The elections that took place this week in Virginia provided interesting insight into the willingness of people to step up and fight against an administration that is incredibly destructive and bullish in its supremely profit driven efforts. Though i am critical of even democrats, the limiting 2-party system and broader systemic forces that perpetuate exploitation of people and nature, it was refreshing to see every day people step up and run for local and state office...people with real problems, who deal (have dealt) with various kinds of loss and hardship, but who also hold hope for the future and see themselves and what they do now as critical to that future. They saw themselves as part of necessary solutions.
This is my reflection for today: What am i doing now that is part of the solution for the future?
In August i had the privilege of spending time with folks in the Gulf South Rising Initiative in the lead up to and during the week of action. At the same time, i was reading what proved to be a very difficult and painful book (The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism) as part of my research for an upcoming book from the University of Kmt Press. The reminders of the brutal birth and development of capitalism and the social relations reflected in this social system and the intergenerational memories conjured up by walking in some of the same places where human beings were bought/sold and worked to death made it difficult to write. As the days turned to weeks, i lost momentum to keep this blog up to date.
However a new set of circumstances and recent developments are pushing me to get a bit more serious about this forum. Before introducing the new, i will take this opportunity to post some reflections i wrote back in August of my time in New Orleans.
This past week has been very busy and next week will get even more hectic as i an many others begin to converge in the Gulf South for a week of action and events that aim to remember and honor the lives of those lost in Hurricane Katrina - and the related struggles before and after - and celebrate those who made it through.
Making it through. Surviving.
We are in a moment characterized by fights for survival - which we know to be not quite enough to change the conditions of our lives - coupled with visions and a thrust for something different; a society that is more just, better than what we now have. Around the country efforts are happening on multiple levels simultaneously, though not yet connected in ways that carry the kind of momentum needed to really turn the tide. But that is merely a matter of time.
I recently read a blog post by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute in which she articulated some of the seemingly contradictory internal responses, thoughts, reflections she felt in the midst of so much good and bad that is happening in the world. Her post, coupled with all the information overload, tragedy and work over the past week and before inspired me to pull out a book that a small team of us published last year and re-read to center myself. And to remind myself that this too shall pass. In the midst of chaos and upheaval, when people are overwhelmed or just dealing with a lot at one time, many turn to religion or some sort of moral system for grounding and/or to help them navigate the storms, seeking the best or appropriate path forward. So much of what we seek outside ourselves already resides within; we just have to discover it. And it is helpful to remember that the only constant in the universe is change. The economic system under which we live for example - the cause of extreme wealth for a few at the expense of the majority of the world's population and the health of the earth - was born only a couple of hundred years ago and will at some point give way to something else.
In meditation this morning, a question came to mind that has been with me all day:
Are you on your path?
Of course! i thought. But as it goes, often the simplest questions are layered with the potential to offer the most significant lessons. So rather than getting on with my day, filling it with a checklist of things, i paused to reflect. I paused to allow myself to peel back the layers of what it means to be on my path, what it entails, what is required and the implications outside myself.
Being on a (my) path means that i have a general sense of the impact i want to make and how i want to show up in and with my family and community. And in the course of doing this, i am guided by a general set of principles that include reciprocity, justice, kindness and compassion, propriety and so on. My questions to you are: What did you come to this earth to do in your lifetime? What do you see as your destiny? What is the impact you want to have in the spaces you define?
Being on a (my) path entails many things, including self-reflection, a commitment to learning from my and other's mistakes, loving myself, being non-judgmental, hard work and discipline, and a willingness to be flexible. My questions to you are: What does walking on your path entail? What is your commitment, in practice, to fulfilling your destiny? How does it look on a daily basis?
Being on a (my) path requires disciplined, daily practice. Each person is different. But observation and experience has taught me that "discipline makes things easier." (Thank Dead Prez for this track).
Being on a (my) path has implications for those around me. The choices i make, the things i do, how i care for myself (or not), what i say, etc., impact those around me. And vice versa. For example, i've recently closed my facebook account as part of an effort to focus my time and energy a bit differently. This has put me and a couple of close friends and family in the position where we now have to communicate differently. There are other examples that have far more significant implications i can point to, as can you perhaps. The bottom line is that regardless of the implications, living honestly, in alignment with your heart/your highest self and moving in the direction of fulfilling your destiny is the right thing to do. Relationships and situations will change, shift, evolve as you do...sometimes that can be hard. But it won't always be.
I can look at the decisions i make and the things i do each day and say yes, all of what i do moves me in the direction of ultimately fulfilling my destiny. But if i am honest with myself, i notice that at times certain thought forms, actions and interactions create road blocks, put me on winding roads and/or make walking my path a bit more challenging. This isn't necessarily or always a bad thing, but something to notice. So for me this question of being on my path is more a question of *how* am i on my path and in what ways can i make decisions that help me to grow, learn and become a more effective spiritual warrior-healer?
Collaboratively created from Roots
& Remedies 2013 conference
Taking time to rest the body and nurture the soul is a foreign practice among many activists, grassroots organizers/leaders and folks who work hard each day to make ends meet. Self-care is often seen as a luxury that they haven't the time or resources to commit. It is also seen as a selfish, indulgent act that takes precious time away from addressing the critical needs and issues facing Black, Brown and poor communities. Taking care of onself - in the way(s) a person defines for her/him/themself - is in reality a long-term investment in the fight for justice and societal transformation. I want to highlight a couple of key things:
Self-care must be defined by each person for her/him/themself, but should always include rest. There is no shortage of studies that speak to the beneficial impacts of sleep and the harmful impacts of *not sleeping.* What may be considered other forms of care, however, vary vastly and can range from doing certain things to not doing certain things; being alone or being in community; spreading moments of care throughout the day or concentrating care in one day; fasting or indulging; and so on. Another important thing to note is that what self-care looks like one day may change another day...and that is OK. The key thing is to define what care means for you and make time to do it.
Self-care helps create the conditions in people's bodies and lives that support and sustains them in the long run. Further, as a person remains firm to the commitment of care, she/he/they sends a message to family, friends, comrades and co-workers that her/his/their well-being matters and the practices to maintain well-being should be respected. People may agree with you or not; they may support you or not. The key thing is that you institutionalize your commitment to care through consistent practice.
Having an accountability partner is often quite helpful when a person hits emotional lows, becomes especially busy and/or encounters moments when self-care gets the boot. This partner may be a friend, co-worker, family member, and/or someone with whom one crosses paths on a regular basis (at the gym, work, park, online, via email etc.). The key thing is that you are able to check in on a regular basis about your self-care practices and how you are doing.
We are living in a historical moment characterized by just in time production, immediate gratification and the expectation of immediate results. And this leaves many of us who live in communities impacted first and worst by climate change, environmental destruction, economic apartheid, etc. and many others who seek justice in this world feeling as though we must drive ourselves into the grave to bring about meaningful change. Such focus on the external, with little investment in the internal creates an imbalance. It is important to remember that we can change the world as we change ourselves. And we can change ourselves as we change the world.
Self-care. Let us recommit to making it part of our daily practice.
A few short weeks ago i had the opportunity to spend time with sisters, some whom i've known for almost 20 years and others who i only met, although their presence was intensely familiar. For the 3 days i was able to participate in the week long celebration of Denise's 40 years on this earth, we talked and laughed, shared and workshopped, exercised and yoga'd, ate and simply had a great time with one another.
There is nothing like being in a place where judgments are truly left at the door. Where showing up however i look, dress, feel is OK and i will be embraced and loved regardless. It is in these spaces that the deepest parts of the soul receive nourishment. And where one is steeled, reinforced and prepared for the ongoing work that leads us along the paths toward fulfillment of our destinies.
That experience - those experiences - followed by time spent with one of my Mothers, my Mom, niece and nephew, as well as valuable time spent alone in meditation and reflection in the quiet of my home inspired me to begin writing in this venue again.
A lot has transpired in the almost 2 years that this blog has sat in dormancy. My hope in this moment is that the blog will hold space for the articulation of meaningful thoughts, insights, analyses and reflections on a variety of topics from a philosophical and spiritual orientation.