The Delta breeze that swept into Sacramento last night comforted me post-dinner as I conversed with two friends, folks I’ve known more than thirty years. Good-hearted people. Progressive people. White-bodied people. With social justice passion simmering beneath my calm exterior, I posited a simple scenario. You can jump right into this moment with me. Imagine we’re sitting in my peaceful backyard. We hear the gate un-latch, a white man comes into view. How does your body respond? Notice. Breathe. Now, same scenario, except a black man comes into view. Question: was your bodily response the same in each scenario?
In every conceivable way, these well-meaning intelligent people continued to not answer the simple question, changing the conversation over and over. “It’s more about size, not color.” “What expression is on his face?” “I lived eight years in a black neighborhood—I have zero prejudice”. It was impossible for them to land in the simple question: can you feel the different response in your body? Can you?
Our bodies send a multitude of signals that don’t vary in response to something real or something imagined. Neck hackles rise, belly becomes heavy-weighted, shoulders tense, jaws grip, breath disappears. All physical reactions for fight, flight, freeze readiness. If this moment is not an emergency situation, what a great opportunity to pause, settle a bit, investigate. Where exactly does it land in your body? What is this response calling for? What mood is present? What narrative is arising? How might I respond from a place of integrity?
One of the reasons I took a break from July teaching was to follow this thread. In meadow quiet and at river’s edge My Grandmother’s Hands skillfully guided me in each of it’s creatively embodied exercises. Slowly. Breathing. Allowing. As a result, I feel fundamentally shifted, awake in ways I never considered myself asleep. I’m a good person, a kind human, a relatively conscious being, politically progressive…radical in some ways. Yet I totally get that I have a big piece of work to do. That has only just begun. And I am very willing to move forward one small slow step at a time. That’s how real change happens. Grateful for Resmaa Menakem’s impeccable guidance. Highly recommended.
My teaching has always flowed directly from the vulnerable, often messy pasture of personal growth. I don’t know another way. Mat classes begin again next week. Sunday Sweats continue online and live in the garden through August. Wednesday Waves will re-start in September. Mat or dance floor—both embodied practices and clearly how I might best contribute to a shift in the culture. If you’re curious about how this hot topic can show up in a teaching space, this is the introductory nine minutes to Essential Recharge.
We can do our personal work but then there is this unshakable truth from William Oliver:
“Healing must be collective, both in its process and benefits.”
I have no intention of holding this current theme in a dogmatic way. I’ve been investigating and teaching about deep core awareness for many years. Growth and transformation begin with knowing what we’re feeling in any given moment. It is no coincidence that my own personal, historical and genetic trauma has made access to this critical knowing a challenge for me. We teach what we need to learn.
And this is a vulnerable piece: there is no doubt that the spaces I hold are very white. Interestingly enough, my focus is NOT on integrating these spaces, though I welcome and am learning how to create safety for people of all colors. Here’s the deal: the mat and the dance floor are ideal practices to create shifts in white bodies. White bodies that fall into three categories Menakem so deftly names:
“…white, racist and proud to be both;
white, racist and in reflexive denial about it;
white, progressive and ashamed of their whiteness.”
Whew, that’s a tough list to read. I’d like to add one category: white, racist and doing what is possible to change. Thanks for moving with me in these dog days of August. Love, Bella
COMING RIGHT UP…
Essential Recharge On Line
Saturday August 29 10am-noon
Sunday Sweat Your Prayers
August 2 9:45-11:15
Zoom in your home
Live in the garden
Essentials On Line
Tuesday August 4 10:00am
Deeper Being On Line
Friday August 7 10:00am
Wednesday Waves On Line
September 9 5:15pm
make your appointment