Tonight I led a meditation at the Kimbell Art Museum. I thought around 30 people would come. I mean, I decided to do this last night after watching CNN all day. Therefore, I didn’t get a permit. When I arrived (45 minutes early,) at least that many people were already there. Though I never counted, I believe around 200 people came. From Fort Worth and Arlington, Grand Prairie, and Dallas. Adults and children.
(photos courtesy of Rene Gomez)
After sitting for around 30 minutes, my awareness shifted from the birds and the water to a man shouting in the back. I motioned to Dana to check it out. With all of the people on the lawn and in chairs, I couldn’t tell what was going on. A few minutes later, it was clear that the conversation was not coming to an end.
I have this memory of Bernie Sanders having the opportunity to engage with Black Lives Matter protestors; he shirked the opportunity and continued with his speech. This is my opinion, of course. I recall feeling as if he missed an opportunity to engage in a necessary dialogue. I’ve marched with Black Lives Matter. And each time I do, I think, Whoa, they are soooooo angry. That memory came to me tonight. Two things I have learned about privilege: 1. When people of color speak, we must shut our mouths and listen. 2. We cannot expect nor ask people to be calm. Of course, they’re angry. We have historically not listened to them. We have silenced them.
I, on the other hand, have a platform that enables me to organize hundreds of people on a moment’s notice. I am a lesbian; however, I can pass as straight. Mostly, I ooze with privilege that I rarely think about. No police arrived to the event I organized tonight. Had a person of color organized, I wonder if that would have been the case.
A few weeks ago, I was teaching meditation at Alliance for Children, whose mission is to end child abuse. And, the woman I taught explained that where she lives, she never feels safe. How can one find a safe place to dwell in her body if she never feels safe? The fact that I’ve not felt this way too often is a testimony to my privilege. I don’t have the answers. I rely on the people I teach to educate me. And, I read widely about systemic racism and study how to merge yoga with activism. I always feel as if I’m leading from one step behind, which I learned in my studies to be a counselor.
So, in hearing this man, I asked the crowd to notice the sounds and what they were sensing in their bodies. And, I invited the man up. He had a white woman with him whose sign read, “Punch more Nazis.” I turned off my mic. I introduced myself. I asked him where he was from. He was angry that I – a white woman of privilege – was leading a meditation. He felt a dialogue where the most vulnerable voices are heard was necessary. I explained I thought that was important, too. I asked if he’d be willing to wait 10 minutes to speak at 8:15 pm when I finished my meditation. He denied my request. I asked if he’d be willing to move his conversation to one side of the lawn. He agreed.
I don’t believe we can meditate racism, domestic terrorism, religious extremism away any more than I can pray the gay away. I see meditation as the first step to clearing the path toward right speech and action.
I turned the mic on and introduced him to the group. I explained that he had some valid ideas to share and that they were welcome to join him. Around 40 people joined him. And the remainder finished the meditation. When it was over, I walked over to hear what he had to say because I am interested in how I can be part of the solution. I heard him criticizing me again. How could a white woman have the audacity to lead a meditation and ask a person of color to wait until the end to speak?! I took my awareness to my feet, and I lengthened my back. I breathed a little more consciously and felt my defensiveness dissipate. When he finished, I thanked him for honoring my request to allow me to finish my meditation. And, he offered me some feedback about how I can invite more people of color to join me in meditation and at my events, which I would love to do.
Except, I haven’t found many teachers of color around here in Fort Worth. I haven’t found many students of color around here in Fort Worth – other than the ones I taught this morning at Mental Health America and the ones I’ll teach tomorrow at True Worth Place, and the ones that another (white) teacher (of privilege) will teach at Safe Haven on Thursday. And, on Friday, we (white) yoga teachers will meet at Righteous Foods to discuss ways we can spread yoga and meditation to people who don’t have access. I offer a scholarship for my Soul.Full School of Yoga training, and I’d love to offer it to a person of color. I’ll just put that out there.
So, until then, “I’m a white woman with a ton of privilege” as I told the crowd, and I’m just trying to start where I am and do what I can. And, what I can do is share my gifts of uniting people
and writing and my skills of Nonviolent Communication
, Somatic Experiencing
, and meditation
. Granted, I don’t share them perfectly. I never will. I cannot allow the fear of making mistakes to paralyze me. I feel that no action is too small when it comes to creating change. This experience has helped me to look at the ways that I am, perhaps with the purest of intention, contributing to the problem, without even knowing it.
Because I’ll never transcend my humanity, criticism still stings, which is why I typically do not read nor respond to comments (even the kind ones.) The way I remember who I am is not to allow others’ opinions (with few exceptions) to hold too much water. Yet, the only way I’ve learned to be strong enough in my body to stay woke enough to pay attention to the vile stuff that is happening in our world is through yoga and meditation.These practices have taught me to be more sensitive and aware to what’s happening around me. These practices have taught me to stand (or sit) inside myself when I’m uncomfortable, even when someone else appears to be losing it. These practices have taught me to connect to my highest wisdom, to practice compassion and empathy when anger and blame arise more readily. These practices have taught me how to deactivate my own nervous system and to help others do the same.
These practices have taught me to hold space.
And tonight, that meant doing my best to hold the space for him to be heard and holding space for people to meditate. The two, I feel, don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
The central message in my teaching is always the same: never will there be another soul exactly like you. At once, we are similar and unique.Be confident, as Glennon Melton says, because you are a child of God; be humble because everyone else is, too.
Our world needs your God-given talents and hard earned skills. May our spiritual practices move us to open our eyes to injustice, to listen more receptively, to speak less violently, and to act together to create the community and world we’d like to see.