About being white and healing racism ~ the grieving process. Grieving our lost humanity.
The 5 stages of grief (no particular order, non-linear process) are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I must have been in denial for quite a while, just to get on with a life I thought I was supposed to live, which, come to find out, wasn't really mine anyway. I think I'm past denial now. It seems to have run its course, along with that prescribed version of my life, So now what?
Depression. Self-defeating focus, embarrassed, burdened by things I couldn't do anything about. The depression part has holes in it now days. I get depressed for minutes, not days or years anymore. I've learned that the only way honestly out of depression is to befriend myself while in it. Maybe that's all depression is for, to get our attention back to ourselves. To relearn kindness.
Lately, there's a back and forth between anger, bargaining and acceptance.
At first as I started writing I didn't know what the bargaining could be about. How do I bargain with racism? I just realized bargaining has to do with trying to be nice, a good person... No wonder I didn't want to see that because trying to be nice and good is not actually nice and good, it’s an image that inevitably needs to be defended. Plus that's pretty much the crux of implicit racism. Being unknowingly insincere with a story to back up the insincerity. A BLM yard sign in a freshly gentrified neighborhood. (I'm not criticizing the signs, I'm just saying...)
The anger part is what got me to want to write this. Practicing anger is easy as eating delicious pie for me. I'm not against pure raw anger by any means. I'm learning to respect my emotions. I'm talking about when it's groomed and habitual toward no useful outcome. The epiphany has to do with seeing how MY anger about racism, as a white person, is indulgent and it's like an addictive replacement for what's being asked. I think that folds into the do-nothing system of implicit racism.
What's being asked is the healing of our humanity, through me, all the way through. It's very different from the paralysis of burdened weight related to depression. It's feeling and seeing genuinely and sincerely, in this real-world pain and letting myself become a vessel.
Our real world pain heals thru each human gut, heart, mind. All the way through. We become capable to walk and talk freely, the freedom of wisdom, not ignorant “freedom”. Also not hung up in criticism or unhelpful arguing. I’m not against criticism and arguing. It’s part of our process. I just feel something beyond that too. Embodiment of what’s being asked.
People who are hurting directly from racism don't have time for heady exercises or emotional grandstanding. The shit just needs to stop. Racist ideology is a lie and always has been. Everyone hurts from racism, we just don't all feel it in that direct way. White people don’t “have to” feel it because we're skin-tone privileged by a made up ideology to benefit us. Excruciatingly circular ignorance.
I know that racism, prejudice, bigotry of any sort is a soul wound of the world that starts in the broken heart of the one holding the views, then it slashes out, wounding and killing others' lives, bodies, dreams and generations. And I know that ignorance - limited experience defended by belief - is what we all go through. It's called being human. And that's not an excuse or permission to continue with ignorance, it's a call for acceptance that finally ignites real healing, deep and lasting.
The way we see our fellow humans is the way we see ourselves and our earth home. We need serious healing, now. To heal is to make whole.
We grow wiser and help each other. It has nothing to do with "being nice" but it has everything to do with being, humbled and sincere and embodying healing.
It's no wonder the strong resistance is happening. This maddening resurgence of white supremacy, false Christianity, false president. The disease of our culture is the commoditization of life, the branding, marketing, packaging, consuming, discarding. The lack of orienting to reality. The spiritual deficit that's being recognized. Paradoxically, there is no actual spiritual deficit. It’s impossible. Spirit is unchanging and always right here now. We just have a weird American-style mirage going on. So the shift could actually be simple. We could just fall forward into the path of our true truth.
There is plenty of room for everyone just as we are. It’s the nature of our world to diversify. That’s the health. Racism is literally a sin against nature, truth, God, reality, pick your word. The word sin means “to miss the mark”. And what is the mark? Let’s open up and feel it.
A diagnosis from a specialist in Temple was made the other day. Alzheimer's. Mom's forgetting, confusion, anxiety, it is officially going to be called Alzheimer's now. She does not want us to call it that. She wants to be healed by God and given her life back. I think she wants to be given her mom, sister and dad back. They've all died, decades ago, in that order.
I think she wants time to study her interests, to read the Bible and pray. She also wants to grow the garden, experiment with new casseroles, to get old along with the new black & white kitty they adopted after their old black & white kitty died. I think.
She wants to play piano more, to sing and play for her small rural church. I had a boyfriend many years ago who came with me to her church when, on a rare occasion, she played and sang a solo. That was a different church. She's moved a few times and searched for her perfect rural home. The boyfriend turned to me and said "Wow! I figured she would be good but she's really really talented!" I reminded her of that the other day on the phone and she thanked me. Since they moved to this current house, five acres and a pond, further away, her piano has been in a bedroom because the living room is for my stepdad's TV watching talent.
Years back, I started encouraging her to teach piano from her home. She's a natural teacher with natural curiosity stitched into 84 years of perfecting techniques. She would sew more quilted jackets that say words about God across the back if she had the time. Not my style but truly high quality!
I want to tell her stories about her curious skillful life from now on, about our shared love for camping and adventuring. I want small, playful dances with her in the kitchen, tasting the pear preserves she canned years back. I want to sit at the old piano alongside her and play something I don't know how to play. I'll copy her notes and we'll laugh together. We have nearly the same face, especially when we smile.
In the lowest moments, I was asked what I wanted to do with myself, because I truly was lost and depressed and supposed to be making my way in the world having recently completed a master's degree, recently bought a house... recently watched my dad die... Stopped. My partner asked me, from his wits end, what I wanted to do, or what I was striving for, something like that. I said, unexpected, "I'm a good friend". What?
It was all that felt absolutely true about me, as a highest potential or most honest answer to the questions. To be(come) a good friend... to myself. That's what the call was about. Still is. Watching your dad die when you're 30 tells you to stop fucking around with lies. Stop turning against yourself, child. This life is for living it. Be YOU. That's the call.
Part of it since then has been studying anxiety. Why? When I take away the clinical definition and go with the actual feeling, it's just an indicator that I'm not being my friend right then. Subtle shit, these obscure ways I turn against myself in moments that can snowball. But anxiety IS a friend. It tells me to notice what I'm doing. All anxiety is saying is "Pay attention, best friend! Notice."
I can inquire within a lot better now than back then at the beginning of the stop, blurting out that I'm a good friend, unable to back myself up to my partner who was beside himself, having not lost his own dad yet, having not lost his stories about life yet. He was a gift, frustrated as hell in the kitchen 17 years ago. Depression, a gift stopping me from pretending bullshit stories very well anymore. Takes the energy and sucks it down somewhere mysterious, like a savings account you can't access until you're trustworthy. Anxiety, that fluttering, crazy, metallic tasting gift. It's an honest friend that says "Oh, you don't need to do that to yourself anymore. Notice what you're doing. This is what it tastes like to turn against yourself."
I'm a good friend. That's my best answer.
Big Red soda
pink on white t-shirt
White ranch truck
vinyl, cigarette ashtray, hay
cow patty, gasoline, beer can
man sweat, rust
Legal documents filed on blue dashboard
warm open window air
Evant, Texas, 1975 or 6
Salt lick blocks
yellowed and rounded
slow cow tongues
death and life and memory
intimate with once muddy ground
dry and cracked
long stalks of clump grass
playing dead over
holes and walls built by heavy hooves
when ground was last muddy
creak, sputter, thunk
The best way to honor the lives of my ancestors is to become free from the beliefs that kept them down, to recognize their efforts and become a wiser and more caring person with the tenacity to change and grow as life goes on. It's the same as maturing and developing autonomy from my parents. They did the best they could, and my life gives me the freedom to find my own honest way, to experience connections that my parents could not see. In a certain way, I help them and their legacy by discovering my own living truth, by being an awake and responsive human on the totem that I am a part of.
When a person dies, beliefs and constrictions release. Anything that separates falls away. I recon that if an ancestor or a parent who has died could see us now, that personified love would include wanting us to be free from their antiquated ways of thinking. They'd want us to live life unconstricted by the constraints they experienced and taught to us. The stuff that we got trapped by. There's an inherent forgiveness about that, and an ability to move on. It's a strong sense I've gotten since my dad died. I've spoken with other people who have lost a parent and had similar insights.
That was something I wrote on Facebook, which came up as a memory from this day in 2015. What I wrote then fits just right into the work I'm doing now with Biodynamic Craniosacral, since this work helps the body tissues release their conditioned patterns. We can actually release the stuff from the body rather than just managing ourselves for the rest of our lives, which actually speaks to the impermanence of conditioning. It may seem like we get permanently changed from life's hard knocks but the underlying health and vitality that knows about freedom is always here, ready to re-emerge and rejoin the joyous openness we truly are. Who knew Leonard Skinner was so in touch?! FREEBIIIIIRRRRRD!
And before Leonard there was Rumi ~ "But how should the cage-bird know about the air?"
Our human ancestory has many voices, all singing about the same thing.
This is true: we never arrive at the final resting place while we're breathing and our hearts are beating. That truth is settled for me. ...Life is all about contradiction so I'll accept it and continue.
Given that we never arrive at the final resting place while we're living in bodies, what matters? Orientation matters. How we orient ourselves. It might be a question - "How am I oriented right now?" or "In what direction am I oriented?". The answer usually changes by the moment so it's good to be paying attention in a friendly way.
Yoga postures are helpful for practicing orientation. Each pose has particular anatomical focus so when we engage the pose and orient toward its focus, we can discover things about ourselves. Take pigeon pose and its primary focus - the deep hip muscle called piriformis. Since we live in chairs these days and since we tend to manipulate and manage ours emotions, we are people of the tightened piriformis. Over the roughly 18 years since I began practicing yoga, I've been learning about myself in pigeon pose. When I get into pigeon pose, I can either orient to my piriformis and allow layers of discomfort to be felt and sometimes released (usually intense and sometimes illuminating) or I can just hang out in the territory of normalcy.
A useful thing about yoga poses is that we can physically engage our orientation, our focus. To find the piriformis, I engage both legs to be turning my pelvis forward: front foot active as if I was standing on it, shin perpendicular to my back leg, hip rooted back and down (there's the piriformis!), and my back leg is internally rotated, usually with my foot flexed to help that leg stay engaged. It's a workout to stay focused that way and no matter what I do with my upper body, my front leg piriformis is given most of my attention.
Orientation is more than physical activation, though. It's really an internal focus, which can seem bewildering. Luckily it is something we can practice and learn to recognize how to engage in subtler and greater ways. Being friendly is a necessary quality to the internal orientation. Not pushing, punishing or fixing, just befriending and turning in the direction of the hidden stuff. In the direction of freedom.
In the pigeon, as I orient to my piriformis I can discover a letting go of my well-practiced demands on myself, aka tension. It doesn't matter if the pigeon looks great. How am I aware inside my hip? How am I orienting as I do anything at all? Yoga and life are not for showy presentation. I don't care if there are yoga competitions and lip injections... whatever.... True presentation happens, uncontrolled and unpredicted, from how we are orienting within ourselves. That's how love is. Love gets out of the chair and unlocks what's stuck. Love says "You can be free from that tight grip! You can be free. It might seem scary and it might hurt for a moment, but it's ok. I'll go through it with you, sweet hips!"
The only reason for
communicating is for
passing on what is
Thinking about the themes in my life, the one that rises to the top is about authenticity - being who I really am so I can relax and connect with other people as they really are. I'm not saying I've got this down, I'm saying I've got a deep yearning to be authentic, because I don't think it's been my go-to experience. In pursuit of myself (isn't that weird? me pursuing me?) I've been influenced a lot by various religious and spiritual guidances, academic doctrines and social expectations, but I've come to see that anything that rings true is not really an instruction for self-improvement but an indicator of authenticity. I notice that when I'm not trying to be agreeable I fall into agreement with myself, which is easy for other people to be around. When I'm not trying to be helpful I become honest, which is actually helpful! When I'm not trying to memorize concepts a bigger picture becomes clear. And when I'm not resisting myself I become tolerant, understanding and capable.
For a few years, I was a facilitator of a class in a women's prison. It was a volunteer gig with an organization called Truth Be Told. The class was called Talk To Me in which we all did background investigation into our current prisons. For the incarcerated women, they could look at what lead them to prison. For all of us, prisoners and facilitators alike, we identified our internal prisons. Then we wrote about how we got there and we took turns over several weeks reading our stories to each other and also did Authentic Movement to express the story though our bodies. It was an act of freeing ourselves from the silence and internal manipulations that were coming out in our lives in hurtful ways. It was an invitation to be authentic.
I took on that volunteer gig because I needed a platform of honesty for myself. I felt that I was missing the interactive, relational capability that I longed for and it was difficult for me to come clean to myself and others in my life. Facilitating that class, along with several other good decisions and commitments I've made over many years, helped me learn something powerful about authenticity. When I accept my own experiences I become free and I become a safe person for others to be free around. Now that's true facilitation! Not perfect, not an exact science, not someone else's idea of how my life should unfold - simply discovering that my own way is just right.
Through the lens of authenticity, the whole concept of "help" is turned on it's head. It's about embodying myself and discovering that I have faith in others to embody themselves. I don't need to hide behind stories, beliefs, theories and techniques, although those things do inform my understanding and they come in handy at times. But in those moments when I'm free in myself there's a natural outflow of helpfulness that does not require recognition or belief in a theory, technique, etc. And it really is a moment to moment thing. I don't believe any of us ARE authentic or not authentic, it's a matter of how we're relating in each moment.
I'm generally comfortable with my disposition these days. It's different than it was. I think that "just be yourself" doesn't come easy for a lot of us in our culture, so it's relaxing to embrace this imprecise experiment of being me. There is no ultimate program to follow or package to buy and sell; no theory to learn and defend, no religion to swallow as truth, no degree or costume or moniker to stand behind - not in my understanding of authentic life. Sure, those things exist, but I'm not defined by them. Sometimes it seems lonely to let go of all those identifiers, because that's supposedly where all the groups of "like-minded friends" hang out. Will I be alone without identifying with those clubs and products and beliefs? In the best way, yes. Alone and not lonely. Because authenticity includes autonomy - intimately alive in my own body, in the moments of my life, moving freely and touching reality, leaving the door open to those beautiful moments of true connection that remind me why I let go of the confining safety boxes I squirm around in. And it means that I can appreciate this in others, so relationships can stop being about expectations and pre-designed agreements and they can become discovery and creativity and mutual freedom. Yes, I think the world needs this.
To me, the story of Easter, the resurrection, is about each of our awakenings, beginning with our physical birth and continuing with each healing, reunifying experience throughout life. The more subtle we become in our awareness, the more we do ease back into our unified essence. This is what the wisest meditation practices are about. I think the word "namaste" is a spoken reminder to open the door of consciousness to ourselves and each other and the whole thing. This has been a lot for me to make honest room for in my mind, but through healing experiences I feel a gradual embodiment of "namaste". I've been noticing this recently, even though my mind is a strong protester. But what a surprise. It's not something I can honestly stay with all the time, but when I notice I've dug myself into struggle and complicated divisions in my mind I can at least remember my body knows about the undivided ease of it all. And sometimes I fall back into the ease.
Biodynamic Craniosacral involves a lot of embryology. It really involves deep investigation of the entirety of the human body experience and super pivotal stages such as conception, igniting of our vital systems, development of body in utero and the birth process. The design of the body is carried through our genetic information, referred to as "original blueprint", and the building of the body in utero and even during birth - lungs start working when we are in air, nutrient intake switches from umbilical cord to mouth - is done through the actions being carried out by the blueprint information. Arms are not built to reach, it's the other way around. It is the intelligence of our systems to reach, and it's the reaching action of the early tissues that actually builds the arms! When I learned that, it was just awe. What's elegance and amazement. Life is movement indeed. And the whole coming into air from a fluid world? What a transformation we each had on our birthdays!
We are sparked into being by the dynamic passage of human encoding carried through all the bodies before us. There is the blueprint of the human function/form and there is the limitation on that function/form imposed from disruption and repeated harm that gets internalized. Think of your own life and how many things have happened that are still hard to be with, things that have narrowed your view of safety and possibility since childhood, experiences that sparked a belief in separateness. Consider how the genetic information, passed through eons of human lives just like yours, might be carrying a narrowed expression of the vastness of human possibilities. The fullness of our nature gets pulled, twisted and blocked over the course of a life. Trauma (uncompleted process, segmentation of the whole) is a biochemical/material story that's being told for eons that we each carry. Trauma, passed along unrecognized and unhealed, creates a story of body disharmony coupled with mental beliefs we cling to, and our culture designs all sorts of medical procedures, laws and churches based on a belief that the uninvestigated trauma creates, and vice versa. I don't mean to be a downer at all here. It's just that, "if you can't feel it you can't heal it" (that's been said - it's true) and when we embody ourselves, our true and honest experience of living, even if we don't know what the hell happened to create that hard place in the belly or that familiar recoil in the nerves or that weird sounding voice that we know is not our true voice (ok, these are a few of my things), if we can just fall back into our true experience of all of it in the moment in the body, as a good friend who will not leave in hard times, the bodymind's urge toward wholeness, unity with self, unity with all - our essence beyond all conditioned traumatic holdings - does engage, and healing happens. It does.
We don't have to remain traumatized and separate. As meditation and self-inquiry becomes more widely practiced and as mindfulness-based therapies such as Biodynamic Craniosacral, Somatic Experiencing, Hakomi, etc. reach more of us, amazing resolutions begin to happen in our lives and in our collective awareness. I included the graphic "Physiology of an Uninterrupted Third Stage" because it shows something so simple that can make a huge difference in human lives - not rushing things right there at birth. We are actually capable of feeling the residue in our bodies from any trauma we experienced at birth, and by feeling it in a safe way we might find some understanding of how that very early trauma has shaped our lives. When it is felt in a safe and aware environment, such as a bodymind therapy session or well-resourced meditation, the twists and turns in the tissues actually begin to heal. As a society of humans who are healing, reunifying and rising, our collective awareness leads us to change the way medical interventions are routinely done that cause trauma to our systems. Just as what's considered normal societal practices change and become more humane over time as we understand the actual life effects of all sorts of behaviors, such as human enslavement, sexual harm, ritualized killings for ceremony, etc.
When trauma at any level is resolved through our own bodies, harmonious connections are remade that go beyond our own lives. We participate in telling the ultimate story of unity and we enjoy living here and now and helping each other thrive. Namaste.
As a kid I had a secret. I don't know when this started but what I would do, laying in bed at night in the dark, is ask inside myself this question that seemed to come out of my body. The question was "who am I?" I discovered that when I felt the question come, and when I would ask it, there would ensue a sort of conversation between the question itself and my mind. Mind would answer based on names and identity traits and information I knew. "I'm Ginger", "I live in San Angelo", "My family is...", "I look like...", "I have...", In response to each of my answers, that place that was asking the question would just keep asking. It was distinctly different in tone from any other question I had ever asked or been asked because there was no demand or judgement in it, there was just an unwavering confidence, kindness and invitation. There was a distinct body feel to the questioning. Intimacy. As I lay there, eyes closed in the dark, every answer about me being met with the same spacious question, I would come to some sort of tipping point from which my consciousness would go beyond everything I "knew". Like outer space but I was totally at home, expanded out of my sense of anything. I would wonder if I was dead but it didn't scare me. Utter peace. And then I'd sort of land back in gravity, confused but not, and fall asleep.
Life went on, we moved from San Angelo to Temple, my parents divorced, I started 3rd grade, made friends, I probably forgot about the "who am I?" question. In middle school years I was aware that the Baptist Church was talking about salvation and the omnipresence of God. I was good at following instructions and pleasing adults and I took to laying in my bed at night praying praying praying until I fell asleep. I was trying and reaching and asking their story of God for connection and I just got tired. Maybe I recognized something I had forgotten and was wondering where it was.
When I was probably 15, sitting in the passenger seat with my dad driving down Gen. Bruce Drive to the Walmart or somewhere for the 400th time, looking out the side window at mowed brown grass, a very distinct question spoke in my body - "God, is this all there is?!" But the question had a familiar, intimate tone, spoken so clearly inside me that I wasn't sure if it had broadcast into the car. I looked over at Dad but he just kept driving.
Our culture doesn't talk much about this stuff but we are starting to listen to ourselves and each other. I meet more people in recent years who are attuned to their own body's information, this intimacy with life that might show up a mysterious messages spoken from the bones, and this helps me live more honestly than I could in the past. We are wired for social connection and we follow what others do until we have enough sense of our reality to start following our own inner callings. Honest questions and reminders come from each of our bodies. I've learned that these kind of messages are referred to as "spiritual questions". They get our attention and they direct us back into wholeness when we have become separated, if we allow. When we listen and allow, in that internally vulnerable way, what we eventually run up against is our beliefs - those readymade answers that are given to us by society, our families and our own minds as they've come to be conditioned.
Healing takes courage. It's not necessarily comfortable to suspend or release beliefs so that we can find out what else, but that is exactly where the healing process will take us if we let it. It's up to each of us how and when we'll let it, so the process is unique and respectable for everyone. And we help each other find the courage when we share how unscary it actually is to move beyond beliefs. As a matter of experience, once a belief is disintegrated we can look back and realize just how fearful and limited our lives had been when the belief was running the show. And what I mean by beliefs running the show is beliefs in stories that aren't true. When we are believing stories that aren't true, we wind up hunkering down and defending the story in some way and that divides us from what IS true. It could seem like an impossible or terrible proposition to let go of defended beliefs (or to find out just what it is we're believing that isn't true after all), but think of it... Reality doesn't need us to believe in order to exist. Existence and reality are one, no defense or belief needed. I don't have a belief in sitting here, I'm just sitting here. I don't believe in breathing, I just breath. I don't believe in sleeping, I just sleep. Even though I didn't sleep much last night and I want to take a nap right now, I still don't have a belief in sleep. That would be silly. I don't believe in this laptop, I just type and watch the words show up. Yes, it's still happening and I still don't have a belief system about it. The laptop doesn't need my defense in order to exist here. I don't have any defensive beliefs that cause separation that translates to body tensions and illness about any of these things so I am free to explore life in relation to these settled matters. Functionality is pleasant.
I'm talking about belief as defense of a position, which we all have and hold onto because when we think about the position we can't imagine anything could exist beyond it. Or only bad stuff. There's fear of the unknown or the unrecognized that the position is wrapped around. But the actual experience beyond any of our positions is just utter freedom, so what are we waiting for?
If you hear a question that feels like home in the most intimate sense of what home could possibly be... and I think you know what I mean... try allowing.
*photo credit: Body Intelligence Training, Brian Tierney, Instructor