Truth be told, since school has been so super-duper busy this year, I have not sat down to write one of these in a while. The weekly posts I’ve been sending are basically recycled posts. I did write them…but in some cases it was awhile back. The cyclical nature of life’s lessons make it a bit easier on me…somehow what I wrote even years ago still holds some truth and power, at least for me.
As I sit with that small, insignificant fact, I am struck with a choice: to beat myself up for this “failure,” to berate myself for not being organized enough, for not “having it together,” for not being able to do every single thing that is important to me every single day. I can definitely judge myself for this latest let-down.
But I am choosing to practice compassion with myself. I am choosing to hold what Brené Brown calls “the shame storm” at bay. And just for today, for right now, I’m practicing compassion. I am holding space for the complexities that my life contains right now, the many demands on my time, energy, and other resources. I am choosing to hold space for the full range of emotions that I am feeling today. I am choosing not to back away…and not to plow through. This requires compassion.
By choosing to hold space for myself and the complexity of my reality, I increase my capacity to do that for others. I tone my compassion muscle. In the face of all that I am facing, I cannot think of anything more powerful, more “useful,” more constructive than this.
Today there are many important things happening in our community and around the world. It is the dreaded tax day, a day in which the state and federal governments take a greater percentage of the hard-earned money of poor and working-class people than they do from those who exploit us and pillage the planet (aka regressive taxation). This is a day of mourning for me, because it is a day in which our state government will have more money to divest from our schools and health care systems and divert it to efforts at privatization, voter repression, and simply into the pockets of the already-uber-wealthy. On a Federal level, the story is a similar one. A good portion of those taxes – literally more than 25% of the federal budget – will go to making war at home and abroad. And I am not referring to the war on the poor in the form of education, healthcare, and other cutbacks. No. I mean actual war – the tanks-and-guns-and-bombs kind that we are fueling all over the world. My hard-earned money, being used not to provide access to reproductive health, fair education, environmental preservation, or restorative justice, but rather to kill people and traumatize another generation of soldiers. [There is a way to fight this: it’s called War Tax Resistance. Go here for more.]
It is also a historic day: the largest low-wage worker mobilization in history (as far as I’ve heard) is taking place today. Fast food workers, domestic workers, retail workers, adjunct professors, and other low-wage workers are mobilizing throughout the world. The global race to the bottom for wages and working conditions is affecting an ever-growing portion of today’s (would-be) workers. Trickle-down does not work. We need to Raise Up for 15 today.
And, last but not least, mobilizations are once again on the rise around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. And rightfully so. According to a website called Killed by the Police, 328 people have been killed by the police already in 2015. This is the 105th day of the year. That means more than 3 per day. That means one every 8 hours. That means that between now and when I see some of you in yoga class tonight, at least one more person will die at the hands of the police. That site doesn’t identify it readily (from what I can tell or have time to discern), but I know that most of those dead are black men. And the police are rarely charged, and even less often convicted.
[If I haven’t lost you yet, you might be wondering what all this has to do with compassion. Then again, I honestly hope you aren’t…]
We have to keep breathing. As Michelle Johnson reminded us recently at a Dismantling Racism workshop in Durham, “breathing is radical.” It puts us in touch with our true nature. Which is compassionate, fierce, whole and unharmed, steady and resilient. We must remember this about ourselves. We must remember that we have what we need to hold space for this stuff.
And y’all. We have to be present to this stuff. We cannot turn away. We cannot shut down and desensitize. We cannot shut out the bad without shutting out the good.
Whether we are a low-wage worker or know one (odds are, we do)…whether we have lost a loved one to police violence or not (increasingly, odds are we have)…whether we have been to war or know someone who has (as a soldier, as a civilian caught in the crossfire, as a descendent of those who were)…whether we are able to see ourselves as connected to these issues or not.
We Are All Connected.
Holding space for the significance of today’s events is making me think so much about the importance of caring for and supporting one another. I just want to hold others and be held. I just want to be able to be there for folks who are struggling and share the truth of my own struggles. We suffer so much in silent agony. We need compassion. The ability to be with others in their struggles, to know we have the capacity to open our hearts to the suffering of others and that we will survive. This is what makes us human. We were meant to be present to this.
In keeping with the theme for the spring, we will look at this as an opportunity to examine one of The Gifts of Imperfection–one that is also a tool for transforming our experiences. Compassion is so potent, so powerful, in such short supply and in such great demand.
I hope I see you tonight or Saturday.