Help bring back the world

Impeachment Redux: the House has impeached the sitting President a second time -

– a necessary and insufficient action to rectify events, the extent of which will not be even known to us for some time. So it is up to us to answer this question posed by Kansas-born poet William Stafford, a conscientious objector during World War II. Because whatever we have been doing and not doing up to now as humans has not been enough.

Read this not as how do we restore some imagined glory days, but as – how do we bring back life, vibrant life, love, and valor among and between human beings?  What virtues will we cultivate? How will we build character? What will we use as a compass?

Putting aside even these sometimes helpful constructs, how are we listening to the moment? As I write, our elected representatives in the House have been cramming their words, hopes, fears, wisdom and foolishness into 30-second increments in which they may hold forth, or yield to a colleague.

How are we holding this rhetoric, as this selected/elected group attempts to connect or cloud cause and effect, to draw a boundary between unquestionable incitement and damnable but not impeachable behavior? Will the Lost Cause of the American Civil War gain new life or immanent death now that its flag has been waved in the US Capitol?

Meanwhile I feel like I am sweeping up broken glass.

I am punctured over and over again, bleeding bright red in spite of voting blue. I find little slivers everywhere, as I search for emerging kindnesses, bits of order, the right words, the right actions.  I am calmed by the rock pictured above, that fits comfortably if roughly in the palm of my hand.

In this rock, I have the gift of holding deep time in my hand

Last night I received this granite emissary of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque from my good friend and geologist-writer Deb Green. Today I asked her to share its significance with our online practice group. She said the rock, as it sits on its flat side – as it does in the banner photo – is in both the shape and color of these mountains. You can see the salmon pink of orthoclase feldspar, the green of epidote, and shining specks of mica among the quartz and other minerals, colors true to “Sandia” (Spanish for “watermelon.”)

Deb had been sitting for meditation on a boulder. Tapping its edge as she rose, this chunk fell off in her hand, “because it was weathering in place.” She went on to describe how this really hard rock that had built a whole mountain range had, through countless freeze and thaw cycles, fractured and broken off so easily. 

The rock is some 1.3 – 1.4 billion years old. The “deep time” embodied in these rocks, she said, renders her insignificant in the scheme of things, and simultaneously frees her “to go for” what she is here for on this earth, at this moment.

A few minutes later another group member questioned, how do we get through to people who seem as solid as boulders impervious to change, who hold so tightly to a view of the world that is anathema to us?

Here’s what has come to me, some hours later.

We may not ever “get through” to them.

Maybe, just maybe, we can enter into relationship with some of them.

First, we restrain them.

This is what I devoutly pray will result from impeachment and whatever other additional legal means we have at hand to effectively restrain acts of domestic insanity and terrorism, including the fomenting of hatred in word or deed and the use of casual threat. This can work only as civilian and military policing, prosecutors, judges and jurors each come to their own deep moments of reckoning with Whiteness. This will take long, but not long enough to register as deep time.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

When I hear a false equivalency used to justify or normalize the sitting President’s words and behaviors, I know to listen for the grains of truth that are there, especially the ones that ping “true” for me in my own thoughts and actions.

And then, we melt. Um, our enemies? Ourselves? A bit of each?

The word “MELT” came into my mind, all CAPS,  an oversized billboard. And, frankly, this act remains aspirational,  a level of holy human action and courage still beyond me. I just don’t have the heart, “le coeur” for it.

So I come back to William Stafford’s answer to his own question, and this has to do me for now:

What can a person do to help

bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.

Together we hold it close and carefully

save it, like a bubble that can disappear

if we don’t watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breath on the world.

Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings

roll along, watch how they open and close, how they

invite you to the long party that your life is.

A New Year’s Eve view of the world

On New Year’s Eve: a view of the world from the red house in the middle of the block

With 36 odd hours left in the year 2020, I am of a mind that way too many words have already been written about it. It’s still too hard, too close, too rich with learning and loss, gaslighting and distortions for me to try to sum it up. I need a longer arc of time to look back on it.

Looking ahead is equally perplexing. I’m making some plans, setting some intentions – and resolved that my plans not make me. Agility, even more than  resilience, is what I am looking to cultivate to meet the many unknowns. I am wary of another round of decision-making exhaustion of the sort that pervaded the early weeks and months of Life under Pandemic. I anticipate some version of returning to weighing the pros and cons of every outing or errand that needs to be run – once (if?) widespread vaccination and economic engines open life up in ways we can envision only through mask-fogged glasses and brains.

It’s been a no-brainer, and part of my privileged life, to pretty much confine myself to home and my walking neighborhood of perhaps six square blocks, since April.

I’ve encountered such wonders as a flock of yard flamingos, a colony of frogs in a variety of yoga poses, chalk drawings in the street, families out walking together with and without dogs, and a Sacred Datura plant anchoring the front corner of a neighbor’s yard.  I would have said that I live in a pretty much all-white neighborhood. Instead I have been pleasantly surprised to exchange greetings with many multiracial families.

My neighborhood has two styles of homes, all built in the late 1920’s. So far my husband and I are “aging in place.” It’s not just our home of 36 years. It’s the neighborhood that feels like home – the old trees – especially the sycamores –  the surviving drug store with soda fountain, a library, an old movie palace. 

Oh – and the best – one neighbor who has for years taken his mellow guitar practice outside during all the warm seasons: a neighborhood playlist. And another who has been securing our recycling barrel in the bed of his pick-up every week since Covid-19 worker illness shut down Baltimore’s curbside recycling in September.

So I was shocked to realize, as I prepared to lead a workshop on unconscious bias for residents from my and adjoining neighborhoods, that the role of “neighbor” has become a pretty weak part of my identity. Yes, I just delivered my seasonally home-made gingerbread up and down my block. Still, it seems like I have largely “aged out” of being a neighbor since having school-age kids in the house. And since aging out of the snow-shoveling gang that used to assemble from up and down our block to dig out cars and make the street passable as we last did in January, 2016 (see banner photo!)

I got to thinking how every neighborhood has its Rules for Living and belonging.

Some of these rules may be explicit – as in covenants. Others implicit yet baked into a neighborhood’s culture. How formal? How friendly? How distant? How quiet? And all of these rules are shaped by racialized and gendered histories  f wealth, property, ownership, financing – and by our own perceptions and behaviors.

I thought about “neighborliness.”

What does it mean to “neighbor”? - making “neighbor” into a verb for the moment.

When and how do I offer help, a suggestion, an invitation?

When and how do I inquire, speak up, step forward, step back, “mind my own business”?

What behaviors tell me “I belong” – or that I am stretching or testing the limits of belonging?

How do I treat property boundaries? 

Are there activities or toys or amenities – tomato and squash vines, for example that I believe “belong” in back yards not in front yards?

How about the aesthetics of holiday decorations? displays of the American flag, which has been so effectively appropriated by a certain brand of patriot? the Rainbow flag? the Earth flag? – unquestionably “my” people. And signs. Campaign signs, Graduating- Class-from-Home 2020 class signs, #Blacklivesmatter signs?

And the real clincher: what do I do when I see someone who is “a stranger” to me? When can I trust that calling the police is 1) warranted and 2) won’t lead to a terrible outcome?

So I am leaving/entering the year sitting with these questions:

How will I “neighbor”  in my neighborhood?

How will I think globally and act locally?

 

And how will I “neighbor” in the wider world – Baltimore? America? the world?             How will I also think locally – as in you, and you, and you – are my neighbors                       as I act globally?

How about you?

P.S May we leave behind our shattered exceptionalistic illusions, including “We’re better than this.” 

And may we seize every opportunity to reshape our consciousness and our world.

_______________________________________

SPECIAL OFFER THROUGH JANUARY 18:  start off the New Year with a fresh way to engage with racial and gender inequities and injustice in your personal and/or professional life. Six 1/1 sessions of Radical Inclusion Practice.  20% discount  with single prepayment of $675. Let’s chat: free 30 minute consult.

Winter Solstice: the dark and the light of it

Winter Solstice Blessing

On this  solstice,

marking the beginning of winter

with

the longest night,

the shortest day,

 

may you draw blessings and strengths from this season,

 

a winter like no other

after a spring, summer and fall

like no other,

a solstice unlike any since 

the 13th century,

when Jupiter and Saturn

last appeared so close together in the sky

as to be One 

Brilliant Shining.

 

even as we carry with us into this season

our losses, our grieving,

our numbness,

our fed-upness,

 

these planets invite us 

to marry beneficence and expansiveness 

with  soundness, integrity 

and nuanced discernment.

 

a season for introspection,

for restoring body and spirit,

and for savoring 

friendship,

quiet,

nourishment, 

generosity,

for seeing ourselves

among the sheer beauty of nature’s forms,

stripped as we are of all finery,

 

for attending to

the still small voice within,

the warmth of heart,

hands outstretched.

RADICAL INCLUSION PRACTICE: LEARN & TRANSFORM

FOUR OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEARNING AND TRANSFORMATION

#2 Come play with me - FREE 30 minute interactive video: GET REAL WITH RACE AND GENDER. I’ll take you through the basic practice of Radical Inclusion.

Time-sensitive: December 5-13

Get your free pass at https://sensiblewoo.podia.com/2020summitfree

Thanks to Portland diva-of-all-things-tech-and-alchemical Mary Ginger Williams, I am one of 15 “curated presenters.” Her Small & Mighty Summit features entrepreneurs who build transformational relationships with their clients and customers. Topics range from micro-habits to neuroscience, leadership to self- care. Check out my fellow-herbalist and MUIH-grad Katherine Hofmann ND’s talk on Small & Simple Strategies for Mighty Mental Health. Also Ellie Ballentine’s Magic  of Your Mindset – she has given me some very valuable coaching. 

Member of a group – colleagues, religious/spiritual buddies, readers, neighborhood or PTA who are wrestling with race and gender justice, questioning their own responsibility and capacity to nourish change, to be change?  GET IN TOUCH – and let’s talk about designing a two-hour session to meet your group’s needs (no cookie-cutter for this work!) Then I’ll send  on a full description you can share and discuss with your group. 

Some comments from workshop participants

“This is the work we need to do and what will shift things if we can do it.”

“This practice activates my heart.”

“Found the given exercises very useful and practical.”

“I came aware with clarity around where I am… and a plan for moving forward.”

“This program has opened the door to the possibility of healing 

my inner divisions, judgement, and shame.”

“…a container for deep, nuanced work.” 

#4 Check out Radical Inclusion Practice Immersion:

uncover and harness unconscious bias

New cohort group forming for a 4-week course to begin in mid-January.

Ready to go to your working edge with race and gender in 2021? 

  • Begin to notice your habits of seeing and making meaning of events.
  • Nourish curiosity and  empathy.
  • Gain freedom to act from a place of inclusion, to be inclusionary.
  • Learn to trust discomfort as a friend and guide.
  • Loosen the grip of your Rules for Living – the rules that govern  how you  appear, how you behave, whether and how you belong. These rules are our internal equivalents of the laws, policies, procedures, and  organizational hierarchies that dispense and withhold access, incentives and opportunities  in our society. 

Some comments from course participants

“surprising revelations,” 

“visceral empathy”  

“a strong emotional foundation for listening to others” 

 “a knowing where to dig” 

 “a willingness to step up and be more ‘out loud’ with a formerly shy voice” 

 “tools to move past limiting assumptions.”

With Sara’s teaching, encouragement and guidance, I was able to discover early narratives that impact attitudes towards racial and gender bias.  These surprising revelations, along with new practices have given me new tools moving forward.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Susan, Acupuncturist

 

The Radical Inclusion course helped me process a lot of unspoken thoughts and feelings around race, especially that uncomfortable topic of white privilege. It’s a very organic process, not linear, and that allowed it to be exactly what I needed to open up my heart and mind to a new perspective on how I view myself and others. I now have a strong emotional foundation from which I can do the continuing work of listening to others, listening to myself, and questioning my assumptions about how things work. In a world that is constantly changing, this is a valuable tool for understanding how the world really works (not just how I think it works or want it to work), and that is very empowering to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sara Korn, Writer

 

This course helped me unpack and clarify long-hidden assumptions that I now realize were getting in my way.  I discovered personal insights that are already paying dividends…and I believe will continue to benefit me as I build on the course’s foundational, perspective-expanding structure.                                                                                                            Greg Conderacci, Good Ground Consulting LLC

 

Sara consistently created a space where moments of understanding could unfold. During one of the course’s many excellent exercises, I made a profound connection—it was about my own sense of belonging and the conditions of life for Black people in our country that could preclude a feeling of belonging…The connection is now visceral for me, as well as intellectual, and oh so powerful.                                                                                                                                           Deborah Green, Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee Chair

 

TGiving-2020: Gratitude, Grief, Real History

To give thanks.

A prayer. 

A practice.

A family celebration.

A bow of deep appreciation to  you,  faithful readers through the seasons.

For some, a Zoom Gathering on the 4th Thursday of 2020.

Now that we are somewhat assured that an orderly transition of political power will unfold between now and January, my personal capacity to give thanks has gotten a boost. 

It will get a bigger boost when I log in to Zoom later today to hear Monica’s Thanksgiving prayer before the meal. Monica and Beth and daughter Sari have been guests at our Passover Seder since Sari was a baby. Several years ago we began to say yes to their invitation to join their families and friends for Thanksgiving. I was ready to give up hosting our own. It was an easy transition.

Monica is a soul-ful pray-er, and invokes all manner of blessings received and blessings still needed.

She offers me the real dessert before the meal: a deeper meaning of the day. A day about which I was schooled in cringeworthy myths about Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal.  She doesn’t pass over either the awful or the sublime. This year, instead of their post-meal ritual of sending home each guest with an individualized set of containers of left-overs, Beth and Monica and Sari made pre-Thanksgiving home deliveries on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Still, I grieve the loss of the “traditional” way we have come together, the breaking of bread together, the assembling of a meal that many hands and kitchens contributed to.

One more loss, one more season now belonging to the Before Times. And for me, one grief seems to tap into another, as if they all feed into one underground stream. 

Grief, love for what I have valued, loved, lost…they are a matched set, grief and love. 

I am not a gratitude practice person – if you are fortunate to find that your natural go-to, wonderful. I envy you! For me, letting in grief allows me to  find  my way to gratitude. It can take a while.

Who lives, who dies, who tells the story?

And this year I also feel a self-conscious pull to enlarge my personal sphere and include a deeper grief historically linked to this holiday. Thanksgiving, 2020 marks a National Day of Mourning, now in its 51st year. This event honors the death of Native Americans at the hands of early settlers and colonists, and shines a light on contemporary issues facing Native Americans. In October, the CDC reported that American Indian and Alaska Native people are 5.3 times more likely than white people to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, the largest disparity for any racial or ethnic group.

The dynamic of celebration by one tribe signifying a day of disaster for another is not unfamiliar to me as a Jew. Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on May 15: celebrating a safe home for Jews following the Holocaust. Naqba, literally meaning “catastrophe,” is observed to commemorate hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians who fled or were displaced from their homes. I am not making a political statement here or declaring any sense that I understand the historical complexities and realities. I simply wish to acknowledge that there are two sets of lived experiences here, along with some truths and some mythologies, leaving a trail of  unresolved, blood-stained conflict.

The land my house is built on, and where we have lived for 36 years, was home to the Piscataway-Conoy as far back as 800 BCE.

I do not know much of their history or way of life – when I do, I may be ready to write my own “land acknowledgement” – a statement crafted differently by Native Peoples and White people to recognize the original stewards of the lands on which we now live. Naming what is true is the first step in healing. 

I am finding it more and more common on Zoom meetings among activists and seekers to invite participants to introduce themselves not only with their names and preferred pronouns, but also with a land acknowledgement of the place they are calling in from. It feels awkward and somewhat empty, a label on an empty box. But empty because I myself am empty of truthful historical information, lived historical human experiences, and an embodied appreciation to tribal knowledge and governance.

An invitation … to remember the land we live on is in our care, that we may rent or have a deed of ownership, but we are merely the current caretaker: you can enter your zip code at this website to learn the names of the tribal land on which you live.

Then see what you can find about their history – their way of life and governance.

A first small step towards yet one more conciliation that the waning months of 2020 summon us to make.

May our gratitudes help us rise to the occasion.

May we respect one another and do what we can
to keep one another safe, well, and nourished.

Happy Thanksgiving.

THE TIME IS NOW

Engage, recommit, repair, or take your first tentative steps to re-imagine and shape a world where equity is valued and embodied: Radical Inclusion Practice

Post-Election: Carry On. Love the World.

When I woke up on Post-Election Day, November 4, 2020, I knew I needed to carry on. But how?

I REACHED FOR WISDOM. WHAT COULD I PULL UP FROM WITHIN MYSELF?

I’ve learned that I need to practice before my feet hit the floor in the morning or my mind and mood seize control of my day. I sit for anywhere from five to twenty minutes just noticing what’s going on in my body, my mind, the condition of my heart. Abdominal gurgles took me by surprise today, as they are a prime indicator of a physiology in relax-and-rest mode. I was expecting to wake up on this of all mornings, in more typical fight or flight state.

After I checked the morning headlines on my phone, I reached for wisdom again, looking for outside help this time.

After a few false starts, I decided to crowd-source my wisdom on Facebook. I count myself lucky the odds are I will find an abundance of uplift on my feed rather than urgency, smack-downs, or un-funny memes. (Depending on your feed, you might not want to try this at home.)

There were these words from a Mary Oliver poem from writer Juliet Bruce: “My work is loving the world.”

Then I found, one after another, a string of declarations from colleagues and friends of how each does their work of loving the world. Here are a few.

From shaman Lora Jansson: “I cling to kindness, compassion and love.”

From death doula Beth Almerini: “working on my new hobby of transformation – creating paper from my old journals and plants from my garden, proving to myself that something beautiful can be created from just about anything.”

My big shout-out is to herbalist extraordinaire Sevensong, who taught me field botany some fourteen years ago. His post began with this statement: “Here is what happens for me no matter who wins.” He went on to share a list of what he will continue to do/be, ending with “I will carry on.”

He inspired me to take on this no-matter-what exercise for myself, and I invite you to do the same.

HERE’S MY VERSION:

Here is what happens for me no matter who wins:

I will continue to be in conscious practice as an imperfect human being.

I will continue to show up and hold space for people to be themselves.

I will continue to revel in learning with and from my students as I teach.

I will continue to investigate and harness my unconscious biases as I guide others through  the inner work of race and gender.

I will continue to nourish and refine my moral compass.

I will continue to cultivate my urban lot as a home for medicinal plants, and share the bounty with pollinators, squirrels, birds, rabbits, foxes, domestic kitties, and keepers of the land.

I will continue to cultivate friendships both likely and unlikely.

I will continue to participate in communities of practice, of worship, and of action.

I will continue to wonder at the ways the universe is described and explained variously by the Hebrew letters, molecules, neuroscience, and group and institutional dynamics.

I will carry on.

These are some of the ways I “love the world” through my work. What are yours?

ARE YOU AN ACTIVIST IN POST-ELECTION EXHAUSTION, DISTRESS, OR TRAUMA? CONTACT ME FOR A FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULT, AND A SPECIAL RATE, 3 SESSIONS FOR $297, (REGULAR FEE $390) 

Re Voting Plans, Tilt-a-Whirls, and Trust

I have voted in every election since 1962.

“VOTING PLAN”   The words fell oddly on my ears when I first heard them sometime in late summer. By September I took them seriously, and based on what I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, I ordered an online ballot, which would require me to hand-deliver my completed, printed-out version to election headquarters. A uniquely-coded electronic ballot arrived with unexpected efficiency, along with a lengthy set of instructions for accessing it.

Several weeks later, the Sunday Post reported that each such ballot in Maryland would burden the vote count by adding five minutes to the processing time: before being counted, that ballot would have to be hand-glued to card stock in order to be fed into a vote-reading machine. Few pieces of news have thrown me into such emotional turmoil, a toxic mix of disbelief, rage, and helplessness.

Fortunately, I was able to change my plan: I ordered a mail-in ballot.

The ballot arrived in timely fashion, with a set of instructions that seriously challenged my reading and comprehension level. And a whole separate page for a local charter issue correcting errors in language on the printed ballot. I searched a few drawers before finding a pen with black ink that would render my ballot countable, as long as it didn’t stray outside the lines of the small oval. The ovals definitely looked smaller than I recall them on standardized tests. But, as I said, I’ve been voting since 1962, so: aging eyes?

My online record with the State Board of Elections does not yet register that they have received it.

If I live long enough to read a trustworthy history of this election, I hope it will shed light on the facts, fictions, and deceptions around the capacity of the U.S. Post Office to handle mail-in ballots.

Election jitters with a dash of pandemic entering its third season

The sensation is familiar. Taut. Stretched to the limit. Vibrating in response to atmospheric influences. Braced against too-muchness. This is election season 2020 overlaid on the fall seasonal changes of shortening daylight hours, overlaid on a seventh month of pandemic upheaval. The sensations of moving through a tilted landscape remain strange. I reach for words to describe how gravity and levity have both morphed. Some mornings I wake mildly nauseous, as if I have been riding for hours the Tilt-A-Whirl, my favorite amusement park ride when I was a kid.

These body sensations make even more sense as I read the manufacturer’s description of the ride as “a large segmented undulating spinning platform with 7 vehicles spread over the surface. Each vehicle spins on its own axis and depending on the weight location of each guest every thrilling ride is unique” which“can be themed…can even have custom themed characters for the vehicles.”

How much rooting, in what soil? How much dancing?

There are times when chaos sets my feet itching, rootlets emerging from my soles to burrow down into even the rockiest soil. Acorn aspiring to oak. And there are times, like now, when I am sustained by the mysterious movements of some internal gyroscope that helps me to keep righting myself as the earth heaves repeatedly and irregularly. Ever a dancer. 

What catches you when you fall?

What do you reach for when chaos turns your world-view, or your material circumstances inside out?

What do you know?

When you fall, have you practiced free fall? calling for help? getting up and moving on, scraped knees and all?

I grew up with a full-bodied conviction that whatever came across my path was mine to do, solely mine to do, and that was okay since I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, that I could do it better than fill-in-the-blank. I might have been small, but my powers were Mighty.

Once again I have to effort to put my misunderstanding aside, and trust.

Trust that the emerging flood of shadow humanity – collective and personal – that inundates our world, is an invitation to heal. That the pervasive disruption and collapse of social institutions, structures, and norms – culturally and in the human personality – open possibilities for a new operating system. One that is rooted like an oak tree and resourced like a dancer, the natural and inevitable child of that Ongoing, Unbroken Continuity – the God that I cry out to in desperation and in thanks, or the Unshakeable call and response of cause and effect, or the Life-giving River of Compassion that flows through the human heart.

We may indeed appear to be a gathering of themed vehicles spread over the surface of creation, each undulating and spinning on our own axis.

Nevertheless this week, we can each:

Be kind.

Vote.

Act and replenish and veg out as needed.

Vote.

Call and respond.

Vote.

Listen for who your own deepest wisdom is instructing you to be, with all your warts. 

And did I say, Vote?


 

The patience to be who I am

PATIENCE is not among my weekly calendar notations:

The 26-hour Yom Kippur fast is over.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The opening Presidential Debate of the season is history.

Colleagues and students entered and left my Zoom rooms this week softened and strengthened by practice and by sharing struggles and wisdom.

A passion-project that has been on hold for some weeks moved a little.

Tomatoes that have been hanging green on the vine have suddenly reddened in the cooling, shortening daylight hours.

This list almost but not quite attains what my teacher Jason Shulman calls “the pure subjective,” a quality of is-ness that such statements display when they are just themselves. As you read through that list, you can pick up whiffs of preference and comparison and judgment that leave them short of “is-ness.”

I consider again the card I pulled for my High Holy Day focus this year: “patience.”

I am born an Aries, “the head” sign: I am a great sprinter. Marathons, not so much.

Can you tell from this post that this is a night when I am down to fumes?

Patience right now feels very close to: I am out of gas.

The Hebrew word for patience is transliterated as “savlanut.” It comes from a three-letter root  meaning burden, load, suffering, pain: the same root of the words used to describe the hard labor of the enslaved Israelites making bricks from straw for Pharoah. Its linguistic cousins include: porter, stevedore, passivity, endurance, tolerance. You can see how these belong to the same word-family.

I’ve devoted myself more to cultivating resilience – the capacity to recover – than I have to bearing burdens. Maybe, I wonder to myself, if I practiced bearing burdens with more patience and tolerance and less suffering, I wouldn’t have to tend so much to recovering?

Meanwhile needs Urgent and Real compete for my attention and energies to:

– stay safe, keep others safe during the Pandemic, with my home serving as  my workplace, since am both privileged and non-essential, a useful contemplation in itself when I have more brain cells to rub together.

– do/be/ join forces for equity: safety and protection under the law and access and well-being for people who have black and brown and olive skins

– figure out how to vote and maximize the chances that my vote will be counted. I already know my vote counts. This year I also have to do what I can to make sure it is counted. This is a new experience for me as a White person.

– plant seeds for collective civic grieving, repair of wrongs, and reconciliation. To lift my spirits, I’m putting a pin in this topic  for a future post.

What you have just read is a narration of my practice of letting myself be the size I am. Which is what I counsel you to do .....during these times and ever after:

Do what you can from where you are, with what you have to work with.

If you’re tired, rest.

If you’re hungry, eat.

If you feel defeated, do a small kindness for someone.

If you’re full of pep, or you have “discretionary” dollars,  choose who and what gets the benefit.

And this, from the Talmud, immediately and perpetually useful:

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work,

neither are you free to desist from it.

___________________________________________________________________

Constitution Day: The Syntax of Whiteness

Today is Constitution Day, and a good day to consider the Syntax of our Whiteness as a nation

I learned to speak my native English “correctly” as a toddler, and was fluid in its syntax – its rules for sentence structure, long before I diagrammed a sentence or answered an essay question on an exam. 

It was decades later that I encountered a deeper meaning in Carlos Castaneda’s poem, where he described the syntax of our “mother tongue” –
“a syntax which demands beginnings, like birth,
and developments, like maturation,
and ends, like death, as statements of facts.”

From “The Active Side of Infinity” Copyright 1998 by Laugan Productions

I am only now beginning to see how fundamental this linear, developmental, progress-oriented, fact-pinning, individualistic syntax is to the Whiteness that makes life in America so dangerous for Black people, and so Unquestionably Normal for White people.

 I learned to answer to Miss ____ or Mrs____ , and to call Black people by their first names.

 I learned that White people lived in Good Neighborhoods, or sometimes Working Class Neighborhoods. And that Good Neighborhoods had the Best Schools.

I learned it was impolite to ask why Black people lived in shambled neighborhoods that I saw as the Rapid Transit passed out of the suburbs and closer to the smoky industrial heart of Cleveland.

I learned that teachers were white, rabbis and priests and nuns were White, ballet dancers were white, and janitors and jazz musicians and basketball players and baby nurses and maids were Black.

I learned there were not-nice English words and Yiddish words used  for Black people, and Good White Adults used them. 

We White people are fish in water.

Just as the syntax of a language disappears into a flow of words that follows the rules of that language, so do the Rules of Whiteness disappear – for White people, into the Normal Flow of Daily Life.

We White people are fish in water: ask us to describe what we swim in, and we are mute. Sometimes we are mute with lack of understanding. Sometimes  with guilt and shame.

Meanwhile, Black people – in order to survive and – even against great odds, thrive – have long been keen observers, cataloguers, scholars and accomplished actors in White Syntax. 

I call this condition that we all live in being racialized.

It is a syntax that teaches all of us that the grammar of being human in the United states is based on skin color. 

This syntax has assigned to the White-skinned the power to own Black bodies, and at various times in our history to control their bodies – their freedom of movement, living space, family integrity, sexual autonomy, and livelihood by means of the lash, the noose, a knee on the neck, sundown laws, poll taxes, voter literacy tests, penal codes, and redlining, among others.

We may be woke, we may be deeply asleep

We may be kind, we may be mean.

We may be committed activists or mystified by what all the fuss is about..

We may have material wealth and possessions or little, or be thoroughly dispossessed of home and livelihood.

We may have colonial or immigrant or mixed-raced ancestors who came here earlier or later, owned slaves or didn’t, profited from slavery or didn’t, redlined or didn’t, white-flighted to the suburbs or didn’t.

We may live in misery or contentment.

We are all racialized.

We may be male or female-identified, non-binary, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or queer. 

We are all gendered.

We are all racialized.

The coarse and urgent tone of public discourse, the blogosphere, the social media memes may knock us awake, knock  us into reactivity,   knock us about, and use us up in fruitless and unpleasant arguments.

But they enlist the coarser parts of us and and keep us cut off from our full humanity – and therein lies the heart of the problem.

To cut off a Black person’s humanity by controlling their movement, their habitation, and their livelihood is to cut off our own. 

To cut off a Black person’s humanity by seeing them only as Black and not as  the unique, precious human individual they are, is to cut off our own claim to our individuality and to take on a Faceless and cruel Whiteness.

To restore full humanity to Black people is to restore our own.

We are urgently tasked to come clean, get real about our history, reckon with our moral failings, and the psychological trauma and material consequences of twenty generations of this American life governed by White Syntax.

If you are committed to racial and gender equity, and wondering how you can come out of the trance of your unconscious biases, and discern the course of action that is yours to take, get in touch for a free 30-minute Radical Inclusion consult.

Uncover & harness your unconscious biases

Are you committed to racial justice?

Do you wrestle with being part of the problem that you want to solve?

Are you ready to look within and work with your own stories and lived experiences?

JOIN ME FOR THIS 4-WEEK RADICAL INCLUSION IMMERSION
BEGINNING TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

BEGIN to perceive and unlearn the stories that you were taught as a child.

MAP the rules, values, and roles of appearance and behavior embedded in those stories, and consider their effects on yourself and on others.

LEARN to enlist your own discomfort and fear around race as guides and allies.

TRUST yourself to figure out what is the next unique, right-sized, and right action  for you to take, aligned with your deeply held values.

FREE YOURSELF to serve in ways you cannot now envision.

MEET WEEKLY ON ZOOM, 6:30-8:30 PM ET

SEPT. 15, 22, 29, OCT. 6

CLASS SIZE LIMITED TO 8 SUPPORTS TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNING WITH OTHERS COMMITTED TO PRACTICE WITH HONESTY AND KINDNESS

COMMITMENTS IN THIS BETA COURSE:

ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE  in class.

SHARE AND SUPPORT your class-mates at least 2x/week in a private Facebook group.

PRACTICE meditation taught in class at least two times a week in between classes.

OFFER FEEDBACK  to Sara via email at any time during the course to support improving the learning experience for yourself and classmates

BENEFIT from  a one-on-one with Sara after the 4th class for personal integration support and to offer detailed feedback

COURSE FEE $197

Full money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied after you have met all the commitments above.

Contact me to reserve your place by Sept. 8

Sara Eisenberg is a healer, herbalist, activist and elder. A life-long learner, Sara has developed Radical Inclusion Practice through her own 5-year personal wrestle with racism and patriarchy. She is indebted to the many participants in her FREE on-line practice spaces – BEND THE ARC,  for 18 months following the 2016 election, and COME AS YOU ARE, which has met every Wednesday during the Pandemic and current racial reckoning. Sara is the founder of alifeofpractice.com, her online home where she integrates her work in Nondual Kabbalistic Healing, Herbal Medicine and Radical Inclusion Practice.

SOME COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN SUMMER WORKSHOPS ON RADICAL INCLUSION

“This is the work we need to do and what will shift things if we can do it.”

“This practice activates my heart.”

“Found the given exercises very useful and practical.”

“I came aware with clarity around where I am… and a plan for moving forward.”

“This program has opened the door to the possibility of healing my inner divisions, judgement, and shame.”

“Sara quickly created and held a sacred space for us that allowed me to get to the heart of the matter.”

“…a container for deep, nuanced work.”

READ MORE…from A Life of Practice:

Racism: changing this river’s course

White? Get acquainted with visceral awareness