Stillness in Action
This blog was initially written July 25, 2016. An addendum dated Sept. 21, 2016 follows.
Our thoughts and patterns and structures create our emotions and become reality.
I’ve known this truth for many years and repeatedly come back to it whenever I find myself in a place of fear, worry, anger and hopelessness. After reading headline upon headline in the past several weeks – gun violence, refugee crises, the escalating hatred and bigotry expressed during this election season – I could feeling myself swimming in those reactive thoughts and emotions once again. Thankfully I was snapped back to the truth by this image taken by Jonathon Bachman of Reuters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. More of his powerful photography can be found here on his website.
Stillness in chaos.
A different emotion and reaction, a different reality than the pervasive norm. A purposeful movement toward solid inner calm. I saw this image and I remembered that it is possible to react and learn and teach and elicit real change – to live – from this place of profound calm.
What was keeping me from this beautiful place of brave stillness? What thoughts was I carrying or sharing with the world that were contributing to the chaos? Fear of violence, worry for the lives of people I love, anger at those who choose to blame and discount, hopelessness that the fears and injustices are all too ingrained in us – ALL of us – for any change to occur and any efforts to be worth it. Limiting thoughts and emotions that serve no one.
What could I carry instead? Understanding of the structures and systems that are so much a part of my everyday that they aren’t always clear. Hope that we can make the enormous shifts needed to come together. Compassion for all – ALL of us – as we unravel our belief structures and reweave them in new ways with each other. “We are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness,” says Thich Nhat Hanh, peace activist and Buddhist monk.
So I have set about with an even deeper intention to continue shifting my thoughts, the building blocks of these, my intended emotions. For me, I am starting with understanding the structures and systems. This means seeing patterns, seeing history, understanding the whys. Educating myself outside of the means with which I’ve done so in the past because this learning requires a new brain and heart, an unfamiliar and uncomfortable curve, learning about biases and history to which I have always been empathetic, but have never personally known. Allowing the truths of others to become a part of my knowing so much so that I can speak and listen, both without judgment and with integrity, as well as with the ability to discern when to do which.
In the event you are interested in knowing what this purposeful learning has been and is for me – this intentional movement away from fear and toward calm action – here are a few of the things I’ve found helpful. I hope you share with me your own learnings and openings, as this is a modest beginning of a list.
- Te Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me. Beautiful, thick prose that I read and reread slowly to fully take in. Anytime someone tells their story so honestly, bringing me into their world, my heart opens to a new layer of understanding.
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I’m only on page 55, but am stunned at how little I know about America’s Great Migration – its whys and its impact on past and current events; the fears that created the injustices, both of which are so ingrained in all of us.
- White People Do’s and Don’ts Facebook group – You have to be accepted to this group as it is a safe place for discussion on ways to act in solidarity with People of Color. I have learned so much by reading (listening to) these posts – sometimes painful and angry, always informative. Something I more than likely would have shut out in the past in an effort to not offend, but realize now how critical it is to listen and allow and hear. It has given me much practice in the art of seeking profound calm in the middle of painful realities.
- Innumerable TED talks. Here is a great list that helped me a lot. Again, great practice in staying open to new thoughts, new truths from those who tell their stories, and allowing the emotion , discussions, and realities to shift as a result.
- Poetry speaks to me. If it speaks to you too, then you might like this list that SoulPancake provided a month ago or so. Also, this and this poem are powerful for me.
I will continue to add to this list as more resources flow in.
ADDENDUM – Sept 21, 2016
I wrote and posted a blog several weeks ago entitled ‘Stillness in Chaos’ – above. That title felt right at the time. However, I’ve experienced more learning in the time since, and witnessed so many more inequities and injustices in the form of police shootings and protest outrages. Because of this, I’ve pumped it back up to the top of my blog feed and renamed it – ‘Stillness in Action’. It’s still Stillness – of heart, of mind – a place of profound calm from which to move into the world. This place is good, yes? But leaving it at Chaos felt unfinished when I went back to it. It was missing Action. I alluded to it and felt pretty bold to put it out there in that moment, but now it doesn’t feel bold enough. And so, Take Two!
So what is this bold Action I feel we need to take? We have got to get this. We simply have to come together and heal this longstanding wrong. We have got to understand that we are all part of this chaos. Every single one of us. We have to stop denying and ignoring, judging and justifying, getting indignant and self righteous. We have to ward off complacency and the idea that this is ‘just how it is’.
People of Color (POC) are hurting here. Real people are hurting. And from their hurt arises anger and frustration and feeling scared and at a loss of what to do differently to change it in order to keep their children safe. Their children. My mother’s heart simply aches. My human heart is breaking with and for them. We are bound together in this – POC and non-POC. All of our hearts need to be hurting – together.
WE (primarily non-POC) need to help change this. The root of the word ‘responsibility’ is the ‘ability to respond’. We have that ability. We have that responsibility. We need to change ourselves so we can be present in a new way – get still and open and HONEST and aware so we can be part of the healing.
We need to be healers.
And so, some things I’ve recently come upon in my search to learn more and open wider are listed below. Maybe they’ll resonate with you (and by ‘resonate’ I don’t mean agree with or feel comfortable with, but rather that they make you feel something that upends your structures, your place in the world. That’s when you know you’re into the good stuff that will shift things, enable you to heal, embolden you to take action – speak up, share, listen. And through it all – keep your heart open.)
- Let’s start with the mothers. Google ‘The Mothers of the Movement and see where it takes you. Learn about these women who lost their children to gun violence and have now come together in their profound grief to open our hearts and bring us along on their now-teaching path. Here’s a start: https://www.google.com/webhp…
- Shaun King is the senior justice writer for the NY Daily News and a prominent voice in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. His FB page is filled with truths, stories, opinions, ideas. Some may make you uncomfortable. This is good. That’s when you know you’ve hit the sweet spot in learning. You can Like his page or sign up for his newsletter right from it.https://www.facebook.com/shaunking/
- There are a lot of articles, videos, posts that explain the intention of Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest of the National Anthem. I suggest reading through them with the intent of just trying to understand another human’s experience, another angle or perspective on something you feel you already have a good, solid understanding of. You can ultimately keep your own perspective and opinion, but open to another experience. This is just one to get started: http://ftw.usatoday.com/…/colin-kaepernick-racism-social-in…
- Glennon Doyle Melton is an author and speaker, active in social justice with a focus on supporting the world’s children through Together Rising. She wrote this blog a year ago that I thought was super helpful in understanding how we can be kind and loving individuals and still be prejudiced, thus contributing to the chaos rather than healing it. I honestly used to think I couldn’t be both and so defaulted to the ‘kind, loving’ part and ignored the ‘prejudiced’. “When we know better, we do better.”~Maya Angelou
- At the end of her blog, she recommends a book called Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria. It’s been on my ‘next to read’ list for awhile. If you’re going to read it, let me know. We can talk about it.https://smile.amazon.com/Black-Kids-Sitting-T…/…/ref=sr_1_1…
- I’m still working my way through The Warmth of Other Suns – also strongly recommended (and possibly should be required reading.) I’m usually a speedy reader, but this one is full of info that is making my mind explode and readjust what is my center of knowing. Again, if you’re reading it, let’s talk. https://smile.amazon.com/Warmth-Other-Suns-Am…/…/ref=sr_1_1…
There are more resources listed in my blog and even more on Facebook and at the library. The internet is an amazing web of connections. One resource quite literally leads to another. Take that winding path for awhile and see what you find. Then share it with me here and tell your friends to read it and then go find more.
We’re not done walking this learning, healing path until POC say we are. Period.
[This writing is no doubt riddled with missteps and all sorts of things I’ll cringe at when I learn more, but for now, I’m taking the chance that speaking up awkwardly and emotionally from my wide open heart is better than waiting until it’s all perfect. There’s learning in the action. Thanks for understanding and please let me know what I’ve done wrong or worded incorrectly so I can get clear and correct it.]