We are at a crossroads, the Age of Aquarius, dawning of a new world consciousness, the end of an era…all that may be true. And, it may not…
What I do know is that at the same time I see a collective heave toward changing the dominate paradigm , I see a gasp to hold on to the status quo – a burning desire to keep things as they always have been. I see it externally, like, in politics. Trump anyone? I see it internally, my students who cling to their deep identification with ideas that cause traumatic harm to themselves and others. I see it organizationally, conferences that continue to have diversity panels that are all white, or arts ed organizations that can’t bring themselves to discuss why any images of people of color are read as slavery or field, intimidating criminal intent, or simply a “cultural representation.” I am seeing the collective gasp, even from those of us that want to move a social justice agenda forward, a tightening grip on individualized issues, the reluctance to identify with other oppressed peoples, clinging to whose oppression is deeper, more historical, more painful. Just as we are moving forward we are also digging in our heels, terrified of what change might look like.
On the mat or in mediation we practice what change feels like. What habitual reactions feel like. The older I get the more I am convinced that building the muscle of resiliency should start younger and younger. That everyone should have more chances to encounter disappointment, stare at discomfort, and feel bodily limitations in a productive way. The more work that muscle gets the more it gets flexed on the pavement, the more we are able to decide when to throw our energy around. When observing internal habits, the more choices there are about kind of citizen to be, the message of art and creative expression, self identify and representation, and how much and what kind of energy to bring to a room. This allows a greater ability for empathy, seeing how others may be experiencing a situation and knowing that one limited slice of reality is not the only one.
My lovely friend Megan Stielstra (and many others) has made it part of her plan to not accept invitations to read or present or be a talking head in any environment that is not inclusive (race, gender, sexuality, ability, religion…). She has had to meet the discomfort of asking producers and coordinators who they have invited to the table. She has had to walk away from spaces that might have helped her career or increased her book sales. She has had to explain to her 7 year old why she is calmly explaining to someone, yet again, how one walks the talk. I tell you this not to make a hero out of Megan, she IS fabulous, her shoes are fabulous and so is her taste in lipsticks; I tell you this because she is looking at the change. Megan is examining discomfort head on. Examining where HER heels are dug in, how to dislodge some cultural patterns, and what change might look like. Folks engaging in this practice are everywhere, and, shockingly, they are less sexy than the ones that cling to old ways of being.
Maybe because we understanding clinging, we identify with it. Even when we don’t agree, we understand wanting things to be normalized and similar to what they were when we went to bed. EVEN if the patterns and ideas and habits suck. Because, frankly, the same is, often, just easier.
So, what do you do if you want to change? If your bones are screaming for something to be different? Allow the change to happen? Take the small steps. Stop being on autopilot. Ask some questions, not once, or twice but hundreds of times, to hundreds of people to yourself. Listen to the answers. LISTEN, without responding.
It’s good to remember that you have a choice. And at the same time it’s good to take into consideration, the outcome may not just be about you.
Megan just released a book. Its called “The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, ” and it is amazing. You can order it here (scroll down).