We love change when it brings goodness, the things we desire, an end to suffering. We hate it when it makes us work, face ugly truths, when it makes life harder. It often takes a great deal of Buddha like foresight, patience, tenacity and willingness to well, suffer a bit to make our way through change.
I am not Buddha. I am a flawed and wonky human and i just don't know how to get to that place where i am all Buddha-ish foresight and patience and all those other worthy things. I find the more i exhort myself to be those the less accessible they are to me so in the face of all the hard that is going on right now - racism and homophobia being aired, destruction in Syria, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Turkey,and sadly Nice as we speak, on and on and on... - the more i fall into the trap of feeling too small, too flawed, to useless to do anything.
i think that very sense of feeling inadequate to do anything is part of what keeps us stuck in the damaging ways of thinking and behaving in our world.
Instead i am asking myself to try. I give myself permission to be clumsy. To do what is within my reach right now. I give myself permission to know that anger and suffering and guilt are likely to turn up and try not to let that derail my commitment to change. I give myself permission to not expect to get it right the first time. I give myself permission to notice defensiveness as it rises up in me. I need to be alert to this because defensiveness is for me and i suspect many others, a sure fire sign that outmoded behaviour is digging in for the long haul.
The Long Haul.
This kind of change and i am going to talk specifically about rooting out and changing racism because that is front and centre for me at the moment, is about changing legacy, societal structure, power paradigms and my own thinking. That change does not happen easily. We are digging out that nasty root called racism and that nasty root is just part of a more poisonous weed called the patriarchy.
Racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, genderism, consumerism, environmental destruction; all of these things are rooted in the system that values individualism, wealth and power over connection, fairness and sovereignty.
That's immense. And all i can do in the face of that immensity and my non-buddhahood is turn back towards myself. I have to know where that root has its hold in me. I need to learn about the ways i collude with the things that cause suffering. i have to ask myself the gnarly questions. Pull up from the soil of me some carcasses of things i have inherited or created in myself that stink to high heaven.
Rooting things out.
Dr Estes, in her recent workshop ,taught us about the deep magic of asking the right questions. In order to root racism out i have to learn to ask questions about where that poisonous root lives in me. These include; How do i benefit as a person of white skin, from the culture i live in? How am i advantaged? What part of me feels entitled? How does that play out? Where does my sense of deserving disadvantage others? What do disadvantaged people in my community miss out on that i take for granted? What can i shift in order for that to no longer be so?
But that is just some puny inner work. What the hell difference will that make if people are dying on the streets because of racism?
I think the patriarchy would like us to believe that one person's inner work, one puny human's efforts to see and transform inherited social patterning is laughable, too small, too miniscule to make a difference.
I disagree. If we take this inner work on as a part of our responsibility - part of the toll we pay for being human, then each of us have a role. Each of us counts. That's how social change happens; one person taking a stand, other people upholding that stand and making a difference. What if Mandela thought "Fuck it, these white men are just too powerful i am going to hang out here on the Transkei coast and farm my goats instead". No, each person, whether they can gather the power that Madiba had or not, has a responsibility to do their bit.
I am not, quite frankly, smart enough to know where my piece in the jigsaw of life will fit but that doesn't mean i just give up.
When our interior life; the starting place for all our actions, decisions, and beliefs is changed, then our contribution to the world changes.
The patriarchy separates and in building connectedness both within ourselves and outside ourselves we rebell. If we recognise our interconnectedness and our responsibility to one another we undermine the patriarchy.
"Mainstream communication does not want women, particularly white women, to respond to racism. It wants racism to be accepted as an immutable given in the fabric of your existence, like eveningtime or the common cold.” ~Audre Lorde
A note to introverts.
As an introvert in an extroverted world our natural "turn inwards" response is often maligned. Yes action is required to overturn racism and yet as an introvert i value my innate inwardness as a gift. For introverts, starting the process with ourselves, doing the critical questioning, feeling the gamut of what arises, constructing something new and doing the inner work first means we are able to turn up in the world with a strength and a bridge from the old to the new.
Once our interior path has begun we are equipped to engage differently in the world. We talk with family and friends differently. Maybe one of those we talk to and shift is a scared policeman. Who knows? We write letters that may support and strengthen. Who knows what a difference we can make or how something might arrive at a critical time for someone else? We make art. Who knows what our expression might inspire or shift in someone. We can trust that the things us introverts do from our deep inner work moves things, that we begin to do things from that new inner place that shift the current. Our outward contribution is deep because we have done our inner work.
Different=wrong is a bronken equation; part of the patriarchy and part of what allows the "isms" to flourish.
Doesn't that just let introverts off the hook?
No . I think it puts us on the spot or on the hook if you are a fan of Innana. It means we have to step up. It recognises that to turn up strong for change we need to do our inner work.
It doesn't have to be either or. You can do your inner work and protest. You can do your inner work and participate in anti racism action. You can do your inner work (and critically, i think) listen non-defensively and take action on what needs to change in you. You can connect with your outward action extrovert cousins and then look at each other's contributions as valid because by maligning and valuing one as more different than the other you are just entering the same patriarchal paradigm of better than/power over.
Once you have assimilated a view from a different path you change yourself. You live differently. You act differently. For an introvert, that is how change occurs.
"If you are a white person who would like to treat black people as equals in every way, it requires more than a simple commitment to equality. It requires that you change your life, so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis, and become familiar with the best of their culture, so that when you want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a minority, you aren't betrayed by your hesitation and discomfort." – Malcolm Gladwell
Of course making a change is more than interior work but for introverts this needs to come first.
How to we make that happen?
I don't know the answers but there are two things that make change stick in me.
1. Notice don't judge. If i can notice what arises and not leap to judgement i am buffered against defensiveness and the truth allows me to soften the hard roots of the patriarchy that makes them easier to pull out.
2. Play to your strengths. Trying to have an extroverted response when you are an introvert just wonks everything out. Do what comes naturally but for God's sake do it. We live in a critical time and we must dismantle this foulness wherever it lives in the world; our social systems, our services, our friendships, our families, our hearts.
But step up. This broken system feels the urge to change right now and is roaring back. Keep your shoulder to the work. You are not alone.
Places you might like to look at to stimulate change and questioning.
Desiree Adaway - this woman is an activist and coach and is daily giving me much to digest and shift.
Jennifer Davis Artist and deep soul Jennifer creates openings and hearts...
Heather Plett - this woman is a wordsmith who opens conversation with wisdom and grace.
Kelly Diels amazing writer and thought provoker.
tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Homegirls-guide-to-being-powerf;search:Rukaiyah watch and learn
read and learn www.jenniferpricedavis.com/blog/whats-love-got-to
and when you ask the question what would love do? it is not always an easy answer but it is a question we have to ask ourselves especially in a time where hate is showing up so strong.