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May They STOP and Find Healing

Today is hard. Gentleness and love to all the women and all the souls who are also feeling that. I’m at the laundromat and there is a man that has a t-shirt on that says “Only YES means YES”. It’s striking to me how much it affects my nervous system to see a man walking around with a statement about consent and against sexual violence.

May we be evolving as a human race, may compassion and justice seep deeper into our practice of being human, may those that are wounded in such ways that they cause harm and use acts of violence and abuse of power STOP and find healing. May we grow in our abilities to be in loving, intimate and respectful relationships.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Heroic

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Under the Veil With My Tender Heart

There is a tendency inside of me to feel responsible for the world, responsible for the well-being of others. If I can see someone suffering, if I can feel the presence of sorrow, if I can recognize that injustice or unfairness or cruelty is happening, I feel a sense of responsibility to “do something” — I am able to respond, response-able, and thus a feeling arises in me that it is my obligation to act. Easily I can deny my own feelings or needs, ignore internal voices that are looking out for my own well-being, and invest all of my energy into this perceived need that I see “out there” in another person or situation. Or… if I choose not to act, I can get caught in a spiral of guilt, fear, worry and concern that my actions or lack of actions are causing further harm to another. I can completely exhaust and deplete myself with these tendencies, with this inclination to jump out of my own skin and over-prioritize my perception of the needs of others. I used to think this pattern in me was compassion. I am growing in my ability to see that it is actually an unhealthy habit that is self-centered, toxic, and codependent behavior.

This year I have invested a great deal of energy and attention into my own healing. I am growing in my ability to stay rooted in myself, listening to my own body and my own needs while also sensing what is going on around me and with others. I’m making choices about how to act that keep my well-being in the equation and aren’t reactions to some self-imposed mandate. I am learning how to not give more than I have and how to not act from a place of pity, guilt, or that unhealthy flavor of “you have to…”. Often I am still confused when discerning between healthy human family obligations and unhealthy codependent perceived obligations. This is one of my learning journeys. And I feel my boundaries and discernment ripening.

My Mid-Life Labyrinth

This has been a huge focus of the 40th year of my life. I was initiated into my 40’s with a powerful and sacred full solar eclipse that moved me to my core, returned me to my core, spun magic and awe and love all around me, and tossed me into life like a shooting star, aware of my trail of light and clear that I was on this journey with many other light beings. I was hopeful for the alignment that would unfold in me in the coming year. I had dreams of me glowing in my body, strong in my big-hearted, bright-eyed, wise sense of self, and vibrant with the flow of connections weaving between me, the people I love, the places I live, and the work in the world I am doing. I was committed to this journey… as I often am at the beginning of a cycle.

As I near completing another spin around the sun, reflecting on where I am now and where my soul and psyche have traveled this past year, it seems like I’ve been walking my mid-life labyrinth. I’ve had stretches of joy and celebration where I feel aligned and focused, and I’ve had stretches of depression and darkness where the sparkle in life has faded and the depths of personal and societal work has drained me. It’s been both an orienting and disorienting year.

Today I find myself in a familiar and yet possibly an unfamiliar place. There is a dark and shadowy pit of insecurity, self-doubt, stories of inadequacy and lack, and beliefs of scarcity that I know all too well that is close by. A magnet that pulls at me, whispers tales of failure and self-deprecation, and fills me with dark, negative images of myself. So much energy is required to counterbalance this force. As I said, it’s familiar. Yet today I find myself thinking that perhaps it’s a situation of “two steps forward, one step back.” I imagine the terrain I travel is a spiral, spinning towards wholeness, evolving and devolving on a windy road that ultimately takes me home to myself and my purpose. I know that I am aligned with my North Star and the universe gives me signs, though I don’t always understand them. This latest return to the shadows has arrived after an incredibly intense gift from the most holy.

Divinely Protected

Two weeks ago I felt the most divinely protected that I have in a long time. Driving 70 miles on the highway, in a state of bliss and celebration as I traveled to experience a birthday gift I’d bought myself, tickets to see Janelle Monae in Charlotte. I lost control of my car, skid for 384 feet (longer than a football field), spun around, hit the guardrail, skid backwards another 61 feet, and stopped on the right hand side of the road, snug against the guardrail, facing oncoming traffic. Once the car was stopped, the clearest memory for me is the perception of, “Holy shit. I think I’m okay. I know I’m in shock, so don’t believe my thoughts. But I really think I’m okay. I am protected. Gratitude.” I recall the moment of heading straight for the guardrail, recognizing that “this could be it,” feeling a sense that I may die or be seriously damaged by the impact about to take place. Then the next thing I remember is the car stopping and my recognition that I think I’m okay.

The highest priority for me this last year has been my spiritual practice: Deepening my sense of faith and trust, strengthening my partnership with forces unseen, settling into myself, breath, acceptance and finding new connections and life-threads. I always pray before leaving for trips, but that day my prayers lasted longer than expected. I imagined it was because of the goodness of the gift of my pleasure and joy I was giving myself for my birthday. I did not realize it was genuinely connected to the gift of life that was being given to me.

The Drive to Keep Going

Thanks to my dearest friend and family who drove out to meet me, check-in that I was really okay, and swapped cars with me, I still went and danced and glowed with Janelle Monae and another dear friend and family. With only mild pain in my neck and head and a couple of commitments that I felt I needed to keep, I “pushed through” for another week… mildly listening to my body. One week after the incident, I had time to pause and stop, to recognize that I actually needed a lot more of that, likely had a mild concussion, needed rest and restoration, and so slowed way down.

And then… the shadow cloud moved in. I had been feeling that I was taking steps forward in many areas of my life, but that I was just on the edge. It was requiring a lot of effort to keep the hustle moving forward. With this mandate to slow down and listen to an aching body that also needed to rest and go slow, doubts and uncertainties and stories of “see what you’re NOT doing, see how you’re NOT living the world you dream of, see how you haven’t brought to life what you’ve been working towards” came flooding in.

I Am a Work in Progress

So I’m in a familiar place, and I’m not. Tears return with a smile right now. I still have so much to learn in regards to how to genuinely listen to myself, listen to and nourish my body, trust in the patterns and cycles of the universe, and show up for my purpose here on this Earth in ways that are enlivening for the world around me and the world within me. Once again, my body is speaking to me and it feels like a foreign language… clearly a language meant to reach me, but one I’m not sure how to understand. Once again, she says, “I get that this is hard for you, and you must give it your attention.

And while the dark shadow threatens to cloud my view, I recognize it for what it is. I see it’s familiar neural pathways in my existence, and I also have the strength and insight to not indulge it (or catch myself when I am). A taste of its presence comes accompanied with the reminder that this is a habit, pattern, it’s familiar and not the full truth. I am so much more than the stories it whispers to me. I can recognize its presence and yet not indulge its desire to settle into me. I can feel that it is close while also staying connected to life-giving sources that nourish and inspire me, that allow me to dance with the sparkle in life, I do not have to be shaded by life-draining habits of my psychology.

So, here I am, walking vulnerably on this path of life. Marveling at the labyrinth of the year I was 40 and curious about where I am going on this journey, which souls I will partner with as I continue to live forward my purpose, and what we will bring to life. I am so grateful for those who are on the journey with me now, living and weaving love to the fullest of our capacities. Thank you for reading my tender storytelling and heart sharing. And if it feels right for you, please join me in offering a prayer for me and for you — May we shine with the light of our souls, radiant in and devoted to our purpose here on Earth, loved, supported, protected, and divinely guided. Thank you.

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The Horrid History of Convict Leasing

In 1865 the 13th amendment abolished slavery except as punishment for someone convicted of a crime . The crimes that people were convicted of were ridiculous (being recently “freed” from slavery, but arrested and convicted for not yet having found employment). So convict leasing as a form of slavery continued. And basically still exists. If you don’t understand this point in history, I highly recommend educating yourself. It is critical to understanding the present moment and recognizing how much of this country was literally built by enslaved Africans and African Americans. This recent finding in the article below also further illustrates the lengths those with power have gone to in order to hide and obscure the truth of this practice and the treatment of people.

From the article: Bodies believed to be those of 95 black forced-labor prisoners from Jim Crow era unearthed in Sugar Land

” The convict-leasing system proliferated across the south in the late 19th century and into the 20th, overwhelmingly targeting black Americans picked up for offenses such as vagrancy, flirting with white women or petty theft, as historian Douglas A. Blackmon reported in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Slavery by Another Name.” The prisoners were then leased by the state to private businessmen and forced to work on plantations, in coal mines and railroads, or on other state projects — such as building the entire Texas Capitol building from scratch.

When the state leased convicts out to private contractors, they had no financial interest in the health or welfare of the people working for them,” said W. Caleb McDaniel, a history professor at Rice University in Houston. “And so the convict-leasing system saw extremely high levels of mortality and sickness under convict lessees. If the prisoner died, they would simply go back to the state and say, ‘You owe us another prisoner.’ ”

From sunup to sundown, convicts who were leased by the state to plantation owners toiled in the fields chopping sugar cane sometimes until they “dropped dead in their tracks,” as the State Convention of Colored Men of Texas complained in 1883.

Reginald Moore, started researching Sugar Land’s slavery and convict-leasing history after spending time working as a prison guard at one of Texas’s oldest prisons, and his curiosity intensified. He had a hunch. Based on what he learned, he believed that the bodies of former slaves and black prisoners were still buried in Sugar Land’s backyard.

For 19 years, he searched for their bodies, stopping just short of sticking a shovel in the dirt himself.

At the former Imperial State Prison Farm site, archaeologists have unearthed an entire plot of precise rectangular graves for 95 souls, each buried two to five feet beneath the soil in nearly disintegrated pinewood caskets. The 19th-century cemetery was unmarked, with no vestige of its existence visible from the surface.

But more crucially, he said, it vindicates the prisoners whose backbreaking work helped rebuild the state of Texas in the ruins of the post-Civil War era without so much as a proper burial to acknowledge their contributions.

“This is a completely rare site. It’s going to change how we think about Texas history and how we think about ourselves and how we built this state, how all of us built this state.”

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Processing: Who Does the Heavy Lifting

We sit in the chairs to get educated.

Attentive. Being a good student. Listening for what we can learn.
Giving up a whole day of our busy lives — because we know this is important.

Truths revealed. Layers of our privilege glaring before us, for us to see.
Asked again and again — where is your empathy?
Perhaps some words land in a particular way,
And we allow our hearts to break.
Shame, sorrow, rage, confusion.
We feel the tremble in our own bodies.
How can this be? This is not right.

And then what?
We go back to our homes. Back to our lives.
Perhaps we think about — What can I do? What will I do?
Perhaps we make commitments, tell others to hold us accountable.
We process what we’ve heard.
Perhaps the intensity of listening and actually hearing is too much and we run away,
escape into the comfort of our familiar, into the ease of our peace.

Meanwhile. For those for whom these realities are their every breathing moment reality —
Where is the rest? Where is the escape? Where is the return to “my life”? Who fills in when they need a pause?

The hustle continues. Trying to provide safe spaces for youth continues. Alternatives to the streets, the guns, the violence. Alternatives to the classrooms and the spaces for leisure, where adult and peer eyes look at these teenagers and young people and believe they are lesser, up to no good, not as smart, not on a path to a bright future, believe that their parents don’t care. Hustling to create alternatives to narrow views of what their future could be. Alternatives to always having to live in the hustle.

These leaders are providing opportunities for young people to experience the joys and pleasures that life can offer. The youth have an opportunity to feel someone who is glowing with pride and appreciation for their existence, for the unique humans that they are. The youth feel the hearts of those who believe in them, who sacrifice everything they have towards the hope of their brighter future. Youth get to experience opportunities to learn relevant life skills, to grow networks of people who want to lift one another up. They provide space for laughing. Dancing. Playing. Smiling.

And then the late night hours, morning news… 12-year-old killed, 18-year-old suffering from gunshot wounds. Futures pierced with the bullets of a moment’s reality. Hope for tomorrow disrupted by the corruption of today.

And again — who is present to deal with the trauma as it is unfolding. Who feels the response-ability, the obligation to be part of the solution. And who sits civilly. In our chairs. Listening. Emotion-filled, but paralyzed in our bodies. How long have we been sitting in our chairs, at our desk, running errands, staying busy… and yet…

Today, July 1st, 2018, in Asheville, North Carolina — People of Color are absolutely disproportionately carrying the weight of leading actual change in this city. They are absolutely doing the majority of the heavy lifting to bring about more safety, fairness, justice and morality in our city. They are doing the physical and emotional labor of caring for one another in a city that is ready and willing to leave people to suffer and even die rather than actually change. They are creating spaces where we — liberal white women, progressive white men, social change oriented white folks — sit civilly, listen, and perhaps even feel. Sometimes we see that we are needed and we step in with them. Usually, if we get involved, we hang around the edges or yell loudly in inappropriate places. There are too few of us who get our hands dirty, follow their lead, and use our own deep listening and discernment to recognize what is helpful and what is more harmful.

Is today the day that one more person sees that our own life and freedom and peace and comfort is actually bound to the life and freedom and peace and comfort of others? Is today the day that more of us feel the obligation to be a part of the solutions instead of sitting by silently, or only speaking up on facebook or twitter or showing up at a rally once every few months?

It is summer time. Violent crime is on the rise in this city. Police officers can harass and beat residents on camera and still be found as innocent. Community leaders are busting their asses to try and create different realities, to try and find solutions, while being the ones leading the efforts to implement those solutions AND educate the rest of us about why what they are doing is essential and necessary. Meanwhile, they work fulltime jobs and care for their own immediate and extended families.

Are we ready to get organized as a city and make significant changes that cultivate greater care and support for one another and assertively address the oppressive and discriminatory systems that are in place?

Those who are vulnerable because of the racist, classist, and oppressive systems that this country is built up need all of us to be involved. Those of us that are privileged, detached from our capacities to empathize and connect with a greater whole and humanity, our well-being requires our involvement too.

The local is the regional is the national is the global. We can build strong networks of mutual support, resilience, and evolutionary action. There is a unique role that we each have to play. This is a massive puzzle, a huge ecosystem, and each of us have something different to contribute — what’s yours to do? What’s yours to contribute?

For me, in this moment, I had to write. The urgency to want to act and yet not clear what will best serve finds an outlet in words. And with these words is prayer, my own effort to extend my hand in a gesture of “please join me”, a prayer that perhaps one person reading will feel a new spark in their heart that says  — “Yes. I’m ready now. Let’s get to work. I will be part of the change.” And prayers for peace to those that are suffering, courage and protection for those that are leading towards different realities, and prayers for the web of our connections to strengthen so that we may be collectively more effective.

And to keep it vulnerable and transparent, today I also sit with my own personal conflict — my emotions are swept by this reality and so I’m not as available to loved ones today in the ways that I had planned to be. I’m preparing for 6 days away with family, and yet I feel that organizing and activation is so needed right now. I’m nervous about the time away when I’ll feel this need to pretend to enjoy this particular holiday season that makes me cringe… and yet the loved ones gathering mean the world to me. And I’m sitting with my white woman tendencies that feel an urgency to act — like I should be doing more now.

Breathing. Prayer. One step at a time. And LISTENING DEEPLY — to the spiritual guidance that I receive and to the guidance from those I am in community with. This is why I invest in growing strong and trusting relationships.

Thank you for reading.

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Strategies to Reduce Stress

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Research shows six major strategies for mitigating stress: sleep, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, mental health care, and healthy relationships.”

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Loving Parents Empowering Powerful Transgender Children

We humans are so powerful when we get to be whole… to be who we are. ?

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Creativity is Essential

ExpressiveArtsIrelandThis morning I was feeling in my body the absence of creative projects that integrate my activism, anger, passion and imagination into creative outlets. I want theater, street art, creative video/photo/journalism projects, “meetings” where we don’t just talk but we enact and play with this BS in embodied ways, imagining creative solutions forward in non-linear ways. I need more fun and creativity in the movement.

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