I'm feeling like a bit of a prophet after my last post, where I wrote that Something Must Be Done about all the injustice of the world over which we have no control.
After the events in Charlottesville this past weekend, I really feel like Something Must Be Done about racists and white supremacists, and I'm kind of regretting that last line of that last post, where I said that Something Must Be Done WITHIN ME.
As I think about what needs to be done, I've been considering the roots of hatred.
Where does that kind of hatred come from?
To do work within me, I have to dig beneath the constructs of what makes "them" do what "they" did in Charlottesville.
I have to think about what could potentially drive that kind of hatred inside me.
Cultural influences aside (and please, I beg you, educate yourself about those), what are the personal components of hatred?
Hatred, I believe, is a toxic mixture of fear and shame, irrationally projected onto someone "other."
In the case of events in Charlottesville:
I'm full of fear (manufactured by my culture or real in my personal experience) + I have terrible shame (real men, especially supreme white ones, don't feel fear) = I hate black people and Jews; in fact, I want them dead.
This makes no logical sense, it's true, but there's a real reason that fear and shame lead to irrational conclusions and harmful behaviors.
I've said this here about a thousand times already (some of you are chanting, "amygdala, amygdala, amygdala" and getting gold stars on your super-blog-reader charts) but here it is again:
When our downstairs brain gets overwhelmed by fear or stress, our lids get flipped in our upstairs brain, and the cognitive game is over.
When we're scared and our lids are flipped, we'll do anything to make ourselves feel better, no matter how irrational, no matter how harmful to ourselves and others.
Here's Dr. Dan Siegel with a quick review:
Fear will make us irrational.
All of us.
Not just white supremacists.
All of us.
When we keep living in fear, we become less and less rational and more and more susceptible to soothing ourselves in harmful ways.
Therefore: if I want to be a sane, rational, loving human being, I've got to learn to deal with my fear in healthy ways.
I've got to recognize fear and deal with it, before it has me buying packs of tiki torches in Wal-Mart.
Recognizing fear means that:
- I cease denying that I have painful emotions because I am a Christian/white/male/whatever
- I accept that emotions are helpful when I listen and work with them in healthy ways
- I listen to Dr. Siegel and educate myself about how my brain and body work
- I pay close attention to my physical body
- I understand and recognize tension in my physical body
- I experience how thoughts, images, conversations impact my physical body
Dealing with fear in healthy ways means that:
- I calm my body, preemtively and often, with techniques like breathing, yoga, exercise
- I pay attention to what I put into my cognitive brain that may promote fear rather than rational thought
- I do more yoga, breathing, and exercise
- I might delete Facebook from my phone if I get really radical with my self-care
- I stick with sane, rational people as much as possible
- Yoga. Breathing. Exercise.
I have been thinking recently about how breathing and yoga are so incredibly effective in coping with life, and bringing us to a place of sanity.
And I have been thinking about how the Holy Spirit is called wind and breath.
And it just makes me think, maybe there's something to this whole breathing thing, spiritually speaking?
Maybe it has something to do with the wind and breath that created us and sustains us, in whom we live and move and have our being?
Breathe in Love, breathe in community, breathe in Oneness.
Breathe out the fear, breathe out the shame, breathe away the hatred.
"Return to the breath"--this is a thing your yoga instructor will say.
And to me, that's just another way of saying, "Turn back to Love."
When we're scared, when we're lost, when it's all too much, there is ALWAYS a safe place for us to go: Love. We just turn back to Love, over and over and over.
And those of us who have tried it have found it to be true: our breath carries us there.
The breath that brought us into existence, the breath of the Spirit that carries us every day, that is the breath that brings us away from fear, away from shame, away from hate and back to Love.
So this is what I know to do within me today: BREATHE.
Of course we will listen and think and seek to understand and change our minds if need be.
We will post and march and light candles and pray.
We will keep speaking truth to power, we will keep bearing light into the darkness.
But first, we breathe.
Lots of love in, lots of love out.
We breathe, we breathe, we breathe.
We breathe ourselves back to Love.