On a Spiritual Path to Social Change
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
I want to write this, and I don’t fully know what to say.
I am no expert, in fact I'm newer to this space - the social justice* space. And yet, something is telling me to speak, to write. And when that happens, I always listen. I’ll note this is from a white perspective, as all of my writing is, because I am. Full disclaimer: it’s one that’s both privileged and likely lacking, however I don’t view my lack as a negative, because it leaves space for expansion. Expansion (or an openness) is vital to understanding our role in the world, so maybe it’s not a lacking so much, as a not-quite-there yet. Still, I wanted to say what I’ve learned so far in my short, endless journey. I cannot say if my words are for everyone, but they are for me - as a start, and if you’re reading this, maybe they are for you, too.
*Social Justice (noun) - justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.
I remember some months ago googling ‘social justice and spirituality’.
I wondered if there were others like me; people new, or seasoned, to social justice who simultaneously needed to take their quest for the divine* with them into the space - and who decided to write about it and then put it on the internet. It mostly led me to religious sites, which I didn’t find all too helpful. I've since searched again and have actually found more of what I was looking for. I wonder with the current movement if more people (probably white people) are searching the same thing as me, since we are uber spiritual, or so we claim. Yet, when it comes to taking a stand against racism we've been mostly silent for centuries. I'm finding my spiritual practice is taking a new, much needed turn since this movement became main stream. Am I proud that it's taken me so long to open the doors to a broader convo beyond just "me" and "my" spirituality, no. Am I grateful it is happening now, yes.
*The divine could be called god, but it is not the man in the sky. There is no man in the sky - not for me personally. God is not a man or a woman, but so much more. The breeze. The leaves. The Earth. You. Me. When I say the divine there is no dogma attached, all I mean of course, is existence in its many forms, and the mystery of it all.
Moving forward I need real concrete guidance and resources in my anti-racist/social justice practice, and that usually comes in the form of books, other humans, and of course, my own innate, inner wisdom. Oh, and Instagram. (There are some truly amazing people to follow if you're able to also manage how life sucking the app itself is.)
In my pilgrimage to become anti-racist, I’m finding there are many intersections in the realm of social justice and equality - and though spirituality isn't necessarily one of them, I’ve decided for myself it will be. I’ve been a spiritual person all of my life, so it only makes sense I would take it with me and evolve it into my newfound social justice practice. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they pair together almost perfectly. That’s the truly lovely thing about life I’ve learned is we can make it up as we go. We can add what we like, and do away with what we don’t, contrary to popular belief. It's taken time for me to accept this as true, being that I exist (along with the rest of us in the U.S.) in a rigid male-dominated, heteronormative, oppressive landscape. It makes self-uncovery a difficult, often painful (but ultimately good - and necessary) task.
Self-uncovery (noun) - Some say self-discovery, but I look at my life as more of an uncovering. A peeling back, a removing, a surrendering. Not to be confused with actually getting back to who I was before my conditioning, because I don't think that's possible. But it is most certainly a letting go of who I think I am so I may be who I want to be.
As a young girl my spirituality started with horoscopes, witchcraft, and pinches of glitter you could take as long as you did so with an open heart at Celebration (a metaphysical store) which I frequented regularly. As an early twenty year old not much changed, besides the copious amounts of alcohol I added some years earlier. Many people may not think of addiction as a spiritual practice, but I was undoubtedly looking for something holy in all of those empty wine boxes. Trouble was, I couldn’t fully remember it or hold onto it for very long. But in the moments I could alleviate my over-thinking mind, in those first few sips of my first drink before I devoured all my body could consume, that was something holy. It was something profound. It was spiritual. Albeit a false god, it was still a step towards my uncovery. I’ve since chosen to give up alcohol, as it was not the long term answer I needed. I feel grateful I was able to both recognize that and give it up. I ultimately knew it prevented my spiritual practice from evolving into something greater; it prevented me from being greater.
Into my late twenties I expanded my horizons with literature, with the one caveat that it was written mostly (if not entirely) by white men. These books included The Book (among his many speeches on Youtube) by Alan Watts and Free Will by Sam Harris. They were early seeds in my acknowledgement of the ego and the role it plays in our lives. Their words flipped my world upside down and inside out. I began to develop an existential crush on both of these men. They were so smart, outspoken; so very much who they were. And I craved to be who I was. And I wanted these men to tell me just who that is. I read more and more and I listened more and more, but there was always something their words lacked. I'd often leave their teachings with more questions than answers, and maybe that isn't wrong. But something didn't feel quite right.
It was around this time I also invited a brief stint of therapy and started exploring what sobriety from alcohol could look like in my life. I could feel the layers of myself begin to peel back. The intersection of removing alcohol and reading philosophy was expanding my worldview more and more, thinning the veil that until recently had done such a nice job of blurring the reality that existed before and all around me. But the holiness I longed for still felt off in the distance somewhere. Something still felt missing. So I continued searching (and reading) to try and find who I was.
It’s like Mary Oliver wrote in her book Upstream: “In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.”
I wasn’t born with the inherent knowing of who I was.
Maybe none of us are. Or maybe all of us are, and we forget. Our conditioning either shifts or strengthens (likely both) our views, our beliefs - our who-we-are-ness. And it's all a game of chance, really; Who we're born to, what city(s) we reside in, and the friends we meet and the influence each of these things have. Thus one day we may find ourselves on the hunt to find ourselves once we become aware that we haven’t really been aware. I am grateful I read those early writings of white men, they helped me step into a new level of self-uncovery. They helped me realize the world was not at all what I thought. Yet, I wonder if I had read then the books I read now (books that include BI&POC), how different I would be. How much more open, in tune, and aware of the world and its humans I would be.
I taught myself to be a woman through the perspective of a white man, and it shows, and it follows me everywhere. I'm having to unravel a great deal of what I've learned. Their rigidness and unwillingness to expand their perspectives beyond themselves has narrowed me in my quest for knowledge and truth. It's mostly been self-fulfilling, I'm always at the center, and until recently, I hardly considered the collective of humanity. When they say you have to literally gut the racism, patriarchal, imperialist, colonialist, lies from yourself, they aren't joking.
Like many of us living under this colonial, capitalist, patriarchal regime, I wanted to find truths that stay true, and men (often white men) are who we’ve (white people) relied on for these truths. Yet my truth kept reminding me there was so much they weren’t answering. Was I crazy for wanting to know beyond what their pages touched? Was I not grasping all they were saying? The answer is yes and no. Yes, I was grasping all they were saying, they just weren’t saying all I wanted to know. I am a woman (and I identify as a woman) with many different experiences/wants/needs/desires and their narrow perspective didn’t allow me room to expand with a softer, more feminine viewpoint. And no, I am not crazy.
It’s so clear to me now, that the lacking sensation I kept finding on all of the pages I read was literally a lacking. It lacked the female perspective I didn't know I craved, but also the writings, teachings, and experiences of people who didn’t look like me (BI&POC). I realize now I was looking to white men to solve the riddle of life. That’s what we’ve always done, right? But perhaps that’s why we’re in this whole predicament (aka apocalypse), because the systems they formed shunned the voices of black and brown, female, trans, queer, and non-hetero conforming folx.
And perhaps life is no riddle after all, though they've framed it as such. We've all been brainwashed, and I'll even go as far to say traumatized, by the patriarchy. Though, white people are certainly the ones who've benefited the most and suffered the least from the regime itself. This is where intersectionality comes in. It's important we learn exactly where we land in these intersections so we can learn how to better heal ourselves, and how to better hold space* for those who've been oppressed.
Holding Space (noun) (my own definition) - the act of allowing others to show up in their full humanity without centering yourself, or making it about yourself. Sometimes it isn't about you. Sometimes you're opinion isn't necessary, or wanted, or needed. Learn to hold space for others, and for yourself, and learn when you need to do these.
Luckily, there is a massive reckoning taking place.
Within the collective consciousness and within ourselves. The day white folx feared is here; white people must start making right of the wrongs we’ve all been responsible for. If not directly, indirectly in our silence, which I say not to shame, but to shed light on what is so. As we enter into this stage of our being, emotions and egos will run high. There is no denying how we will center this around our own personal experience (as I'm currently doing right now), we are still humans after all. But it is vital that we also explore removing ourselves from the center as often as we find ourselves in it. Sometimes this will work, and sometimes it won’t. I am learning this all of the time. I will also note this isn’t to say that if you're white you shouldn’t continue working through your own trauma simultaneously. The work of social justice and becoming anti-racist requires that each of us do confront our trauma - every single one of us. It's just knowing which space is for what. White people cannot and must not go into black and brown spaces wanting approval and forgiveness. That is for us to uncover and give ourselves - and I hope we do. All of this is a healing process. It requires time, patience, anti-shame practices, and a whole lot of love.
This journey is complex, and one I've chosen to trust. There are realms upon realms upon realms in this world. There are entire realities happening all around us we can’t even see or comprehend. This universe is complex and diverse, how dare we ever think it’s anything less? How dare we say this is how it must be, and each human must be it? How did anyone think they could take something that belongs to the Earth and think there wouldn't be repercussions? Each and every single one of us belong to the ecosystem. That means we are apart of it, we contribute to it, and it needs us.
"Unity creates diversity."- Jonathan Sacks
Diversity is key to our survival as humans, just as it is in nature (we are nature though we tend to forget). The patriarchy and capitalism have long tried to deny us of our robust natural humanity, of our wild holiness, of our uniqueness, and it’s in part why the world is ending. The only way to heal our species and our planet is to invite back in the lives, visions, beliefs, fears, and hopes of the humans we have shunned, murdered, enslaved, and imprisoned. And we mustn't do this as a means to an end, we must do this because we acknowledge we both want and need them here, and have much to repay.
We must get to reality. Then we must create our own new reality, one where we aren't only relying on cis white men to tell us who we are and who we should be. They haven't any clue what is best for everyone, which they made clear the day they began to deny us of our own self-exploration - which is our birthright. Remain open. Let yourself happen. Let yourself meet with the divine, and keep gutting yourself until you feel real to yourself. I’m not telling you what to believe. But I am telling you it is your responsibility to uncover what you actually believe. And that you will need many, many perspectives to make rational and also magical conclusions. You need many narratives, including from those who don’t look like you. There is no way we can make the world better while simultaneously excluding part(s) of it.
I'll leave you with this, a thought that came to me walking up my stairs that I then had to rush inside to write down: I wanted to find truths that remain true. But nothing remains true, only true until it becomes truer or less true. Life, the Universe, time and space, are all in a state of flux. For too long we've tried to pause it. To control it. To hold it in place. But this is impossible, and I am now uncovering how what served as true once upon a time will likely not be true forever. The only real truth I’ve found, is that the truth can change.
Further resources I recommend for those looking to shift the paradigm:
People to follow on Instagram: Books to read:
@adriennemareebrown Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown
@clemintinemorrigan The Revolution Starts at Home by Ching-In
@seedingsovereignty Chen, Jai Dulani, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-
@seerutkchawla All About Love by bell hooks
@blacklivesmatter So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo