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Spiritual Activism

Compassion, Freedom, Life Coaching, Love, Mindfulness, Power Within, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Self-love, Spiritual Activism, Suffering, Transformation

The Summer of Love

We’ve all seen the violence in the news, felt the despair in our communities and our social media feeds. How could I call these past few months the Summer of Love?

Do you know what was happening during the historic Summer of Love? In 1967, at the height of the hippie movement, with the convergence of hundreds of thousands of “flower children” in San Francisco?

The Summer of Love was also the summer of the Vietnam War, clashes of anti-war protesters with police, disillusionment with the gains of the Civil Rights Movement that drove Dr. King to strike out with an economic campaign to eliminate poverty, while also speaking out against the government’s misguided, deadly efforts in Vietnam. The Summer of Love was the summer of race riots and a city on fire, in Detroit, and in Newark. Then, the KKK also sat openly, in public, their hoods atop their crowns but faces exposed. What other commonalities can we see between 1967, and 50 years later, in 2017? It’s what Rebecca Solnit calls “a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become,” where in moments of disaster and crisis, people come together and inhabit the possible, enacting “an emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive.” Pick up her book, A Paradise Built in Hell to get more of the story about how humanity rises to the tragic occasions of the kind that marked 1967, and that trouble our nation, now. I am not interested in blithely denying the horror of this moment with flowers and warm feelings. Rather, it is a moment when the horror is more visible, but in many ways, no more horrific then when we who could afford to, looked away. We have the opportunity to love–not in the sentimental way–but in the real, compassion in action, a kind of “just mercy” way (there’s another *must read*), in how we face ourselves and how we show up in the world. You can start by donating to EJI or to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Those of you who’ve followed me on my journey, pre-coaching, as a coach, and currently, a counselor-in-training, know that I have been consistent in my message, and it should be no surprise that I’m talking racial equity in my newsletter, again. In some ways my coaching communique reads more like social justice missives. Here’s why: I had some bad-ass teachers when I was 15, 16, 17, 18 years old. They fucking taught Howard Zinn and Marlon Riggs and James Baldwin in high school. I went to my first anti-racism workshop as a junior in college in Chicago. It wasn’t on the news back in 1999, but I saw all of it first hand, when I interned at the Organization of the Northeast, under an amazing mentor of a community organizer, and witnessed how black and brown kids normalized daily abuse from police, while the city offered pathetic solutions like pizza and basketball. I cannot say I have formulated the real solutions, but believe that our society, or the critical mass we need, once well-informed, has the creativity to find ways to justice and healing. In many ways, it starts with people like me, white, with resources, to do things differently.

I want to be clear: when I talk about Love, this is not the same as being “nice.” I have surely upset friends, community members, and readers with my clear and firm voice on these issues. There is a kind of love, mother love, informed by grief and rage, that is designed to protect our vulnerable, our children, our people. I am not a mother by birth, but by living in a society that is willing to kill children and hold nobody accountable for their deaths. I am not afraid of using this loving force to speak the truth. This must be done by more and as many of us, especially us white Americans, who know the gravity of our collective history and how it has shaped the present experience of transgenerational trauma with which so many of our human family live. We need to place our own inherited racism to the side, see it for what it is, even if disguised as humanistic or lofty ideas, and really grasp the experience of the “other.” We all need support in this process, because it’s hard to see the water we are swimming in. There are wonderful resources and racial equity trainings across the U.S. I urge you to message me if you want help connecting to support in your community. I can also work with you as your coach to help you unpack the beliefs and biases you were born into.

As usual, this is a long post. I want to wrap it up by saying that my coaching practice has always been and will continue to center around living a life of greater presence, authenticity, and compassion for self and others. When I was introduced to the wide world of the coaching industry a few years ago, much of it made me very uncomfortable. I resisted the marketing techniques I saw, and decided to go my own way. It would have felt dishonest to promote myself as having reached some pinnacle of spirituality or happiness and sell these mythic ideals as a product. I could not imagine promoting a lifestyle, as a coach, of joy and achieved dreams, while ignoring the suffering of so many for whom there is obstacle after obstacle, socially designed and maintained by us all. Instead, my goal was to encourage and give clients the tools to accept and love themselves, without conditions, and bring that deepened connection with self into all of life. This continues to be my work.

Lastly, I want to share the amazingness that is Kelly Diels with you. In her writing about the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand, Diels identifies in a cogent and incisive way, the pitfalls of the coaching and spiritual marketplace. She describes the way some of the most successful women in the self-help/spiritual realm duplicate white supremacy in their marketing, all while co-opting the language of revolution, and how we might fall for its intentional social triggers, if we aren’t aware of the strategies being used.

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Emotions, grounding, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Self-love, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering

Lovingkindness in action

Yesterday, when House Republicans voted in favor of replacing the Affordable Care Act with their own version that would raise insurance costs, exclude benefits for an astonishing array of “preexisting conditions,” and cut taxes for the rich while penalizing the poor and middle class, I witnessed the tremendous wave of anger and pain that so many in our country were feeling, those who depend on the flawed yet essential coverage that ACA provides us and those with loved ones who rely on these benefits. Sure, this system is far from perfect, but it allows so many who previously were uninsured or underinsured to finally have the safety net to access care and get medications they need to live without going into debt. Feelings of despair and outrage are a natural response to such self-serving, irresponsible, and cruel legislation. I want to share, though, that as we make space for the pain we feel, we can also experiment with some alternate responses, to help us cope and build resilience in the face of a long 4 years. For my readership outside of the US, i am sure these ideas can be applied to other situations in which injustice and power-hungry demagogues prevail in your own lives.

  • Take action. Lovingkindness is the inspiration for my coaching practice, and is the deep compassion I want us to all have for ourselves and others. Lovingkindness means responding to our own needs and the needs of those around us.  Some people’s response to seeing anger in others’ is judgment, and claims that this is a “negative” or “toxic” emotion to be avoided. Some who identify with new age spirituality want to hold onto bliss experiences and therefore stay out of politics and avoid difficult subjects like poverty and racism. I’ve seen others spread the notion that love will conquer all, as if we don’t have to actually do anything but radiate some emotion and all will be well.  No spirituality is worth anything if it does not care about the suffering of others. Anger is an energy of protection, fierce compassion, and a commitment to justice. Honor its place and channel it into appropriate, loving action. While politics may be unsavory, they are a fact of how power is marshaled in our society to the benefit of some and to the detriment of a great many. We must be invested in the fate of those around us. We are responsible for standing up for what is right, making our voices heard, and holding our representatives accountable by making calls, donating to campaigns and causes for justice, and voting. Some of you might be called to run for office, and if so, that is great! But we don’t need to make this kind of commitment in order to be involved. Start here. Call your senators to oppose the AHCA. Or text “resist” to 50409 to easily contact your senators. Donate to organizations doing work for immigrants, refugees, racial equity, the environment. Find what resonates with you.
  • Focus on the facts. It is painful to realize that so many members of Congress are okay with gutting healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens. This is heartbreaking. And we also can get grounded in the moment and remind ourselves that this was only the first step to passing the AHCA. No one is yet being harmed or hurt by this bill. This is not to deny the potential threat posed, but to help propel us into moving with resolve to working to make sure it does not get through the Senate, and to help us not suffer so much with the imagined torment and dying that could happen under AHCA. We do not need to jump to the future yet and create nightmare scenes in our head that cause us more panic and pain. Stay in the present, focus on what is happening in the moment. Nobody is dying or being denied coverage due to this bill, and if we get consumed with fear over what could happen in the future, we may not be as effective in taking steps to stop it in the now.
  • Accept reality. This has 2 important pieces for me. The first, is understanding that given who these Republican leaders are and looking at the evidence of their values that came through in recent years of intransigence, racism, misogyny, and greed, it is not at all surprising that they passed this legislation yesterday. I can ease some of the suffering and preserve some of the wasted energy that comes out of saying, “I can’t believe they did this heartless thing,” and instead, with complete acceptance of reality say, “It makes a lot of sense, knowing what I know about these people, that they would behave in a manner consistent with a lack of heart and lack of mercy.” This does not change the facts or say they are okay or good, but helps me to not argue with the truth of what is happening. The second piece is similar. I ask: what part of me is refusing to accept that this is happening? In what ways am I resisting that this legislation and this awful administration is part of our reality? I am down with the #resistance, don’t get me wrong. Political action and justice organizing are essential, and, I think, more effective if they come from a place of radical acceptance. Check out this therapist’s advice on staying sane through these difficult times, using the principal of radical acceptance of reality. We aren’t saying things are acceptable as in good, but that we when we accept that things are the way they are, we can more effectively change them.

Offer yourself empathy, place your hands on the places in your body that are feeling constricted, tense, nauseous, or twisted up in pain and offer some soothing words and spacious breaths of allowance–it is understandable to feel distraught when those entrusted to protect people are intent to cause pain. But don’t get stuck there. Pick up the phone, focus on the facts, be honest about what is happening, and put that incredible compassion you have into action.

 

Celebration, Compassion, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

On suffering and the overcoming of it.

When I look at the tragic photos and news, I see both the horrors of the bombs and shootings and the thousands of helpers who have rushed in to care for all the suffering. It shows that the world has both suffering and the overcoming of it. It is in the overcoming of it that we are called to respond.
–Jack Kornfield on Paris attacks, November 2015

 

wall-1405964_1920US primary politics. Orlando. Brexit. Blocked immigration reform. Istanbul.

With distressing and heartbreaking headlines in the news, compounded with our own personal challenges, these past few weeks have been a time of heaviness and high emotions for many. Despite or maybe because of these private losses and tragic world events, I decided to focus on the small daily things that bring me joy or inspire me: the Carolina wren scaling my window screen in the morning, the scent of gardenias in front of my apartment, the outpouring of love after the Pulse tragedy and the music that love brought to me in the form of a mix made by a Chicago friend, and many moments of connection shared with loved ones and animals.

I acknowledge and allow the grief and heartache, while also doing my best to not add more suffering to the world. Following the lead of one of the women who I coach in an online women’s support network, who vowed to not get embroiled in heated social media debates that would do little to change policy yet do much to create stress and bitterness, I refrained, as well, and practiced privately sending compassion to each person who posted a view opposing mine online.

I understand why some cannot move beyond grief, fear, and anger. Particularly those whose communities are at the center of tragedies, bloodshed, or political upheaval. I, myself, treasure my own early experiences in gay bars. In the late 90s, the Hide and Seek in Colorado Springs, offered a glimpse into what beautiful worlds are possible when people are free to be themselves, living out their own personal style, flair, and fabulousness. The bar, and those I danced with there–the tight-knit friend group I found in undergrad–introduced me to brave love, universal acceptance, embodied sexuality, and authentic living. And even as I comprehend how grossly this sacrosanct experience was violated, I still choose to live in the celebratory space of my own queer heart that was raised lovingly during late nights at the Hide and Seek, by college friends in the LGBTQ community, and the fairy godnurturing queer friends of my early 20s, like T, who shared my love of girl groups and made me feel Supreme.

We do not need to wilt or shrivel when these horrors happen. We can mobilize for change, we can show up for others in need, and we can live our lives by following the lead of those who dance in the night–loving our own bodies loving other bodies, uplifted, buoyed, and emboldened by solidarity. It’s what happens when we totally embrace and inhabit who we are, and allow ourselves to be loved in a radically open and nonjudgmental way. Not to paint a naively Utopian picture or diminish the high rates of suicide, terror and discrimination facing LGBTQ people, but at their best, this is what queer spaces create: collective, often joyful, overcoming of suffering.

Overcoming does not mean we won’t feel the pain any less, or that we aren’t aware of our broken hearts–it is that we have learned to use that heartache to connect with ourselves and others. Vulnerability can bring us more deeply into the human experience and allows us to love that much more fiercely and compassionately.

We can do our own spiritual work that attends to the overcoming of suffering–the more practiced we are, personally, in the overcoming, the more we can share and serve others in healing themselves, as well. This is worthy work: your personal growth and transformation. It ripples out and allows you to show up strong for a weary world. You loving yourself without apology may give someone else permission to reveal who they are. Even better when we have strength in numbers. Find others around you who are willing to live courageously, wholeheartedly, and come together to create our world anew…we need you!

Compassion, Discernment, Healing, Love, Nonviolent Communication, Power Within, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Spiritual Activism, Suffering, Tonglen, Transformation

what to do when we don’t know what to do

i want to talk about Baltimore. more.

after police have been charged in the death of Freddie Gray, many are feeling temporary relief and hope. only the first step in a long road towards justice, how do we stay sane and centered along the way? and how can we respond to the suffering that is still a reality in Baltimore and across the US, where black women and men disproportionately face poverty, imprisonment, and state violence?

when we really grasp the history of our nation and understand just how entrenched institutional racism is, it can be easy to feel discouraged and powerless. while i don’t have some magic formula for creating real change, i offer here practices, tips, and contemplation for when we don’t know what to do in the face of so much suffering.

LoveandJustice

1. turn off the the radio and tv news. limit online article intake.

wha?? why would we do this? don’t we want to stay engaged with what’s happening? well…is the news really what is happening? No. does revisiting the trauma repeatedly help to undo its horror and tragedy? No. once we learn the facts there are to know, maybe it’s time to step back and breathe.

i noticed on day 3 that letting skewed media reportage set the tone for my day with my morning alarm set to NPR was sending my nervous system into a tizzy.

signs to watch for: tension in the body and tightness in head, jaw, neck, shoulders, shallow, fast breathing, a general unsettled feeling and despair or gloom.

i decided to turn it off.

it may be a privilege of being one state + one district removed from events to choose to not take in media coverage of what’s unfolding in Baltimore. and certainly some do not have the luxury of an off switch when it comes to living in a hostile or oppressive environment. but feeling stress in our bodies will not relieve anybody else of their stress. being miserable does not free anyone else.

so shut it off, take a break. underwhelm yourself.

instead of adding more suffering to the planet, focus on peace. outer peace will require bold change and great patience. so what can we do to bring ourselves into an inner sense of calm? not to deny what is happening, but to be able to act instead of react. to know it is us, our own clear minds and wise hearts, responding, and not layers of stress and media-induced despair causing us to act out, and likely, be ineffective.

get quiet. settle into yourself. respond from who you are, not what others are doing.

which leads me into step 2…

2. know who you BE. then act.

i once went to graduation festivities for a community organizing institute a friend did with Oakland’s Applied Research Center–what’s now known as Race Forward. this was in my Bay Area living days, early aughts when i worked at a local Planned Parenthood. i believed vigorously in the power of community organizing, but after a semester internship with Chicago’s ONE, i came to terms that i didn’t have what it takes to be an effective organizer myself. i lamented to the then leader of this organizing institute that i felt i wasn’t doing enough and wish i had it in me to do this essential work. she came back at me with: “We need revolutionaries in every field. We need revolutionary teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists…” & she listed off various careers I can’t recall 15 years later. the sentiment has stayed with me, though. we need revolutionary life coaches. and we need you to be who you are. when we see thousands in the streets, it is inspiring, it is necessary, and it is not everyone’s calling.

beyou

knowing who we are means action happens as a natural and spontaneous expression of life moving through us. when we allow ourselves to be moved, and where we go is to protest: great. if we are forcing ourselves to show up against what our bodies and intuition tell us, we suffer. not feeling the call doesn’t mean we are lazy or not willing to participate in change. change needs to happen in so many ways and in so many places. go where you are truly called. be the change.

here are some ways that may or may not resonate, to show up for others’ suffering. know who you BE. move from that awareness.

practice power with

try donating! and more donating!

try showing up! across the US or in North Carolina.

try writing a letter to the editor!

for white folks, try speaking up! to other white folks in your community.

practice power within

try tonglen! this is a Buddhist lovingkindness practice that is my go-to for when i am facing difficult emotions, and is a powerful way to both heal ourselves and tap into our compassion for others. keep the flame of compassion burning bright even when the media moves on.

try empathy! as much of a stretch as it might be, we must remember that everyone is suffering and that, oftentimes, the biggest challenge can be extending compassion to those with whom we don’t sympathize, those whose actions we abhor. why would we let them into our hearts? for me, those who commit murder, who trample on the rights of the historically disenfranchised, who unconsciously replicate the implicit biases and blindness of a system in which they were raised are suffering from ignorance–of not knowing themselves, of lacking discernment, of not being connected to their own humanity, of being filled with rage, judgement or hate. if i wish to see them free of suffering, it means i wish for them to know who they are, to claim their humanity, to be humble, open, and surrendered to a power greater than their egos. if i take on the same rage, judgement or hate, even if on the side of morality and justice, i end up suffering, and not being so unlike those whose actions i condemn.

try meditation! this is a quiet way to feel the power that can never be bound, locked up, or stripped away from us. few of us ever face conditions that really test our spirits and force us to cultivate the kind of inner fortitude and self-connection that triumphs over our own personal and external limitations. all of us can access the transpersonal, though, and can sense the space and compassion it opens up for us and for all beings.

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

Compassion, Life Coaching, Love, Sacred justice, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Transformation

what’s coaching got to do with it?

i want to talk about Baltimore.

in the past week, we’ve seen peaceful protest and understandable rage in a city whose black and poor have been long neglected and overlooked. we’ve seen what happens, when over and over, a need is unmet–a basic, a human need for respect, for the right to exist, is ignored and even grossly, egregiously, violated. it is impossible to imagine writing anything here as if this isn’t happening, because it has been on my mind and in my heart…Baltimore, Ferguson, Jon Burge in Chicago… to talk anything about coaching or personal growth or movement as if this isn’t happening would feel like denial. it would feel like stuckness and avoidance of growth.

so, what does life coaching have to do with social justice? a lot, i hope.

heartgold

i am not naive enough to think we’re going to magically coach people out of the effects of 400 years of white supremacy.

but coaching, for me, is a process of bringing more compassion and respect towards our own humanness. when we slow down and listen–not to what society, family, or religion tells us is “right”–but to our own body, hearts, and minds, we discover who we really BE. we want, more than ever, to live out that destiny. there is a new way of honoring the tenderness of our needs and admiring the wisdom within. how can we not want that for all when we give that to ourselves and find relief and peace?

when your wildest dreams come true, are the fate and lives of others bound in yours? does your wish for freedom extend to all beings? when you desire to live out your true calling and feel fulfillment do you imagine all people having this same right to creatively express who they are and follow their dreams? does your work to become more kind, gentle, and understanding towards yourself mean you treat others with more kindness and understand their need to be valued, heard, and respected? is your courage in facing what must be changed in your own life and belief system unwavering and steady enough to face what must be changed in our lives as a culture?

Not-everything-that-is-faced

if inner work is self-absorbed and disconnected from the world then it is not *working*.  self-inquiry, which is a process on which life coaching is based, may start with the question what do “i” want, but moves below that, digs underneath to discover and feel the call of something more universal than what the separate ego imagines will make it happy. it moves us into a deep longing to express our true selves. pure gold!

the more each person can relate to themselves for who they REALLY are, with lovingkindness, the more that extends outward. like much else, this is change that happens slowly, one by one. there is not a revolutionary political agenda in life coaching. and like all things commercialized, there is an industry largely modeled after the mainstream bottom line paradigm. but in my coaching, and that of my circles, there is a reLOVEutionary soul agenda. it is about service and waking up. i am not naive in believing that will create real change in our world. one by one.

next post: what can we do when we see suffering like that in Baltimore? stay tuned.