Sorry for not writing sooner…I’ve been protesting.
I don’t think anyone who’s been reading for awhile will have any question about where, how and with whom I stand in the recent imperative upheaval in our country. I’ve become more vocal over time about racial inequities as a part of the critical healing of this time.
I remember vividly meeting a new patient the summer of 2016. On her intake forms, in the line for primary stressors she wrote, “I am the mother of 2 Black sons”. It was 10 days after the police killings of Castile & Sterling. Thousands of miles from either man sat a woman whose physical and mental wellbeing were weathered by surviving as a Black woman in this country, with aching concern for the survival of her precious children. She was brilliantly accomplished in her profession and personal life, her two sons both thriving in esteemed colleges. AND, the physical and mental health consequences of daily discrimination, systemic violence, and oppression are indisputable for our Black human family in the US.
This is not only happening in Minneapolis, Kentucky, and Atlanta. It’s in our back and front yards, filling our un-examined basements right here in the Pacific Northwest. In February this year, I offered public testimony before the King Co. Council. My brief testimony to the Law & Justice Committee can be heard here. Council was reviewing King County Sheriff’s conduct in the killing of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens. Chance is one of many people, mostly Black and brown, killed by police in Washington State. 41 people in 2019, 17 thus far in 2020. These individuals were sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers, in some cases pregnant.
Systemic change will occur in steps, internal and external. The Movement is surging, shifting, sustaining. States and cities are grappling, some taking inspiring steps forward. The internal work, of examining my own complicity and responsibility, I’ve found scouring and intimate. Decades of Zen monastic training at Tahoma have served me well in awareness internally, externally, and not getting caught in my own ego when I mess up and cause harm. I just keep going, opening my own heart’s determination to pause, to learn. to understand, to advocate, the support healing. Healing! There are myriad book lists and podcasts circulating, I’ve listed some in past writings. In this moment, I’ll suggest Alishia’s McCullough’s engaging, visual piece fostering deep reflection for white folx, and the book My Grandmother’s Hands with encouragement for all to read.
Wherever you are in all this, yourself weathered by surviving in this country, or your eyes opened more widely with horror and understanding to your own positioning, (and the whole continuum between) all the encouragements I often write about apply here. Pause. Feel your feet on the ground. Notice this precious human breath with intimate awareness. Notice the activity of the mind. Tune into the texture of the heart. We can only ever start from here. Exhausted. Confused. Afraid. Curious. Inspired. Ashamed. Galvanized. Resourced. Overwhelmed. Determined. My previous encouragements apply to learning about our own internalized white supremacy (regardless of our race). Single steps we can take to stop doing harm, to others and to ourselves, are entirely dependent on where we are in this journey. However we are positioned, we can all contribute to healing.
From my April ’20 newsletter, “The rot extended well beyond a few planks to the entire step’s structure.” This is the foundations of this country’s history: land plunder and genocide of indigenous peoples, and slavery. Again from 4/24 before any of us had heard George’s name, “This is how it’s gonna need to be going forward. We’re gonna need to do things for each other. We’re gonna have to pause and notice how those close by are doing, what they need. We’re going to have to build things, maybe things we didn’t know how to build. We’re going to have to ask for help, learn new things, take it one step at a time…build one step at a time, together.” What I do know as truth, is that our body-minds (because they’re not separate things) have extraordinary capacity to heal, to work creatively with distress and to heal!
Mental and physical health are recognized with parity in WA state. As much physical pain as I have been treating since my return to clinic in early May, I’ve been supporting more people struggling with anxiety and stresses from the viral pandemic in tandem with our nation’s pre-existing…conditions. There are new protocols, for me and my patients, and I can explain how I’m operating to keep myself and others safe in as much detail as you need. Yes, I’ve been protesting since George was killed, always wearing a mask and attentive to basic protocols we know contain the virus. And, it’s clear BLM protests are not driving coronavirus spikes here or across the country. My COVID test 2 weeks into protesting came back negative. Public Health officials are no longer suggesting protestors test unless symptomatic.
Please reach out if you want to schedule an appointment, or you want to discuss any elements of this writing. I welcome responses and dialogue. And sometime, brew or steep a cuppa, and take time to go back and read the articles I’ve embedded throughout this piece. They’ve been chosen with care.
onward in humility and determination toward healing.