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Have you noticed the almost sacred ritual that happens as it gets dark outside, at dusk? It’s especially noticeable for me on a warm summer evening. The air cools and stills. The lighting becomes surreal, glowing, soft, almost like a dream. Birds of a particular feather, shift location as if cued by an internal alarm. Humans and cars bustle about leaving and returning. Mosquitoes might try and get their last bite in. Certain other critters offer a strange but steady musical chorus to welcome the night. It feels like there is a divine design to all of it, like it would be imperfect with just one of its many guests missing. Where the sum of these individual pieces, and what can seem like disorder and disparateness, comes together to truly create the experience of dusk and night falling. Can you tell its my favorite time of day?
But more than that, in a weird way, it has me thinking about the incredibly crazy, imperfect but deliberate plan that is playing out in the world right now and our roles in it. Specifically I’m thinking about the disruption and dismantling of privilege, “business as usual” in its many forms. We see this as it relates to global politics, religion, women’s rights, ethnicity and race, sexual preference and so many things really. As of late, my own experience and attention has been on what greater healing and inclusion looks like in the spirituality/wellbeing space. But I think these reflections might also resonate in other spaces as well.
If you have the privilege (and I’m acknowledging that for myself here) to be able to take care of yourself by immersing in meditation, yoga, or some other form of wellness retreat or awareness-building practice, there is a meh pattern and bubble that has formed.
My white fellow travelers who for the most part are incredibly kind, thoughtful individuals usually represent the majority in the groups I have been a part of. Mostly white teachers who were able to travel, study immersively in a spiritual tradition often with eastern roots, are sharing what they know and increasingly in the form of a “certification” or workshop that historically probably had far less paper-proofs and dollar amounts attached. What does it mean to have a certificate in meditation? I can’t completely fault those teachers and thinkers and I’m grateful for the truly priceless sharing of many of them. Also let’s face it, we have generally bought into a world that links value with cash money and the struggle and hustle is real. But in the name of oneness and all being connected, we also inadvertently create distance and wash over and ignore the complexity of embedded magic, wisdom and pain our fellow travelers of color bring to these experiences.
I think it’s time to disrupt this norm. In fact, I think all of our healing and liberation depends on it.
I say this because as a relatively seasoned spiritual seeker (whatever that means), I’ve seen and experienced it and sometimes even reinforced it. My family is originally from south India where they were born into the caste-riddled practicing of Hinduism. For that reason, they didn’t bring over or follow much of the technical ritual or practices. But I grew up in the U.S. with a loving curiosity, respect and knowledge for certain values and cultural traditions like Indian classical dance that have deep roots to my ancestors, ancient spiritual traditions and the land itself. Even the native language offers a completely different way of thinking and relationship to the world that I had the privilege of being exposed to. It’s only in the past few years that I recognized the immensity of this gift and that this ancient wisdom has been implanted in us whether we formally sought it out or not. It’s there waiting.
Yet if you are part of a non-dominant majority growing up experience (that’s an official term), a funny thing can happen on your way to adulthood. You can be told or made to feel that your experience is irrelevant, unimportant, kinda dumb or even wrong. You can end up the only seeker and student of color in the room and sometimes feel alone and invisible. Worse yet, you could be part of a group where these ancient, essential roots were stripped and straight beaten out of you. Forgetting and ignoring was/is a cruel mandate.
It might then, be easier to understand for example, why it’s really really hard and frustrating when a member of a particular tribe hears from an excited non-member that they have discovered their “soul” is also from that member’s tribe, and yet have no interest in actually learning more about any current lived realities of that group. Or like me, have had guides and teachers tell me: I don’t know enough about my culture, dismiss what I do know or fervently mispronounce words I grew up with and misguide others to do the same. Many of us have had a flavor of this experience as a woman or other identities we hold. What sort of cements this problem for me is the belief that these moments don’t matter in the grand scheme of togetherness. But what I’m realizing is that to truly evolve we must have the courage to name and face this too. The crazy thing is that we are all connected in a deep trippy, amazing way AND we also bring our unique identities and insight and those are not mutually exclusive. Mirabai Starr says it awesomely in her book Wild Mercy (see links below):
“And in form we have separation as well as unity. We have mountain ranges and blue spruces, inner cities and dive bars, old white dudes and radical black feminists. We have teenagers in prison and moms who pine for them, grieving widows and philandering husbands, people for whom meditation practice compels them to offer themselves in service, to those on the margin and other people who don’t give a shit. This world is filled with glorious, untidy multiplicity.”
What does it look like to face this? I know enough to know that I would sound like an a-hole if I pretended to know right now. Like many Jedi Masters past and present have shared, I think we make the road by walking. I do however have a few thoughts to share and welcome yours.
Like a snow globe, we are being shaken up vigorously. This is a charged, unsettling time. There is so much anger and pain from the past and present we are working through. We must honor that in ourselves and others by way of feeling what we need to feel and making room for others to do the same. Can we find ways to talk, move, write and breathe through the waves with a less vicious-cycle-style spewing onto those around us? Can we create spaces where we talk less and listen more to the collective pain that has had far less air time? I think we might even have the courage and strength to take a few hits for the sake of the collective. After all, “their” pain is ours too.
If you are in a place where you can give more of yourself (because we all have to put on our oxygen masks before we can help others) I invite you to take a moment to bring a sense of gratitude and respect to the tradition you are practicing. It just takes a deliberate moment. And if it is part of your heritage, remember that it’s there if you want to explore further. Also, give yourself permission to share what you know. It may not be everything but that can be good enough and has the power to enrich all of us in the simple act of you giving voice to it and us hearing it. The legacy of wars, conquests, colonization and other awful stuff, have made historical truths a moving, confusing target.It has also made essential teachings harder to access and absorb for those who might be closest to it. Let’s acknowledge this together by respecting the origins of the message AND the old and new messengers. Let’s make space for those soft, nuanced conversations.
We all hold a deep wisdom in our bones from our ancestors and the earth. It’s all awesome in its own right but it’s going to be different. Can we approach our learning and practices in a way that embraces difference more? In a way that can hold space for the sweet and salty, the deep wounds and the healing? Might we learn even more about ourselves in listening and boosting the wisdom of everyone in the room — in front, behind and alongside us?
As I said, I don’t know the right answer here and I welcome yours. In this really hard reshuffling period, it is by design that we are moving through and taking down what’s wrong to re-imagine and build something new. Just as our own pain, personal growth and evolution matters, so does the pain and healing that occurs for others in our collective. Just as a beautiful dusk, to me, involves all of the distinct, varied, creatures, sounds and elements being included and showing up together, so does the sun rising on a new vision of a future we all want to be a part of.
A note of gratitude and acknowledgement…
Immense gratitude and my pranams to Grace Alvarez Sesma, powerful healer and teacher within the Curanderismo tradition who sparked a deep dive reflection for me around this space, as well as Reya Mellicker, a friend and wisdom teacher for encouraging me to write it out.