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Embodiment

A thing that I have been working on — and slowly making progress with — is listening to my body. So much of our culture sends a message that your body is something inherently bad, something to be changed, somehow separate from who you are. The domination of the conscious mind as our conception of self has haunted Western thought since the Enlightenment.

Combine that with my personality tendencies and some of the specific circumstances I grew up in, and I’ve often found it rather difficult not only to listen to my body, but to trust it. In the past, I have ignored, punished, and disbelieved my body to the point of burnout and getting miserably sick. As I’ve gotten older, if I push it too far my body will quite forcefully assert its need for rest, and pronounce limitations that I’m reluctant to accept (for example, I can no longer do standing room only concerts).

There is a concept called “embodiment” that basically posits that you are your body, and living well means being present in and attentive to your body.

Some things I’ve been doing to practice embodiment:

  • Listening for when to eat and when to stop. One of the best lessons I learned growing up was to stop eating when I got full. Not that I never ignored this and stuffed my face anyways, but for the most part I stop eating when I get full, even if that means leftovers (which are very common for me). The bit that, historically, I have been less great about, is eating when I’m hungry. Maybe I don’t feel like going through the effort of getting/preparing food or use the excuse that I’m busy, but I push myself to the point of hanger or an upset stomach way too often.
  • Moving when I feel antsy. I am a hugely fidgety person — like I specifically buy pens that I can absentmindedly disassemble and reassemble during the workday — and letting myself fidget helps me focus and process things better. If it’s more than a fidget, I’ll sometimes get up from wherever I am inevitably sitting and walking or bouncing on my toes for a few minutes.
  • Exercising semi-regularly. I do not pretend to be a fitness god here, people. I do like 1-2 yoga classes a week, maybe go for a walk, and sometimes play tennis. But even that little bit makes a huge difference.
  • Asking my body what it’s feeling. This sounds ridiculous, but dude it works. Sometimes I’ll just feel… weird, or will be feeling a certain way and not know why. Taking a moment to actively listen and feel whatever you’re feeling, to notice the sensations and what emotions or needs they might be tied to.
  • Rest. Like literally lay down. Now that I have surrendered to my morning person ways, my bedtime is early y’all. I sometimes lay down for 5 to 15 minutes in the afternoon to recharge before resuming my day. This can also mean letting a couple chores wait until tomorrow and relaxing with a good book or movie!
  • Meditating & mindfulness. I am super novice at this, but I typically do a short meditation on weekday mornings, and find that the practice is really helpful. In terms of mindfulness, I’ve been putting extra effort toward noticing and enjoying tangible things, like fresh air on a hike or the taste of warm buttered bread.
  • Adapting. Like I mentioned above, there’s stuff my body has just decided is not for me, like concerts where my twentysomething butt doesn’t have a seat. I need more sleep than my significant other, which means sometimes I miss out on stuff. I use tools and medicine like my inhaler when I need to. And sometimes those things can be frustrating, but leaning into them means that I end up feeling way better.
  • On that note, being intentional in the way I think about my body. It’s not just a skin suit, it’s me. It’s not bad or weak, I’m probably just tired. Specifically, framing it as being thankful for the ways that my body takes care of me helps me be more loving and thoughtful to care for it.

In light of recent and ongoing events, I would challenge you to think about what actions you can take to join the effort of caring for and protecting Black and brown bodies. We live in a world and a society that is built upon systems designed to harm and to exploit, and our neighbor’s body and spirit are just as precious as our own. My post on anti-racism offers some starting points if you’d find them helpful.

What are your experiences with embodiment? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m running late this week, y’all.)

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Anti-racism

There was no post last week because all the pain out in the open has been a lot to process lately, and sometimes breaks are needed to rest and recover. But I also cannot in good conscience remain silent about the effects of racism on the country I live in.

This is beyond ridiculous. Black lives matter. Absolutely no person should have to fear for their safety or their life by simply existing. Period. The number of Black people in the United States who have been unjustly killed by police and by white people in the last few months alone should make anyone furious, let alone the long list of those whose names we know — and whose names we don’t — before this.

I want to make it clear that I don’t condone violence. But it is entirely justified to be angry. We should be angry. And the nature of racism and other injustices mean that power will not be handed down to those who are hurting. Direct action is necessary, or we will continue to have more years and decades of the same suffering that we have already allowed to go on for far too long.

I grew up with a lot of privileges, including living in a situation where I didn’t really have to confront this reality unless I wanted to. Part of that is the area I grew up in (which is a whole other conversation on systemic furtherance of injustice), and part of it is because of the color of my skin. I’m biracial and white-passing, and am still learning the depth of what it means to be Black in this country.

I’m no expert. It is very pointedly not my place, both because I still have so much to learn and because it matters deeply that those of us with privilege in a given area elevate the voices of those who are experiencing the issue, not speak over them.

So to that end, below is a list of resources that more qualified folks than me have shared on what you can do to become more aware and educated on the reality of racism in America*, and how to take action. Please note that I haven’t read and/or engaged with all of these materials, but will indicate the ones which I have. If you’re not Black and this isn’t your experience — and especially if you’re white — much of this could be difficult to take in. It has been for me. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself experiencing lots of different emotions as you engage with these works. I encourage you to take time to examine what you’re feeling and why, then keep learning.

Learning resources**

What is anti-racism?

It is acknowledging that racism exists as more than a personal feeling, and committing to continually learning, growing, and fighting injustice. The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an excellent short breakdown of anti-racism and different ways that racism is implemented and perpetuated.

It’s also important to know that anti-racism and all efforts for justice and progress should be a continual part of our lives. This isn’t something that ends once the news cycle moves on or once it’s no longer popular.

Reading

  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
    • There is no time when this letter is not poignant, and I recommend it as a starting point. Dr. King’s legacy is one of nonviolence but also direct action, and his words here are exceptionally clear on the impact of “moderate” stances
  • Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates [have read]
  • An Anti-Racism Reading List” compiled by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Antiracist
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas [have read]
    • I recommend this over the movie, though the movie is also good
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Dr. Maya Angelou [have read]
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have read]
  • I Bring the Voices of My People by Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes [currently reading]
  • Native by Kaitlin Curtice
  • Note: Books aren’t linked this time, because right now it would be stellar if you purchased from your local independent bookstore. Here’s how to find an indie bookstore near you, and a list of Black-owned bookstores.

Listening

  • The Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have listened]
  • The Liturgists podcast has done a number of helpful episodes:
    • Black and White: Racism in America[have listened]
      • I really, really recommend this one. It’s from 2016 and I first listened to it in 2018, but it’s every bit as relevant today
    • Anti-Racism with Andre Henry[have listened] — more of Andre’s work is linked in the section below
    • For the whole month of February this year, they offered daily mini episodes on how Black history is American history. They’re accessible, and offer some great discussion and reflection [have listened]
  • Code Switch podcast from NPR
  • The Problem with Racial Colorblindness” TEDx Talk by Phil Mazzocco
    • This is a clear, digestible explanation of why saying things like “we’re all just human” or “race doesn’t matter” aren’t helpful. I strongly recommend this one if those phrases resonated with you

Compilations

  • This public Google Doc, titled “Anti-Racism for Beginners,” has a really thorough list of resources that are accessible at a variety of levels
  • Anti-racism resources for white people” is another public Google Doc with accessible info
  • White Homework” by Tori Williams Douglass
    • This page also includes a list of other resources; I recommend looking at all of them
  • Hope & Hard Pills” is a series (including a weekly email newsletter and a podcast) by Andre Henry

Part of being an adult means not avoiding difficult topics, and it means not being passive toward injustice. This is not a journey we ever reach the end of, but it is one that we all have an obligation to work toward. Let’s do the work.

If you want to do something

  • Commit to continually educating yourself on perspectives that are different from your own, and to studying the history of how so many of the realities we see today came to exist.
  • Visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co to sign petitions, donate to organizations and funds, learn more, and contact local government to urge them to effect change.
  • Amplify Black voices and other marginalized voices when they are speaking about the experiences and urging change. Repost, share, support. This is a time to center the people who the movement is about, not ourselves.
  • Other people have poured so much effort and caring into creating the resources that we are able to learn from. If you learn from someone’s efforts — especially in a time like this — see if you can tangibly thank them in some way, whether that’s through Venmo, Patreon, purchasing and/or promoting their work.
    • (Note that this does not apply to me! If you learned something from this post, I’m so glad; please direct your gratitude toward one of the funds linked in the bullet point above.)
  • Please keep in mind that no one owes you their time or attention, especially folks you don’t have a close relationship with. Learn to gently accept that.
  • If you notice any instance in which someone is threatening or harming someone, using slurs or exhibiting racist (or sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, etc.) behavior, do something. Often calling out the behavior or engaging in a way that (nonviolently) draws the offending person’s attention away from the person they were targeting can get them to stop or go away, but sometimes it’s not enough. If necessary, do what you can to (with their permission) get the person being harmed and yourself away from the threat.
  • Protesting can be dangerous given the outbreaks of violence from multiple sources and the fact we are still in the middle of a global pandemic of a highly transmissible virus. I also recognize that my ability to stay safe at home is itself a privilege not everyone has. So if either you must go out or feel compelled to join protests, here are some resources on staying safe:
    • FOLLOW CDC GUIDELINES. Mask, hand sanitizer, minimize contact with other people. Please, please, we have lost way too many lives already.
    • Tell someone you trust where you are, try to never be alone, and have the proper supplies.
    • Do your research where community-led (especially Black and/or POC-led) organizations are peacefully protesting, and follow their lead rather than fringe organizations. Know when the curfew is and have a plan to be safely inside well before that time passes.
    • More resources can be found here.
  • The King Center (led by Dr. Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter) is hosting a daily online protest at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT through Monday, June 8. It’s an opportunity to participate and to learn, and the recordings of each one are available to watch afterward.

An immeasurable thank you to the people who created the works and resources I’ve linked, and who have taken the time and effort to teach me. It’s time to keep learning, and for us as a country to grow up. We need to do better.

If there were any resources I missed or you have questions, please let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. May we each open our eyes and our ears and get our hands in the dirt so that we can all have a better future.

 

 

P.S. This is the post for this week, but I will be continuing to share more resources I come across on Twitter @ohgrowup.

* This post is very United States-centric, only because that is the country I live in and which I have enough knowledge to speak to. However, racism is absolutely not only a U.S. problem. Genocide and policy brutality is not only a U.S. problem. Systemic injustice and casual prejudice is not only a U.S. problem. We’ll only truly solve these issues together.

** Note that these resources mostly focus on anti-Black racism, but that is by no means the only form of racism that exists, though it does have a unique history within the United States. Native American and indigenous peoples, Latinx folks, Asian Americans, and countless immigrants have also faced prejudice and injustice in many forms. Some of the compilations linked above address these demographics as well.

EDITS: Updated Thursday, June 4 with additional resources, noting works I have engaged with since the original posting, small edits to decenter my perspective, and the reminder that this work does not end. Updated again Friday, August 28 with additional resources and updated works I have engaged with.