Kerri Kelly, founder of @ctznwell, author, podcaster and speaker:

“I had thought 9/11 was the worst of it- the most unimaginable and devastating loss- but it was just the beginning for so many. Since then, people of Arab and South Asian descent have been intimidated, surveilled, incarcerated and killed in exponentially increasing numbers. Military service members have given and taken their lives. Families have been torn apart through brutal immigration policies and mass incarceration. Millions of Americans have been surveilled and harassed. Black and brown communities have been targeted by racist militarism turned inward through law enforcement. And too many of us have given into a culture of fear, distrust and division.”

Her words alone give us much to reflect on, investigate, question, and even grieve. In one of her recent posts, where the words above come from, Kerri Kelly poses the following questions

What did we learn from the past 20 years?

Where has violence and militarism gotten us?

How do we repair the harm at home and around the world?

How do we create the conditions for true safety and care for all people?

How do we be good ancestors to those we lost?

How do we shift the legacy of 9/11 from one war to one of collective care?

I was fortunate to catch an interview with Kerri Kelly and Valerie Kaur on the anniversary of 9/11 and found myself lost in thought and thinking about this entire event with a different set of lenses. I don’t know about you, but I know I was a totally different person on so many levels 20 years ago. However, the one thing that has been a constant for me though has been love and following my heart. So… it’s not surprising that I was drawn to Ms. Kaur. I learned of Valerie Kaur a couple of years ago when I saw an interview about her work and her book  and, since it all revolves around my favorite topic, love, I was instantly drawn to her and started following her work.

Valerie Kaur is a civil rights leader and founder of The Revolutionary Love Project. She is also the author of See No Stranger. The Revolutionary Love Project “envisions a world where love is public ethic and shared practice in our lives and politics.” They generate stories, tools and thought leadership to equip people to practice the ethic of love in the fight for social justice. The Revolutionary Love Project inspires people to build beloved communities where they are. They teach core practices of revolutionary love backed by research and infused with ancestral wisdom. In addition to educational tools, they produce training,  courses, artwork, film, music and mass mobilization that center the voices of BIPOC communities. It is their belief that we can “birth a world where we see no stranger.” 

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Valerie Kaur recently re-released the film, Divided We Fall – Americans in the Aftermath, that was made in 2006 and is just as relevant today. You can see the film for free  and access the Educator’s Guide to the film as well as the Screening and Dialogue Guide at valeriekaur.com. The film apparently toured hundreds of US cities, won international awards and became known as the “go-to documentary on post 9/11 hate crimes.”

Darlings, the tools are out there for those of us who want to be part of re-imagining and birthing a new world. It takes work, a lot of self-study, blood, sweat and tears, but wouldn’t it be worth it if we could play a small part in birthing this new world? What a way to honor and pay homage to our ancestors, those who lost their lives in past wars, on 9/11 and its aftermath!!!  Imagine the world we could create for future generations? And speaking of future generations, what world would you like for them to inherit? What legacy do you want to leave behind? 

It is my hope that this blog has made you pause, think and reflect. Perhaps some of my questions resonated for you? Perhaps you feel inspired by Kerri’s words, feel motivated to read See No Stranger or interested in looking into The Revolutionary Love Project? 

Remember…when faced with a choice, always choose Love over Fear…Love can be a way of life…pure and simple!

May you always lead from the heart…right from the start, JTC

Acting on Assumptions

“I don’t think we can stop making assumptions, or placing people into boxes. What we can do is be aware of the boxes we are placing ourselves and others into. There are good boxes, there are bad boxes, and there are simply ugly boxes. Awareness is the key.”  Runa Magnus leader of #NoMoreBoxes movement

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been engrossed in reading, re-reading, as well as listening, and re-listening to Seane Corn’s new book, Revolution of the Soul, where we are invited to awaken to love through raw truth, radical healing and conscious action. I’ve also been reflecting, diving deeply and journaling the many answers to the numerous, complex and thought-provoking questions that are posed in her book club discussion guide. Whenever I had the time to sit and work on my blog, I was tugged and quietly pulled away only to immerse myself once again in Seane’s words and teachings- with the rawness, sincerity, humor and beauty that only Seane (aka Cici) can deliver.

The other book that tugged at me and read in 2 days (after seeing her on Super Soul Sunday last week) was Chanel Miller’s extraordinary book, Know My Name. True to the words written in the book’s jacket, “Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing.”

Aside from the courage, vulnerability, humility, pain, trauma, truth, broken systems, power dynamics, discrimination, oppression, degradation, privilege, race, conscious activism and social change both authors speak to, I found a common thread to be that of assumptions– and how easily we tend to make them without even noticing- and how destructive and hurtful acting on assumptions can be.

In the fast paced, sensory overloaded, hustle-bustle, burn-out, grind culture we live in where busyness is glorified and romanticized, and 24/7 connectivity, news feeds and sleep deprivation are the norm, it’s easy to get caught up in assuming and judging. Doing so ultimately leads us to putting people into boxes. And when we put people into boxes, we are usually doing so from an unconscious state of being and/or lack of clarity, or from limiting beliefs, prejudices, stereotypes or our own personal and/or cultural belief system. Sound familiar? You are not alone…we are all guilty of doing so.

The key to changing this behavior is to become aware of when we are doing so and being aware of the problems and misunderstandings we create for ourselves and others when acting on assumptions. 

I came across the following questions as I was reading the article, And the assumption is? that was featured in Breathe Magazine (one of my favorites):

  • When did you last find yourself making an assumption about someone?
  • What assumption did you make and why?
  • How did this impact you and your relationship with this person?
  • Would the situation had been different if you hadn’t made an assumption?
  • What will you do differently next time?

Reading and reflecting on these questions will bring to light the times we’ve acted in an unskillful way and/or as a result of our unconscious behavior. These questions offer a portal in which we can peek into our hearts and hold ourselves accountable for the hurt we have caused ourselves and others.

In Revolution for the Soul, Seane poses a powerful question that helps us to become aware of our complicity: How do my own biases and privilege contribute to separation and oppression? 

In the section of her book where she talks about accountability, justice and a call to action, she writes: “The bigger issue is the resistance that those of us with privilege have to looking at how our own behavior and belief systems perpetuate oppression- either consciously or subconsciously- and our failure to hold ourselves accountable. So much of our biases, bigotry and prejudice is historical, ancestral and cultural; it informs and impacts how we live and how we relate to one another.  We are taught to fear differences instead of celebrating them, to distrust those who think, look and act differently, rather than learning from them. All of these beliefs, live in the body and, no matter how conscious we think we are, can erupt  in moments of overwhelm and stress. When that happens, our own biases, ignorance and fears rub up against someone else’s. If we aren’t aware of what’s happening, all that rubbing creates friction, which leads to more conflict and misunderstandings, which in turn lead to pain, suffering and even death.”

It’s an oftentimes painful process, and a rude awakening to say the least, to see how we can, and do, contribute to our fractured world and times we are living in. All of our thoughts, perceptions, words, and actions either heal or hurt, build or destroy, come form fear of love, liberate or oppress. I think it’s safe to say that we can clearly see how acting from assumptions plays into all of this and how what’s going on “out there’ is a reflection of what’s going on “in here” inside our minds and hearts.

All change begins within…it’s a process and one that will accompany us throughout our lifetime. Throughout this process, opportunities will always arise that will either test us or free us. Opportunities that can and will make us wonder where certain thoughts are coming from.  Opportunities that will challenge us to stop attaching labels and putting people in boxes. Opportunities that will allow us to get to know someone on deeper levels rather than making erroneous assumptions about them. Opportunities to see different perspectives. Opportunities to see another’s struggle or lack of privilege. Opportunities that will make us uncomfortable. Opportunities to step out of the boxes we put ourselves in. Opportunities to make a difference and be the change. Opportunities to see and feel the consequences of our actions. Opportunities to have different thoughts and make different choices. Opportunities to inspire. Opportunities to love. Opportunities to serve.

And what does all of this mean?  It means we are all human. We are not perfect. We all have faults. We have our flaws. We all have our own stories, narratives, doubts and insecurities. We will stumble. We will fall. We will fail. We will pick ourselves up again. We will succeed. We will stumble yet again. We will do better…because we can always do better… we can choose to do better!  This is a truth I strongly believe in.

Thanks for reading!

Inhale love and light…Exhale grace and gratitude, JTC