Enhance Connection Now

Stop. Right now. I want to ask you to check in with yourself about something crucial.

At what point today have you felt deep, genuine connection and a sense of belonging?

Let me explain what I am asking, as “connection” means numerous things.

You can feel deeply connected to yourself - tuned in, aware, mindful. This is a very therapeutic state of being well supported to be so by decades of research.

You can connect with others: family, partner, friends, neighbors, and even pets, through eye contact, physical touch, conversation that revealed how you are truly feeling, enduring contact that lasts for at very least a few minutes. Feeling authentically connected to and belonging with other people (and animals!) has been identified as a very important factor in emotional health.  

You can connect in a more universal way, such as with nature, with god/spirit/divinity, with the vast universe. This type of connection tends to require time and attention, such as ongoing meditation practice, giving yourself generous time for sitting quietly outside and allowing yourself to be receptive to whatever you feel, see, hear, smell, and even taste, or engaging in ceremony and religious devotional practices. When you foster this type of spiritual connection it has been known for centuries, ever since humans have been able to express through language, song, and art, that it is healing, fostering peace in our often troubled souls.

 (art cred: "Love" Art installation at Burning Man 2015 by ALexandr Milov)

(art cred: "Love" Art installation at Burning Man 2015 by ALexandr Milov)

So, right now, I am asking you to consider, have you experienced connection with true depth today? Rushing around the kitchen to grab breakfast and bumping into your kids, busting out the door with a peck on the cheek to your lover does not count. Surfing Facebook and reading status updates and clicking like… nope. Five minutes of quiet in a hot shower is nice, but does not generally give you the true experience of connection.

Have you looked in anyone’s eyes today for more than 30-seconds? Have you touched and been touched someone you trust and care for?

Have you engaged in conversation about what your immediate needs or feelings are? About your true concerns? To celebrate together a positive outcome?

Have you allowed yourself slow, sustained introspection? Quieting or your thoughts? Letting your feet rest on the Earth?

No?

I know. The pace of our lives, the constant noise of social media feeds, the demands of work, the stress and overwhelm of the political climate - these make it difficult to get connected. It’s ironic, right? We are more connected than ever before with the tremendous speed and access afforded us by our technology, yet we are the least CONNECTED population of humans in all of history. The speed of interaction, our distracted attention spans, the sheer amount of energy we must expend to take care of ourselves and serve our communities all lead to DISCONNECTION.

This is not good for us. Not at all.

Right now, I am asking you, how can you connect? Who can you connect with? What can you do to sincerely and generously open yourself up to them? How can you give yourself the space, time, process to connect with yourself or make spiritual connection (if you cannot or choose not to connect with another person or being at this time)?

You will feel stronger and more peaceful by enhancing your feeling of connectedness. You will be healthier and more productive by tapping into the truth that you genuinely BELONG to community or something greater than yourself. You deserve this. You thoroughly need this.

Make it happen. Right now, make a call and plan a date with a loved one and commit to keeping your phones turned off. Review your to do list - what can you postpone until tomorrow to make time to enhance connection today (remembering that you will actually be more productive once you turn up this self-care action)? Go outside. Yes, right now! Take deep breaths, still your mind, stay out there for 30-minutes with no agenda. Yes, seriously!

I am very serious about wanting to keep you well. We all need each other to be our most secure selves as we are living in insecure times with constant, chaotic change. We need each other’s patience, truth, insights, strength. We have to start by cultivating it within ourselves so we have it to offer to others.

The brilliance of enhancing your connection? When you connect with others, you are providing them with the same soul food for them feeling connected and belonging, as well! Connections grows, it networks.

Want to connect with me? I am all for it. Email me at justina@cloverheartconcepts. Let’s schedule a time. We got this. <3

People Have The Power

People Have the Power

Hey there, my bright-community, my warm hearted tribe of creative, deep-feeling, generous souls... I am thinking about you today. I want to offer some loving support. I want you to know that I am here for you.  

How are you feeling today? Check in with yourself… what are you thinking about? How does your body feel? What emotions are your reckoning with?

You know why I am asking this, right? 

We are going through some big changes here in the United States. Today marks a transition that many feel angry and fearful about.

If you are passionate about social justice, human rights, and economic freedom it’s totally understandable that you feel concern, fear, anger, and whatever other strong feelings are happening for you. I am right there with you. While we feel these big feelings, it may be important to remember a few things right now.

First,you are not alone.In many ways, very little has changed (at least so far). The rights you had in place yesterday are the same. Your friends, family, and community are the same. The people who you have counted on to share your passions and values, and those who you know really understand you and support you… they are still those same people, and they are there for you. Today, and any day that you feel lonely, would be a good day to reach out to them. You have the power to be connected right now.

It is easy to project ourselves far forward into imagined possible outcomes when really everything in our world is pretty manageable. Right now, if you are safe, if you are comfortable, if there are people, animals, things, events, circumstances that bring you joy - notice them, find your way to gratitude for them.  I do not mean to undermine the reality that things could change to be more difficult, frightening, or dangerous. I know that it is possible. But it might be important to remember right now that those types of changes are always possible, we simply tend not to focus on those possibilities until some kind of change creates fear in us and reminds us to notice. Today if you are safe, give thanks for that, relish and appreciate that. If you are not safe tomorrow, you will be better equipped to face whatever danger is before you if you did not wear yourself out being frightened for your safety when you were, indeed, safe. You have the power to be present in the moment you are actually experiencing instead of being lost in imagined, uncertain future scenarios or past events.   

Right now, I hope you will also remember (or reconsider this if you have thought otherwise)… There are no guarantees that everything is going to become terrible, just like when everything is good there are no guarantees that things will stay good. 

How much do you think it supports your well-being to be convinced that the worst is coming? Let me tell you, it takes a lot out of you to live in fear, anger, dread, and hopelessness. When you feel this way for prolonged periods of time your brain and body act as though they are being pummeled by a battering ram. Digestion, sleep, immune function, they literally shut down when you live in dread. Let’s be right here, right now in whatever relative comfort and peace is available to you in your life so you can get rest, be nourished by the food you eat, and stay strong. Take a moment now to notice…what is positive, beautiful, uplifting, and smoothly unfolding in your life? Breathe in the wonder of these blessings. Your noticing what is good is a power you have that is good for you every single day. 

 

I want you to know that you have more power over your mood and your feelings than you ever believed was possible. Yes, it is hard work to learn to quiet fears, gentle anger, and reach for positivity. Yes, some people are more challenged by that work than others, which is absolutely no statement upon their worth, skills, or strengths. The simple truth is that some of us were born with, raised with, surrounded by different levels of all abilities. These differences affect us in all of our work. Yet, we still have the power to strive toward our greatest abilities.

I want to be super clear with you…I am not saying that anger or fear or disappointment or frustration or disgust or shock are bad or unacceptable emotions to feel. They are crucial to our functioning! We learn so much from these emotional responses! I just want you to know that if you are stuck feeling any of those feelings, especially if you get stuck for a long time, that if you stay in a downward spiral of difficult emotions, it can have negative consequences for you. I also want you to know that you definitely have the power to shift those feelings, invite in other feelings, productively experience the pain, and then move on. 

When you move on from pain, often you will feel motivated. Motivated, perhaps, to help others or to build community or to take action either in your personal life or in the world at large to create potentially positive new outcomes. I invite you to that motivated, action-taking place within yourself once you have visited the frightening visions of what could be, some of the disappointing truth of what is. If you look at your life, at the whole world, with a very wide lens, you will see that there is always positive alongside the negative, always dark following light following dark, always some way to see that things could be worse... or better. You have the power to decide which way you look at everything.  

What is happening in the U.S. today is part of a turning cycle. This country of millions of people has many, many different ways of seeing the world, and the truth is that most people are good-hearted, even if we don’t all agree on how things should be done. For as long as there have been governments, governments have swung back and forth between differing sets of values and perspectives. Just us this country has before, it is swinging in a different direction that for many feels like a swing away from all that we hold dear. The power of this swinging pendulum of ideals is that we all learn more about each other, our neighbors, and the different perspectives of others when the change comes upon us. We may learn things we do not like or want to know, but we gain power by learning more. 

People, we have power. Remember this in all of the small and large ways that it is true today, tomorrow, the next day. Possibly our greatest power lies in our ability to shift our focus and notice what we can change and to change those very things, often starting within ourselves. We can get through these coming changes, whatever they may bring. Maintaining our strength, our vision of what is possible, our connections to each other, and building up our sense of ourselves as powerful will guide us through in untold ways.  

Please reach out to me if I can help you find your power. It is what I love to do.

And if you need a little music to remind you of your power, listen to the poetic declaration of Patti Smith when she tells us People Have the Power.

 

“I awakened to the cry
that the people / have the power
to redeem / the work of fools
upon the meek / the graces shower
it's decreed / the people rule

The people have the power“

 

 

  (art cred: Cheryl Braganza)

(art cred: Cheryl Braganza)

Racial Justice Actions for White Folks

Racial Justice Actions for White Folks

I believe that everyone deserves to be safe and should be supported in attaining wellness — true physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Racism has been an ongoing problem in the United States since its inception, and racism makes it very, very difficult for Black individuals and communities to truly live well. I believe it is my duty to work to create a world in which safety and wellness is possible for all people. Therefore, I am a social justice and peace activist, in addition to being a therapist, teacher, and speaker. 

Now that we have a powerful window into the world through social media, we are being exposed to realities that, perhaps, were not as visible to us in other times, though those realities existed long before we got this new view into them. We have begun to see intense examples of racial injustice and racist violence played out across our screens, recently rising to a crescendo with Philando Castile's and Korryn Gaines' murders by police, both with young children in arms reach of them, the violence being played out on social media livestream around the world. Though unwarranted and disproportionate police violence against Black American citizens has been well documented for years, these horrifying moments seem to be grabbing the attention of White America in a way that is stronger and more potent than other examples of racism.

People are rightly moved by this violence - angered, saddened, frightened, overwhelmed. But there is a difference in how White and Black communities are experiencing these types of events. Black folks in America have known for years, hundreds of years, that racism is a serious issue in American culture that directly puts Black individuals, their family members and friends at direct risk for bodily harm and other injustices. These videos and stories of police violence targeting Black community members is not news to the Black community. But those of us with White skin, who have lived with White privilege, we have largely been more insulated from this violence and constant examples of racism in our lives. We might feel shocked to learn that the problem of racism is so severe. Some may feel mobilized, for the first time in their lives, to take action to work toward ending racism in the world and protecting Black lives. This is a powerful feeling, and I encourage you to harness it.

But the problem of racism can feel so large, so overwhelming, that many people do not know what to do to start making change towards a world that is just and safe for all people, and in particularly people of color. There is no one right way to take action. We need to change ourselves, our own attitudes, fears, and misconceptions, and we need to work together to create a massive network of positive action that will call out racist actions and make society gradually safer for Black lives than it is now. 

I have created this list of Racial Justice Actions for White Folks because I want to support people who are ready to do more to work against racism to understand some of the steps that can be taken. And, I created the list specifically for White folks because racism is mostly enacted upon Black individuals and communities by White individuals and communities, and it is the White community that needs to change its own culture to abolish the racism within it. This statement may cause some to become defensive - and learning to release feelings of defensiveness while addressing issues of race, racism, and restoring racial justice is one of the most important actions that White folks can take. Explore the list below, and I welcome your dialogue on how you see yourself involved in improving race relations and dismantling racist systems and racist culture in the U.S. today. 

Note: This post is focused on Black lives because there has been so much visible dialogue online recently on racism against the Black community and relationships between the Black and White communities. However, racism and other forms of oppression targeted at people of color and of different ethnic and religious backgrounds affect many more than just the Black community. You can fill in "Black" with Latino/a, Native, Indigenous, Muslim, or other communities, and this post is applicable to them, as well. White folks, it is time to clear White culture of prejudice against "other." Let's start here. 

Racial Justice Actions for White Folks

Listen to Black Voices. Do not argue with them. Do not minimize them. Do not ask them to share their experiences, opinions, and stories in a different way than they are offering them. Listen. Even when it is uncomfortable. Especially when it is comfortable. Retreating from hard news about Black lives is a White privilege, and you will be more motivated to work against racism if you refuse to participate in it.

Learn from Black speakers. Follow Black activists, artists, authors, political leaders, teachers, students, parents, everyone on your social media outlets. Click and read the articles they share. Look at the images they share. Learn about Black culture, Black perspective. Learn that there is no One Black Voice. Black lives are varied and valuable. By exposing yourself to many Black speakers you will learn many perspectives very different from White voices.

Read books by Black authors. Read Black history books. Take Black history classes. It has been an unearned privilege for you to read books, take classes, and be a student of teachings that strongly and inequitably represented your race, culture, and history. What you know is incomplete. Be willing to admit that and learn more.

Consume Black-positive media. Sociological research shows that our opinions and behavior are very strongly influenced by the media we take in. Mainstream media portrays Whites more often and more favorably than Blacks and reinforces racist stereotypes in our minds. If we only consume media that has a racist bias, we WILL have a racist bias. Learn about the positive work, accomplishments, successes, and achievements of Black people currently and throughout history to work against unconscious racist bias.

Seek Black role models. Same as above - notice, observe, respect, and appreciate Black community members, globally and locally, current and historically, who engage/ have engaged in positive work.

While actively listening to the Black Voices that are being shared with you, do not ask Black individuals to speak on behalf of their race. It is a White privilege to be able to offer an opinion without your singular voice being used to represent all White people. Black individuals are often asked to speak on behalf of “Black People” and this is an undue burden. Process your feelings, questions, and concerns about racism with public sources of information, with White allies, with friends, with representatives of racial justice organizations. Do not turn to Black individuals to get support for working against racism. Dismantling racist power structures is the work of those who put it in place, enforce it, and benefit from it, which is White people. Yes, none of us personally or individually created racist power structures, but our inaction to change those structures reinforces them. We need to take ownership for our responsibility in making change in White culture.

Allow the narrative about racial injustice to remain about Black lives and restoring racial justice, not about you. Racism is not about you. Truly, it is not. Yes, you may harbor unintended racist attitudes, and if your words or actions are called into question as possibly racist, this is a crucial time to listen, not react. It can feel very painful to have your actions pointed out as an example of racism, but if you take that moment to let your emotions overwhelm you then you are no longer in an open-minded space to learn how to change this part of yourself and you, once again, you make the issues focused on the needs of a White person. If you argue in defense of yourself or another White person when racism is called out or race-related conversations get heated, you are making it about yourself. If you make a scene about not being “that kind of White person,” or attempt to justify an action as “not racist,” then you are letting your needs come to the forefront of the dialogue. Stop. Listen. Learn. Breathe. Get support. You have and will make mistakes, we all will. Change happens when we are committed to learning from them, even when we are uncomfortable. Be willing to be uncomfortable.

Educate yourself about racism. Explore sociological research that demonstrates the ways racism has been identified and documented in our society, government, legal and health care systems, businesses, and social structures. Understand concepts like White privilege, microaggression, institutionalized racism, and race related stress. You must understand what racism is so that when you notice it within yourself or witness it being played out, you are able to take action against it.

Speak & act against racist words, behaviors, and actions every time you witness them. Every. Time. Yes, you may need to assess safety (though remember it is your privilege to already be safe in the social context of our society, Black people do not have that same privilege), and you will need to learn how to confront racism effectively. But imagine a world in which a White person spoke out or took action EVERY time a racist act occurred, from acts of invisibility, such as your company not including diverse images in your marketing materials, to racial slurs and racist jokes at a party, to racist violence. How long would these behaviors be able to continue if we always worked to stop them?

Engage in direct social action. What events are happening in your area? Racial justice rallies, vigils, sit-ins are happening everywhere. Join in. If you do not see action happening, plan and create an action of your own in conjunction with other White allies. Racial justice working groups and non-profit organizations always need more volunteers, more organizers, more fundraising. Get involved. Stay involved. Invite others to be involved.

Support Black businesses and organizations. What businesses in your community are Black-owned? What organizations are doing good work to increase racial justice? Spend your money there - shop, donate, start crowdsourcing campaigns when injustice has occurred to support those who are negatively impacted. Support cooperatively owned businesses with a large number of Black members. And learn about the social and political leaning and spending of any corporations you might support - and STOP supporting those who use your dollar to work against your values.

Vote for and support the candidacies of Black politicians. Learn about local political races and support candidates of color who share your values. Remember that NO candidate will share all of your values. You make exceptions to vote for White candidates all the time. Notice resistance to Black candidates - is it really about values or is it about race?  

Talk to the owners and proprietors of the businesses you support and work for about being more inclusive. Let them know that you actively seek diversity in your workplace and social settings. Explore what attitudes and infrastructure are present in businesses that are not welcoming to diverse communities. Offer to post a Black Lives Matter sign visibly at the business. Engage in discussion about it, offer education if resistance is met.

Talk to and teach children in your life about racism and racial justice. Especially if your kids attend segregated schools and if you live in majority White neighborhoods - make race visible to kids. Share books, movies and TV shows, toys  and dolls that represent Black and Brown children and lives. Provide positive imagery of Black lives.  Actively talk about what racism in society looks like, in a developmentally appropriate way for their age. Teach them assertive communication skills and how to speak up when they witness racist behavior.

Use your body language to support Black community members. One of the insidious aspects of racism is that people of color are silently judged in nearly every public space. How do you show through your body language that you are an ally? Smile, make eye contact, say hello, keep a relaxed body posture, be willing to get (appropriately) physically close (like sharing a seat on the bus), even when you feel confused or unsure. Is there a group of young Black kids nearby? Notice what thoughts come up for you as you witness their youthful behavior. Notice what happens if you smile at those kids and say hello - you are brought out of your bias and irrational fear and return to feeling human connection. Make the world welcoming for Black lives.

Consider intersectionality. Oppression occurs in many ways across many groups - sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ethnocentrism, ableism, religious and socio-economic prejudice, and other forms of oppression are real, and they do not occur in a vacuum. Be aware that conversations about racial justice will always relate to other forms of oppression and that many people of color experience multiple forms of oppression. It is crucial never to minimize one’s experience of racial oppression just because other forms of oppression are real, and it is necessary to also take into consideration the complexity of experiencing and working against interconnected but varying forms of oppression.

Get social support from other White folks engaging in racial justice actions. You cannot do this alone. In fact, you need to create networks so that more and more and more people are acting in solidarity with the Black community. But you cannot get so depleted, angry, or overwhelmed that you shut down. Talk to your friends and loved ones about your sadness, stress, and fear regarding racism, and stay active, rather than withdrawing because the challenge feels too big.

Engage in self-care. Same as above. If you become hopeless and burned out, you cannot work to save others’ lives. You have the privilege of NOT having to live with racism working against you and your family at every turn, therefore you must keep up your strength to fight against racism.

Do your personal work. You are not a bad person because you learned racism from a racist culture. You are human and imperfect and all people absorb unwanted teachings from their culture. You are capable of growth and change. If you seek to work against racism you must learn where racist tendencies and ideology exist within you and be willing to face it head on, even if it’s uncomfortable. It WILL be uncomfortable. But nothing you must face within yourself is as uncomfortable as living every day of your life as a person of color in a racist society that causes you stress, limits your options, and puts you and your loved ones in direct risk of harm every single day. Use that reminder to give you strength to get through the uncomfortable places as you look within yourself.

Understand what Black Lives Matter really means. Read the Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. How do those concepts resonate with you? If you support those principles, then you support Black Lives Matter. Do not let media misinformation and biased articles influence your perception of a valuable movement. Look deeper. Go to the source. Get clear perspective on why the slogan “All Lives Matter” is a way of diminishing support for the racial justice movement, even though it is certainly true that all lives matter. We need a rallying cry in support of Black lives because in our current system so deeply entrenched with institutional racism Black lives are disproportionately at risk compared to others, and Black Lives Matter is that cry. Please, let it stand as a valuable statement on its own.