Monthly Archives: August 2019

Including our bodies in Social Justice: Voices that Teach

What if?

Recently I was recently at a vigil to end human detention camps. While standing amidst the crown I started to wonder if any one else’s heart was hurting. Mine certainly was. 

If you are aware of the detention camps throughout the United States, inundated with inhumane conditions, not to mention rampant sexual, physical and emotional abuse for children and adults alike, a somatic/visceral/physical response when taking a moment to consider this predicament would be quite appropriate. 

If you’re willing, take a moment now to recall what you’ve been reading, watching, and hearing about the detention camps, which are now commonly referred to as concentration camps due to their abhorrent conditions and the violent circumstances in which they exist. 

Does it make your heart break open?

Does it make your heart close down?

Do you feel your stomach clench?

Do your hands ball up in fists?

Do you shake your head?

Does your body tighten or shut down a bit?

Do you hold your breath?

Do you feel a surge of adrenaline?

Do you feel a bit frozen?

Does your body want to physically turn away in some way?

Do you want to go into denial?

Any such responses would be valid, appropriate and understandable. Emotions such as sadness, fear, or anger that might come along side the physiological responses would be appropriate, too.  

It is natural to feel a bodily response when we are connecting with pain, injustice, and suffering. These responses remind us that we’re human, and connecting with the plight of other humans. These responses tell us that we have the capacity for empathy and compassion. These responses remind us that well-being is important for us, and that love and nurturing is a human necessity.

Back to the Vigil

After the speakers were done, it became time for anyone to speak. I wondered what it would be like if we could get real about what we were feeling. What might it be like if we could consciously give name to the emotions and sensations we were feeling in our body, as we were connecting with the atrocities of the United States Government

I imagined how it might be if the crowd was asked: 

“Who else’s heart is breaking?”

“Who else’s stomach is gripping?”

I wondered what it would be like for us, as a group gathered together, to feel the anger, the disgust, the sadness, while also paying attention to our bodies? I wondered what it would be like for the crowd to be guided into their bodies, so they could safely connect to their human selves. 

Including our Somatic Bodies

Underneath any emotion there is a bodily response happening, and yet because our culture is not somatically intelligent we often don’t recognize these bodily sensations, or know how to safely include them. We don’t talk about these aspects our humanity nearly enough.

I wondered what it would be like to include our full human selves, consciously, together, as we were gathered in the solidarity of wanting humane conditions for our brothers and sisters. 

I wondered what it would be like for us to consciously acknowledge that under the anger, there was also some heart break – and that perhaps that’s why we were really all gathered together. 

I wondered what it would be like to consciously include our precious and wise hearts, which are hurting because others are being violated.  

I wondered what it might be like for us to realize that we feel pain, and everything else, because of Love: we gathered together for our love and value for other human beings. 

I wondered what it would be like if we all know that it is a wise heart and a sacred heart which feels pain when others are being oppressed. I wondered how it would be to validate each and every person’s wise and sacred heart for showing up in Love.

I wondered how amazing it would be to consciously feel this sacred pain in our hearts, and discover that although it may be immensely uncomfortable, we are safe to feel such honest and sincere responses. We are safe to be in Love.

What would it be like if we all consciously knew we were safe to feel, safe to be fully human, and safe to love? I imagine a crowd of empowered individuals, enabled to utilize the heartache, the anger and the love they feel to help others. As I imagine a group of people who feel embowered in their being, I see a new expression of humanity that can bring great change into this world. 

Heart work and Action

I think there are often chasms within social justice efforts. Generally speaking I notice that there are those who do what I might call heart work, and there are those who do more direct action or involvement. 

Sometimes those who do heart work stay away from direct action as they assume it will be full of violence or they don’t feel safe to participate, or because they are uncomfortable with conflict. Sometimes those who do direct action stay away from heart work because they don’t think it’s effective, or don’t know how to do engage from this place amidst conflict. While I find those perspectives to be valid- I myself can flip flop between the two- I’m coming to learn that there is another way.  And, more than that, I think this other way is necessary in evolving past the dominant narrative into a transformative valued system. 

There is a way to participate in non-violent direct action **and** heart work. This territory is so very unfamiliar that it’s rarely acknowledged as even a choice, but in my experience it is a choice, and it is something for us to consciously move towards.  I see few role models and the “how to” is scattered amidst various resources. I too don’t have a guidebook, or a manual. I have more questions than answers. And, I have a deep and sincere passion to move from Love, and in my experience there is nothing more wise than that. We can learn together. 

My journey

The desire to move from Love is a central part of my life in every way- including activism. I began writing about my journey with heart work and social justice a year ago, and have been writing about it ever since. I haven’t yet found a way to convey this journey in linear, logical way- instead I offer you my own discoveries and experiences in this ongoing exploration of listening, learning, and acting. You can read them hereherehere , here and here.Indirectly related, is also this post.  

My first steps in returning to the area of social justice from a more embodied place started slowly. It started by exposing myself to different people, perspectives, and ideas. I read and listened, and I felt. I noticed what my body was doing while I was coming up against ideas I’d never thought of. I noticed what emotions were emerging as I read perspectives that were so different to my own.  I noticed my guilt, shame, defensiveness and denial. I noticed confusion, disorientation, and uncertainty. I kept reading, listening and learning. I engaged in somatic inquiry. I connected to my wounds. I connected with others who were doing similar deep work. Over time I noticed increased connection, empathy and compassion. And, over time, I noticed a very different relationship with safety and Love.

I am committed to listening, learning and then acting. This is ongoing, as I continue to look at my own conditioning from my family of origin as well as my conditioning as a privileged white female from the middle class. 

Voices That Teach

I have been reaching out to some of my favorite people on Facebook over the last few months, asking them for their favorite resources in learning about racism and social justice. The rest of this blog post shares those resources, as well as some of my own resources. This is not an inclusive list – just a small sampling. 

I’d love to hear back from you on what I’ve missed. Let’s keep learning with each other! 

Facebook, in no particular order  (may also be on Twitter or Instagram) 

Generally speaking, I find it good Facebook etiquette to “Follow” people that I’ve never been exposed to and want to learn from. I also find it good etiquette that while learning, I don’t say much, and act as if I am a guest in their home. 

Brig Feltus 

Ericka Hines 

Desiree Adaway

Lace on Race

Nicole Lee

Ally Henny

Tada Hozumi

Mary Ann Canty Merrill

Andréa Ranae Johnson 

Jackie Summers

Staci Jordan Shelton

Bakari Parrett

Soyara Chemlay

Irami Osei-Frimpong

Saira Rao

Tania Singh Bhatia

Dimitra Stathopoulos

Books, in no particular order 

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo 

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Unapologetic by Charlene Carruthers

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibrahim X. Kendi 

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibrahim X. Kendi

They Were Her Property by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers.

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

We Want to do More Than Survive by Bettina L. Love

The Privileged Poor by Anthony Abraham Jack 

Dying of Whiteness by Jonathan Metzl

Racism without Racists by  Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander 

Between You and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Learning to be White by Thandeka 

Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good Peopleby Anthony G. Greenwaldand Mahzarin Banaji

Mothers of Massive Resistance by Elizabeth Gillespie McRae

Homegoing Yaa Gyasi

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Barracoon, The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by  Zora Neale Hurston

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I’m Still Here, Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A list of books recommended by Irami Osei-Frimpong:

Podcast series, in no particular order

Hidden Brain “Implicit Bias and Police Shootings”

Seeing White

Code Switch 

Intersectionality Matters 

Movies, in no particular order

10,000 Black Men Named George
Norma Rae

When They See Us

I Am Not your Negro

September Embodied Gathering: Being in the World, and Being of Love

We live through relationship. In relationship to air, to ground, to form, and the formless, we live, love and grow. A safe community is the perfect place to discover the our never ending relationship with life.

Belonging, community, connection and a healthy nervous system are crucial for our well-being. We gather to become more intimate with, and more available for, our life.  For those who would like support in their journey, this is an affordable option.

These gatherings are sacred spaces where everyone is welcome. People going through their Dark Night of the Soul experiences, survivors of abuse, people who have had awakenings and want community, people struggling in their life in various ways, and/or people simply wanting connection along their journey are likely to find home in these gatherings. 

Gatherings focus on practical and experiential exercisesspecifically designed for the development of self-awareness, self-love, safety and a healthy nervous system. Each gathering is organically shaped around attendees’ needs and wants. Each gathering includes a guided rest, time for questions and sharing, ways to heal the nervous system, and ways to engage in self-inquiry. Participation is always optional.

In this groupwe honor our experiences and we learn that we don’t have to pretend, or hide, or run. We gather together in a welcoming space where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are, and through slow, simple experiential practices we realize that profound safety can be found right here and now.

Safety is important. Our bodies, our spirits, and our psyches function with more well-being when safety is known from within.

We live in a culture that often disempowers and creates stress, a culture that conditions us to find our well-being in people, places, and superficial activities and things – without teaching us sustainable, empowering safety from the inside out. As such, we often don’t know how to cope with existing in an overwhelming world, or how to recover from traumatic experiences. Many of us have developed post-traumatic stress as a result, and have forgotten that safety is possible.

We can learn. By providing a safe environment for this deliberate purpose, we can slowly and gently learn what it’s like to feel safe. 

We come together to find safety in our experiences and discover that we are safe – even when we have trauma or loud core stories and emotions. 

All are welcome here regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, race, gender or background. You are important, and appreciated, whoever you are. 

Upcoming dates:

September 1, at 3pm EDT 

September 22, at 7:30pm EDT

You can come to one, or both!  We will meet for 60-75 minutes on Zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep. Please contact me with questions, concerns or future dates: LLMEUSER@ME.COM

Investment: Sliding scale, what you can afford – $10-25 per gathering. To sign up please send a PayPal payment to LLMEUSER@ME.COM, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  

No one turned away due to insufficient funds.

Minimum participants required: 4 

Maximum: 15

From past participants:

Lisa is like a cocoon for expansion and love.  I really love working with her.  She walks her talk and creates a space for acceptance and non-judgment and I’m better able to accept and not judge myself and others.  My heart has opened in my work with her.  So grateful.  

 It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.

 You represent what Adyashanti talks about:  “A safe place for the world to come and rest.” You are that safe, benign presence in the world.

I have listened to the recording many times since our gathering. It continues to support me. 

Free with Deepening Courses. Email me for details. 

About me.

To read more about embodiment check out my blog.