Follow the body, but not the body
The way into what’s on my mind at the moment doesn’t seem clear. Indeed, writing quickly at a little after 7 on a full (though not overfull) Monday probably plays a role. I suppose, like most things, the way in is in the body. What is mine telling me? To move slowly. To take a pause. To not let the mind lead the way.
For that’s one of the main things I’ve been exploring — how can I release the reactions I have that are habitual, and step into a more grounded approach to things? The body lets me know, but not at first. The first reaction in my body is quite reactive, actually. It takes some breathing and slowing down to come into contact with a more connected way forward.
So what is the relationship between the body’s initial reaction, and the path that brings the most harmony — which is known by how it feels in the body? That’s a question for me to sit with.
To, as they say, feel into.
The music fills the air even on the far side of this field. Standing in the shade of a tree, I’m watching the crowns gather. It’s odd seeing so many people gathering for what looks like an outdoor concert; these are the pandemic times, after all. But it’s not a concert. It’s a vigil. It’s a memorial.
Three years ago today a Black woman living in the apartment complex just across from the field called the Seattle Police to report a possible burglary. She had a knife because she was scared. When the police arrived, she was killed. In front of her children.
No investigation of her killing has been completed. The only two people who really know what happened, the two SPD officers, are suing to keep an inquest from being completed.
This has to end.
Her name was Charleena Lyles.
Say her name.
To what end?
I find myself asking this question whenever I hear about a meditation or mindfulness program offered at companies. What is it about a program like that that gets a company to spend its resources on it? To help employees be more mindful? Mindful of what exactly? I remember reading somewhere the idea that if those programs were really effective, it would likely lead people to quitting their jobs as they become more mindful of the ways that they are living — or, most likely, not living — their lives.
I wonder what happens if we dig down into things like this, what do we find? What is the ultimate purpose of these kinds of initiatives?
Right now, the world over, companies are likely thinking about and looking at their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. I find myself wondering this — to what end? What are they about? Really? What should they be about? And would you make them about that even if there is no proven financial benefit for the company?
What is that should? It’s this: DEI initiatives should be about the liberation of non-white peoples, as well as other groups that are not part of our ‘societal norm’. In this current moment, we are focused on Black people and their ongoing struggle against anti-Black racism and oppression in this country. But we have to remember the oppression of Indigenous peoples, as well as other People of Color. In addition, we have to remember LGBTQIA people. The differently abled. The list could go on, but I think the point is made.
One other thing: DEI initiatives should not be initiatives. They should be practices that get baked into culture. In a recent episode of On Being with Krista Tippet, Resmaa Menakem talks about diversity. “Diversity from what?” he asks. We need to be able to answer this question, and we can’t do that if we are simply implementing initiatives.
There’s a lot more to say here, but I’ll leave it there. Rather, I’ll leave it with the question I began. We march. We scream. We post on social media. To what end?
What is it that you want to see, my friends? I know what I want to see.
We thought the pandemic would define the era
And it could; but we must not let it. Indeed, the pandemic is massive. It’s a huge event that is having impacts around the world the will echo for years — decades — do come. That said, I think the frame we need to see emerge is that the pandemic became the context in which the defining moment of our era emerged. The moment that white supremacy was laid to rest.
Who could have imagined as we began to realize the impact of COVID-19 on our society that we would be confronted with the brutality of white supremacy on Black bodies so directly? I suspect that Black communities could have predicted this. I know I didn’t. That said, here we are. It’s right in front of us. Our job is clear.
Stand with Black communities. #BlackLivesMatter
Donate to Black organizations.
Buy from Black owned business.
Read Black authors.
Get to work.
On being lonely
I’ve been facilitating a men’s group since around the beginning of the pandemic. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started it. I just felt called. It’s turned into something that I really appreciate. Something that I love.
One of the things that I’ve been struck by is just how alone people can feel. It’s a feeling that I’m all too familiar with. I’m reminded of the lyrics from the Michael Franti and Spearhead song Stay Human:
Starvation is the creation of the devil, a rebel
I’m bringin’ food to the people like a widow
Bringin’ flowers to a grave in the middle
Of the city isolation is a riddle
To be surrounded by a million other people
But to feel alone like a tree in a desert
Dried up like the skin of a lizard
But full of color like the spots of a leopard
Drum and bass pull me in like a shepherd
Scratch my itch like a needle on a record
Full of life like a man gone to Mecca
Sky high like an eagle up soaring
I speak low but I’m like a lion roaring
Baritone like a Robeson recordin’
I’m givin’ thanks for bein’ human every morning
(Emphasis mine. I couldn’t just pull those lines…the full verse is amazing).
I remember when I first heard this song, maybe 20 years ago. It was at a time when I really felt what it was saying — how can I feel so alone among so many? Flash forward to today, to social isolation. I imagine we are going to face a different kind of crisis in our society as more and more come to terms with just how alone they feel in the midst of this pandemic.
Hosting the men’s group is a small act I can do to try and alleviate that feeling for at least a few men. If that’s you, join us. If it’s someone in your life, send them our way.
Regardless, reach. Let’s walk with each other through this.
What there is to listen to
I began learning a number of years ago that information can be shared and received in more ways than verbally or with written language. We share and receive information through our bodies, through our feelings, and through the way we show up in a space. Learning to listen to more than words is critical. Learning to listen to what isn’t being discussed — information shared and received through silence. Learning to listen to the reactions we have to information — reactions that live in our (physical and our emotional) bodies. Learning to listen to what comes to us as images, movements, (non-verbal) sounds. Art, dance, expression.
Listen. Listen closely.