Tuesday, June 9, 2020

But Don't ALL Lives Matter?

Q: What can I do in light of current events if I am a liberal white woman who is (obviously!) not a racist?

A: We grew up in a racist society. No matter how racist we think we're not, we’ve been pretty clueless. When I cautioned my kid to be careful at a protest, she said, "Well. Now you know how the parents of black kids feel every DAY." So. My mailing list is full of cool conscious primarily white women who sent their kids to diverse schools, and we likely have more black friends than our parents did, we've attended diversity trainings, we’ve read Toni Morrison and White Fragility and we voted for a black president, and of course no one on my email list would be racist, no way! But. The American system is permeated with racism. I believe it’s time to examine the stories we’ve believed about race. Unlearn them and understand where we got them. I think white women are afraid to feel the collective shame. I certainly am. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to know that I’m imbedded into a system that has caused suffering. But it’s also SO cool, because the collective is actually creating a more conscious world rather than playing out this horrible old story that we have outgrown, this old story that we were born into. Everything I just said, though, is considered hijacking the narrative. And it's also super privilegey to even have the IDEA that we can create our own reality. I can not imagine what it would feel like to NOT be able to create my own reality simply due to the color of my skin. Assuming that I can "create my own reality" is a privilege.

We were all born into this system and something about it does not work for "minorities" (see how we are writing a story in which there are more of "us," so "they" are the minority? It is just mind blowing to start to see the old stories we were taught, which simply don't work anymore.

I have experienced that We are One. And I understand that even THAT is super priviledgey. But the entire reason for yoga, as I experience it, is to have that knowledge, that felt experience, that humans are inherently Divine. And yes there are also some nice physical heath benefits too! So it is from that place that I want to share some enlightening but also entertaining suggestions. Most of us know nothing about history from a non-colonized perspective. The only way out is through. We are the ones we've been waiting for.

When “sheltering in place," for reasons I don’t actually understand, I felt compelled to learn about the Vietnam war. (I got really into it—major blog post coming soon.) So I was on a big 1968 retrospective during the lockdown, and when George Floyd was killed and the protests began, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between now and 1968. Based on my deep dive into the ‘60s, here are some recommendations that offer a perspective that's valuable right now:

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, free documentary on Amazon. Apparently, the FBI files have been opened because 50 years passed, and this film uses FBI documentation to illuminate the disparity between what I was taught about the Black Panthers as a kid (dangerous black guys, basically terrorists) versus what this organization actually was. It especially shows HOW THE FBI created lies about the Black Panthers that the newspapers then printed, leading every white person in the country to consider the Panthers dangerous. Actually, they were male citizens trying to peacefully protect their community from police violence. In 1968. Ultimately, the FBI broke into their pad and shot the leaders. (That could not happen with Black Lives Matter, because it intentionally has no mailing address and no official leader.)

13th, free on Netflix. This documentary is about the 13th Amendment and the prison industrial complex. Does that sound boring? It’s not. It’s lively and well produced, historical but also very current. The US has a surprising number of for-profit prison corporations, and they have to keep the prison populations high, because: stockholders. (Please make sure you are not accidentally invested in any of these barbaric places.) For-profit prisons are filled with people who couldn’t afford decent representation. And they have to work there. It’s practically legalized slavery. This illuminating and heartbreaking movie also explains the huge rise in the prison population over the last few decades. You’ll find out how Jim Crow laws are alive and well in the American South, and why the majority of black men in Alabama are not eligible to vote. I was taught that black men commit more crimes, but they don’t, actually. They just get picked up more often because they are perceived as more dangerous, which also just what we were taught--see the Black Panther documentary. The only thing that has changed since forever is that everyone now carries a video camera. Worth watching till the very end; correct me if I’m wrong.

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. Fascinating book telling true stories of three black families who left the south in search of a better life. It reads like fiction. The level of vicious racism these people were trying to flee is painful to hear about. Minor detail: early 1900s southern society considered the biggest threat to be black men raping white women, but guess what: actually, the rate of white men raping black women was far higher. (What the heck is that even about? Honestly it just makes white men look super insecure.)

American Values by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. This is a view of the Kennedys through the eyes of Bobby Kennedy’s son, Bobby, who is married to the woman who plays the wife in Curb Your Enthusiasm. (She’s adorable, and I follow her on Instagram because I love Bobby Kennedy Jr. inordinately much.) Over the years I have found that most people are either Kennedy-lovers or Kennedy-haters, and, well. Hi. You’ll be reminded in this book that there were tons of great ideas and a trend toward racial justice in the 1960s—which I remember well, because my parents were totally against it. “You can’t legislate equality!” they used to say as small-government Republicans who did not want the government messing with human relations—that’s overreach. But I digress. After MLK was assassinated, 110 American cities rioted. On the 6th day of the riots, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed. This book illustrates the great ideas of the 1960s and how RFK senior, speaking from his heart and not using speechwriters, was loved multiculturally, which was apparently just too much unity for…whoever shot him. It appears the family thought both RFK’s death and his brother’s were pretty sketchy. If you like Kennedy antics, the environment, and civil rights, this book offers a comprehensive and colorful picture. It shows how close we were to major racial progress in 1968. Too bad everyone who might have tipped the balance toward racial equality was assassinated!

If you are not into the 1960’s but you want to view race relations from an educated, hip, contemporary African perspective, the novel Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is just the book. All her books are great.

If you really want to challenge yourself, check out The Great Unlearn (@thegreatunlearn on Instagram, or rachelcargle.com).

A little action step: call Target, Whole Foods, and Walgreens corporate and use your white voice to demand they distribute goods to the south and west sides of Chicago, where unstocked shelves still prevail from the early days of covid.

Things to say to your Facebook friends from high school who just don’t get it:

> 1 in 3 people killed by a stranger was killed by a police officer. Unarmed black people are twice as likely to be killed as unarmed white people. There were only 27 days in 2019 when police did not kill someone in the US.

> Don’t ALL lives matter? YES. But only black lives are in danger. Only black lives need a protest. People shouldn’t have to protest for their basic civil right not to die. It’s not like it’s 1968 anymore!

 > Don’t ALL lives matter? YES. But when the Boston marathon was bombed and everybody said “Boston Strong,” nobody said, “ALL cities are strong.” When someone posts about breast cancer, no one says, “But what about colon cancer?” Black Lives Matter is not an either/or proclamation. Americans traditionally rally round the group in crisis. That does not discredit or diminish any other group; it brings awareness and support to the group that needs attention. (Paraphrased from an Instagram post.)

> Police can’t even refrain from police brutality at a peaceful protest against police brutality. (Another Instagram post.)

> “I have friends who have been police officers, and I have friends whose spouses are or have been police officers. They are nice and not racist.” Me too. The protests are not about individuals. The protests are about the system of policing. (Police Departments are super funded and reforms do get put into place, but, for example, countless policemen covered up their badge numbers during the protests, and so many were not wearing their required video cameras. I didn’t see that on the news, I heard it from young friends who observed it firsthand in Chicago, LA, and NYC. )

> “It’s horrible that an innocent black man was killed, but destroying property has to stop!”  How about: “It’s horrible that property was destroyed, but killing innocent black men has to stop!” (More from Instagram)

Let's not wait for external evidence of change. Let's hold space for a shift we probably never thought we'd see in our lifetime. We don't even know what this new world is going to look like--I mean, how could we? But we can hold energetic space for something better, and open our virtual spaces to a glorious diversity. I have no idea what to even say about physical space, but when we CAN congregate again, it's going to be even better than it used to be.

IMAGINE.


“Our lives begin to end the day we become
silent about things that matter.”
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Coro-Nation



“Happy virus!” said the older Chicagoan, gallantly scooting himself and his dog away to give me a wide berth on our shared sidewalk. “Happy virus to YOU!” I replied, amused and heartened.

That was yesterday. Today, everything could be different.

While I’ve never had LESS security in my life than I have during (and because of) this pandemic, at the same time, I have never been more comfortable with my utter lack of security. Perhaps because everyone (the self-employed service providers, anyway) is in the same boat. We are a collective. Perhaps because I had felt this one coming.* Perhaps because, after the other times when the “bottom” has dropped out and everything I knew to be true suddenly wasn’t, I learned that I create my own security, and that in fact what looks like security externally is actually merely…familiarity. Comfort.

Like when my daughter’s dad (my dead ex-husband), a trader, lost a million dollars, plus $50K which was not even ours, or like the moment he died, or like the moment I read the email from the real estate agent telling me that the house I was happily renting was suddenly on the market—those were moments I’d never want to repeat. But what I had learned from those moments of dire discomfort was to not  reach out immediately to whoever I thought would say the perfect comforting thing, but…to stop and feel. Feel my body, feel where the terror had landed, and if possible, where the truth was located. To observe the way my mind tends to project into the worst-case scenario, and to not believe that story. To trust that the actual truth is both unknown and trust-able. How to trust the unknown?

First of all, don’t make up stories about it—unless it’s a story of opportunity.

Indeed, that is the entire point of having a spiritual life—and/or a religion. Dealing with the great unknown.

Having evolved from Catholicism to New Church to yoga to tantra over a lifetime, I’ve gleaned a few truths along the way…and on the tantric path, the bottom line is non-duality, the concept that everything and everyone IS divine. IS “god,” as opposed to god being outside us. Wait, even Donald Trump? Even Covid-19? Yes. And yes. I know that seems crazy, but first:

Western culture uses the word ‘guru’ synonymously with “all-knowing,” but actually a guru is simply someone who lights up the darkness. It’s not about what they know. They are just a mirror that reveals you to yourself. A guru shows you who you truly are. They light you up. You know those stories in which the devotee is yelling at the guru, or crying, or begging for help, and the guru is calmly sitting there, legs in lotus position, with a beatific smile, maybe even laughing? It’s sort of a guru trope, but…what that image conveys is that a guru is simply a Mirror. A guru is a mirror for what is going on inside us.

So: Covid-19 as guru. I know. I could not be LESS interested in doing my personal awareness via a virus. But bear with me.

What first came up for you, when this virus hit? Knowing only that about ourselves, we can learn so so much—and learning so so much, in my line of work, is the entire point of human existence. Awareness. What if the virus is here to accelerate that process of knowing who we are?

Sadly (for me, anyway), growth and the expansion of consciousness rarely happens when we are coasting along. Growth happens when we are confronted, thwarted, or challenged. (Hello, novel virus.) So, again, what first came up for you? Who did you worry about, what did you worry about? Whom did you blame? What did you hoard, what did you mourn? What worst case scenario stories did you make up?

These are not rhetorical questions. These are retroactive journaling topics; go for it. The time is now. Notice what your deepest fears are, see what your concerns truly are, see what matters most when all is said and done, and see how other people’s fears can lead you to act in ways you might not ordinarily act.

BECAUSE here is the thing. We (yoga teachers and power of positive thinking type people) have been saying for decades that we “create our own reality,” and people are so quick to disagree and say no way, humans would not have created war and famine and dis-ease, but let’s break it down into a tiny manageable simple bite:

(Oh, but first, Welcome to the New Age. Welcome to the Awakening of Human Consciousness. There’s no turning back now!)

This is how it works:

Human THOUGHTS freak out over a potential shortage of toilet paper…for whatever reason. Those thoughts spread virally. We as individuals and quickly as the collective then hoard toilet paper, and thus we CAUSE that. We caused exactly what we feared. It is so clear. Writ large. We just created our own reality.

On the other hand, what if humans of the western world had a fear of a potential toilet paper shortage and instead someone said, let’s all help each other out here and distribute the TP to those among us who need it most, then buy enough for two weeks, and only enough for two weeks, every two weeks…and use this as a collective TRUST exercise instead of creating our fear? What if we trust that there will be enough for us all? (I mean it’s a steep what-if. But: what if?) See how our very thoughts would have created a different reality? A reality of cooperation and abundance? Yes, sometimes shit happens, but also…we to a very large extent do create reality with our thoughts.

What if everyone all prayed at once, instead of everyone running to Trader Joe’s at once? What on earth could THAT create? (I am not saying we could pray away a disease but I do wonder whether we could pray away dis-ease.)

For me, having had the bottom drop out of my life more than once, and having learned a lot from those experiences, I see this virus as another massive screen upon which we all project our thoughts and fears--and the toilet paper example is the easiest one to grab and run with.

So.

What if…I know, here I go again, but…what if one purpose of this virus was SO we could see that, SO we could see a clear example of how we individual humans create our own collective reality?

And what if another purpose of this virus is to help us SEE what goes on inside our own sacred selves when our world is suddenly filled with troubling unknowns? And by that I mean: what if this virus is a guru? How can we use it as such, how can we use Covid-19 to bring our lives back into alignment, whether we start with organizing our kitchen pantry or our computer desktop or going back to basics with our now-adult children who are temporarily living with us until the crisis passes?

I am going to take it even one step further, for those of you who may be thinking oh, yes I already know all this so far, thanks, but I already do all this (and if you are not in that category, and you can’t possibly imagine taking it one hypothetical step further, skip this next part because it’s more a leap into the absurd than a step). So. What if, those of you who are still with me, what if, in the Byron Katie sense, in the New Testament sense, what if we are meant to LOVE the virus?

I mean, I don’t, I can’t, it’s a virus, and I love my health and those two are clearly mutually exclusive--I mean I don’t just hate this virus; I hate each and every virus and I want to kill them all with Purell! (Oh wait, there is no Purell because everyone else wants it too!) But as long as I’m encouraging this leap into the absurd, I will have to take the leap too, so I ask…how can I love this virus? Wow, well that is really a steep curve, a drastic jump…it really sends me back to my roots, to Jesus’s last-ish words: they know not what they do. The ultimate forgiveness of what is literally killing you. Viruses are not alive. They feed on us. They have no consciousness. They know not what they do.

The minute I “hate” the virus, I put myself into victim mentality. The minute I love the virus, I take back my power.

By loving this virus, I do not mean I offer it my body to cohabitate in…I mean I give it the power to remind me to take back my power, to make me actively change—in this case it has taken me from my introverted one-on-one healing role in my individual clients’ lives and into being here writing words that may actually help or inspire someone outside my sphere. It has definitely taken me out of my everyday procrastinating writing until 10pm, and into crisis mode, into “write now, or forever hold my peace” mode. Is it possible to be inspired to love your enemy? Our enemy? I find that I need to take it one day at a time. Wake up, find something in this world of unknowns to be grateful for. I am grateful that we are all faced with the same enemy. It seems to be uniting us, even as it physically separates us.

Speaking of viruses, here’s another thing.

There are viruses literally in and around us all the time, but this is a new one that has been isolated and labeled for us, and its behavior has been studied, so based on that, in this new world populated by this novel virus, now we get to CONSCIOUSLY CREATE our relationship to it and to each other and to ourselves. What are we going to do with all that power? What if we use it to increase our awareness, because if we don’t, we risk letting it dictate that we become victims, victims of this external, invisible enemy.

Speaking of victims, here’s another thing. What if, and here I depart from my early religious roots and leap into yoga and tantra, what if the “savior” is not external? Are we looking to be saved, do we want pharmaceutical companies to research a cure, and better yet do we want them to research a vaccine, so we don’t even have to deal with the enemy in the first place? That’s the old paradigm, in which the savior is external. But in the new paradigm, we are not meant to be victims. The world is changing this very second. Old paradigm: god is out there, and we are at “his” mercy, victims of “his” will. New paradigm: we are creators, not victims; the savior is within. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are being shown how to SAVE ourselves: slow down, be with our loved ones, work from home, don’t panic-buy, nurture our immune systems, trust we will pull through with a lot of help from our friends and communities. We can do it. As a collective.

I am going to take a step further, extrapolate even more. My daughter went to a Waldorf school, a school with a philosophy of life and a form of education and its own method of organic farming and even its own branch of health care called anthroposophic medicine. While there is a misconception that the anthroposophic philosophy is “anti-vax,” it isn’t, but they definitely do consider childhood illnesses to be a re-booting of the immune system and a way of moving a child into a new phase of development. So, my one step further is this: what if that’s happening to us, here, now? What if Covid-19 is, for those who unfortunately contract it, a system reboot, but also, for all of those who don’t, for not just this country but for the entire…what if this is a new way of seeing the entire world, a new way of being in the world? The flowering of human consciousness, as Eckhart Tolle says.

Yes it certainly sucks, I do not deny. Having a mere flu or a sinus infection or a bad cold also sucks—and the extreme contagiousness and potential death rate of this one is horrifying—so yes, it sucks, but also! We have been able to communicate with and learn from Italy and China and our literal individual next-door neighbor through the miracle of technology (years ago I wrote a blog about how the internet is merely a physical, tangible version of how connected “we” all already are, in the We Are One school of thought that characterizes the New Age, and maybe back when I wrote it it sounded outlandish, but…). Today WE are all fighting the SAME virus…the president tried to characterize it as a foreigner, but in truth it is a PAN-demic, affecting everyone, and everyone needs to participate in some level of isolation in order to arrest its spread. In the midst of all this isolation there is evidence of profound connection. But beyond and before anything else, we are being given time to connect with our Selves.

*I had been feeling an unusual level of anxiety several weeks ago regarding my (and my cat’s) living situation. The anxiety was so puzzling, because the one thing I know in general is…everything’s gonna be alright. So to have life not at all seem like it was going to be all right, to feel like life was an actual emergency, was so disconcerting and puzzling. I felt a wave compassion for those who live with anxiety on a daily basis—though it didn’t assuage mine. I did breathwork of every kind, I got a massage, I already do yoga at least once a day so I amped it up by attending a class, twice…but I still had anxiety. So when this crisis hit, when we were told not to touch our faces or shake hands, I felt liberated, vindicated. The anxiety had not been personally dysfunctional; it had been intuitive. I was relieved that my anxiety about where I and my cat were going to live was not some random, dys-functional, out of the blue regressing. I was relieved that decades of yoga and meditating and breathing and loving my "enemy" had not inexplicably collapsed and had in fact empowered my resilience. Exhale. 

My older friends and relatives are at risk. My living situation and lifestyle of ease and comfort is at risk. But. Also. I knew that moment of crisis heralded the fact that: now IS the time. This IS the paradigm shift. No doubt we are in the middle of a CORO-NATION. I’m a creator. You’re a creator. What do we want to create, individually and as a collective? How can we re-create a society that honors and supports every single person? As individuals, and as a collective, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are ripe. Let’s make it good.