One of the things I appreciate about a mindfulness practice is simply the ability to sit with uncomfortable feelings. That it’s okay and that it is necessary.
I was faced with putting my mindfulness practice to the test the other evening. A local group called Courageous Conversations hosted a book talk at the high school with Debbie Irving, the author of Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race. I read the book earlier this year along with Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, as my own commitment to understanding racism in America.
The auditorium was mostly filled with white people and that was the point. Irving’s clear mission is to educate white people by sharing her own awakening. I’m grateful that local groups in my town are “ripping off the bandaid” so people can face a very dark and uncomfortable history around racial oppression and the systems that have been designed to instill the divides: government, education, banking, housing, urban planning and so on. There are many things we do not learn in our history books or social studies.
Who benefited from the GI bill?
Who was Rosa Parks really?
Do you know about Black Wall Street in Tulsa Oklahoma and what happened there?
The most poignant and perhaps ironic moment happened at the end of the talk when a woman, who is of Native American descent, stood up. With a quavering voice she said that she would appreciate if the author would also include her people in her discussions. How it’s very painful for her to continue to experience being invisible, even in well intentioned conversations about people of color. She implored,
Where is red?
The room fell silent.
The history of Native Americans in Massachusetts, where I live, is heartbreaking. The pilgrims stepped ashore here after all. This significant event in our history was followed by a genocide no one wants to admit. Several centuries later this woman stands up, forcing a brief reckoning for some of us. At that moment I had to call upon my compassion practice — for this brave woman and for everyone in that room who was bearing witness to the pain. But what’s next?
Tomorrow I will enjoy a wonderful day with family. I look forward to it. A thanksgiving meal is my all time favorite. Practices of gratitude warm my heart. There is so much to appreciate every single day. At this writing, some families don’t have homes to go back to as fires burn on the West coast.
As we gather there will be opportunities to acknowledge what’s happening right now in our own communities and in our nation, like racism. It’s about cultivating an expansive heart to hold the joys and sufferings. I was delighted when a mentor sent the following resources as if she knew I was writing this post. We need some instructions. This is not easy. But it’s essential. Let’s shine a light on our imperfect humanity and join hands for change.
Kindness is love in action.
Blessings to you,