About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Tag: prejudice

Say something

Fawn

Last night, following the Ferguson grand jury’s failure to indict, there was a peaceful protest here, quite close to where I ate lunch today. The protesters started their march at police headquarters, and ended it by marching onto a major highway–and then sitting down. The police appear to have done their job well–closing the highway to ensure the safety of the protesters, and remaining calm. Eight protesters were arrested late in the evening.

Due to my news blackout, I didn’t know about the protest, but as is always the case, when something important happens, I do hear about it. Several of my lunch companions were discussing the protest–all in unfavorable terms. They felt that shutting down a highway–a highway!–was taking things a step too far.

I said, Well, it sounds peaceful–was that the case? And they admitted it was, but continued to shake their heads over the highway–the highway! I began to wonder if highways were sacred in some way I had never realized …

Then one woman said, I just don’t get it. What happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with them.

Say what?!

I said, Well, I get it. There’s a huge amount of fear out there, on the part of cops and other people, and black people are ending up dead because of it. That’s just not cool.

And, of course, what’s also just not cool is that over and over, it seems to be consequence-free.

“It has nothing to do with them” is something I’ve heard before from her. It seems she has not yet taken the opportunity to learn that we are all connected–that what hurts one of us hurts all of us. She doesn’t understand why, for example, someone who has no children would be concerned about a children’s issue to the point of being genuinely upset. So I wasn’t surprised to hear this again.

But from my perspective (and I’m sure I’m not alone), if you’re black, it takes about a millisecond to make the connection: Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me.

And if you’re not black, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to realize, If I were black, Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me. And … why is it again that in 2014, 151 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the color of a person’s skin (a temporary condition, as souls have no color) continues to be so important that it can mean the difference between life and death?

For the record, any peaceful protest of injustice, hatred, loss of life, and fear is alright by me. Please, shut down a highway. Do it early, do it often. Do whatever it takes to get people’s attention.

As you go about your business in my country or any country, as you hear people expressing fear of the (supposed) other, hatred, prejudice, harsh judgment, or indifference to suffering–and they will–I hope you’ll say something. It doesn’t have to be perfect. What I said today wasn’t perfect, but I’m glad I said something anyway. I do think it helps to speak from love rather than anger. I believe it helps to say something.

Imagine if hate were always challenged. If lack of empathy were always met with compassion. If misunderstanding were always countered with thoughtfulness. If those labeled “other” were always relabeled “one of us.”

All of that is possible–if you say something. When we say something.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card of my throat chakra totem (a fawn), Opening the gate.

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How to receive inner guidance

lighthouse 2

You will be guided into port, out of the storm.

During a recent meditation, this sentence popped into my head. Whenever I feel as though there’s something I have to tackle alone, I find it comforting to think of the support system I have that’s invisible to me–angels, guides, ancestors, my higher self–all looking out for me, wanting the best for me.

A few days later I had lunch with a relative, who was telling me that she’d connected the dots between an optional medication and a deal-breaker side effect, and had stopped taking it. I mentioned how I like to consult my gut instinct when making decisions, and she said that she had had misgivings, but overrode them because she was determined to take the medication anyway due to other factors. I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, you gotta stop that.”

I know, because I used to approach life in just that way … and it turns out that when you’re bullheaded, when you ignore your gut, when you don’t ask questions, when you barely listen to anyone (let alone your true self), when your ego is firmly in the driver’s seat, when you go so far as to override your conscience because you’re stubbornly determined to do what you want to do no matter what, life just doesn’t go terribly well. You end up doing the wrong things. You end up doing things you regret. You end up at dead ends rather than on your right path … you end up stuck and unhappy, mired in inertia. (And of course, there are worse things than inertia–you could be headed off a cliff.) This approach is not the secret to a happy life. I know this very well.

All of this got me thinking about the usefulness of inner guidance. I truly believe that the beginning of wisdom is beginning to listen–to your higher self, to your gut instinct, to guidance, to your conscience. And to listen, you must be still. Cultivating stillness frees us from the tyranny of thought and ego, and allows us to make contact with the touchstone of truth and wisdom whenever it’s needed. And if you’re anything like me, that need is pretty constant.

Especially when I’m at work, I like to check in with my inner guidance a number of times a day. Is this the right way to respond? I might ask before sending an e-mail. Am I missing something here?

Very often when I make mistakes, I realize that I had a background awareness of something being amiss that I chose to ignore. The more I listen, the more I investigate, the more questions I ask, the fewer mistakes I make, and the less I do that I later regret doing. I don’t have many significant regrets, but I do have some, so it’s a little late to have a regret-free life. But I believe that by listening, by not rushing headlong, by taking decisions deliberately, many regrets can be avoided. In fact, it’s possible to come to the end of the day, or week, and hopefully a lifetime, and be able to say, I did well.

But first you have to be still enough so you can hear. For me, meditation has been the key to becoming still, and creating gaps in the flow of thoughts through my mind that allow wisdom and guidance to enter. To my mind, one of the most significant benefits of meditation is this space it opens up, allowing us to make better decisions in each moment, which in turn facilitates our being our best selves.

It also really helps to stop sweating the small stuff. If you’re worried about your imperfect nose, or static cling, or whatever completely insignificant “problem” du jour the advertising industry would like to create major concern about in order to move product, all of that is taking up mindspace that could simply be clear. Getting older really seems to help–and thank God for that!

In that clear, still space, I like to listen, to ask my question, to tune in. If I’m not sure of the right fork in the road (literally or figuratively, actually), I like to ask myself whatever the question is, and then quietly wait for the answer. If I’m still not sure–sometimes at this point I have conflicting thoughts–then I save the question for meditation later. After meditating for awhile, which creates a truly clear space for an answer to arise, I ask the question again.

Unfortunately, sometimes negative self-talk can get in the way of hearing the voice of wisdom, the voice of love. That’s where discernment comes in. This is my mantra whenever I feel that what I’m hearing may be the voice of fear, or the voice of ego …

I ask that all input be filtered through my higher self, including my own.

Of course, sometimes our inner guidance is delivering an authentic message of fear–This person cannot be trusted. You’re in danger. Get out of here now.

I don’t second-guess a message like this. There’s no harm in being somewhere else, or in taking a different elevator. And you never know when listening to your gut could save your life. Friends tell me that a mutual acquaintance makes the hair on the back of their necks stand up, gives them the creeps. I don’t get that from him–but I don’t question for a moment that they do, or try to change their minds.

For me, this is why it’s such a good idea to get generalized fears and prejudices out of your mind and heart–so that you can hear and feel clearly a specific fear when it arises. You may not be able to explain it; you probably won’t be. But it’s well worth listening to.

I like to look someone in the eyes to see if I can trust him or her, at least for the next few minutes. I do this when I see a homeless person with a sign (I keep energy bars in the car for this purpose). It’s also great for all types of interviews.

Of course, the need for true fear is rare. Far more often, all is well, and listening to the voice of love is all we truly need. As long as we’re in touch with the voice of wisdom, love, and truth, I really believe that each of us is the very best person to determine what’s truly right for us.

Do you perhaps have a burning question right now? Is there something you really need to know? Don’t be afraid to wrestle with the angel if you need to. But most of the time, in my experience, getting still and asking the question will yield the answer you need.

You are the ultimate arbiter of what’s right for you. Seek within.

A senior member of the human race

A few years ago, I was working as a contractor at a company that had everyone from non-union warehouse workers who were probably making minimum wage to the executives and CEO, all under one roof. Since office space and light industrial are zoned differently, this is an unusual arrangement I’ve only seen a couple times in my career.

I quickly noticed a spot at the end of a row of cubes I passed on my way out of my area where there was always a joke of some kind posted. Sometimes something genuinely funny, other times just odd, and once truly offensive.

This time the joke du jour consisted of a Photoshopped picture of a young black man, his hair cut like topiary into a trendy hat, with a caption indicating that if you couldn’t afford the hat you wanted, you could simply grow your own.

From all I could observe, this company seemed to have a good track record of hiring and promoting minorities, so seeing this tasteless joke hanging on the wall for days was puzzling. I felt it was in particularly poor taste considering the large number of people who worked there who weren’t making much money, many of whom could have been the Photoshopped person.

There were very few actual company employees in my area, but I asked one whom one could speak to about something offensive in the workplace and she said she had no idea. Clearly Human Resources did not have a high profile at this company. I was on my own.

I was totally clear on the fact that I was at the very bottom of the totem pole at this company, quite possibly on the portion of the totem pole that’s underground. As I thought about what I could do, it occurred to me that I didn’t need authority at this company to take action–all I needed was moral authority. Reminding myself that I’m a senior member of the human race, on my way out that night, I removed the graphic, took it home, and fed it to my shredder.

Who are you to stick up for the underdog, speak truth to power, fight injustice and prejudice? A senior member of the human race, that’s who.

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