June 22, 2015


During the recent NBA finals, my partner, a life-long Golden State Warriors fan, kept saying to me “Thoughts become things.” He’s not particularly woo, but people tend to tap into the metaphysical when pro-sports championships are at stake. And we won, so maybe all his ‘winning’ thoughts made the difference. I don’t know. I do however believe thoughts are powerful.

It’s tricky though, because some thoughts are a lot like knee reflexes. Often they just happen.

For example, just because I know that body size doesn’t tell me about a person’s health, lifestyle, intelligence, or worth doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t make automatic assumptions. My brain does this increasingly less because of I’ve spent over a decade bringing awareness to and challenging any size prejudice thoughts I notice.

What I don’t do is beat myself up for having a judgmental thought. That’s what they call adding insult to injury. If I notice a prejudiced thought floating through my brain. I name it and remind myself of the truth: “You don’t know anything about that person from looking at them, just like they don’t know anything about you from looking at you” and move on.

I don’t believe people who say they don’t have prejudiced thoughts. We all do. Our society blasts images with corresponding meanings at us all day. We are told what beautiful looks like, what health looks like, what intelligence looks like, what fitness looks like, what love looks like, what criminals look like, what wealth looks like and so forth.

But these images are lies. These things—beauty, health, love, etc.—come in every package under the sun and the truth is that it can take our brains a while to catch up with this reality.

But we must fiercely participate in this catching up.

We have to bear witness to our thoughts and step in, with firm kindness, when they need correcting.

And, as I said, I’ve been doing this when it comes to body size, but I admit that haven’t been as diligent about racial assumptions. I’ve let myself believe that because my conscious mind isn’t racist that I don’t need to examine my own unconscious thoughts and actions.

That changed this week.

I’m stepping up and expanding my own awareness practices to include knee-jerk thoughts like these:

Like when, late at night, I see a male person of color walking towards me on the street and I react more fearfully than if he were white…

Like when I drive past the neighborhood liquor store and see a person of color emerge and for a split second make assumptions about them that I wouldn’t make about a white customer…

Like when I see a mother and child, both of color, and assume, again for a millisecond second, that the father isn’t the picture…

These micro-aggressive thoughts are my responsibility to challenge and uproot.

I can call myself liberal, awake, progressive, feminist, and most of all, an ally to people of color, but until I take responsibility for the places within myself where these ignorant and frankly violent thoughts of my heritage still remain I’m part of the problem.

Here’s to turning the light on.

Here’s to taking responsibility.

Here’s to truer thoughts becoming more peaceful things.

June 9, 2015

sola dosis facit venenum

I love television.

That might be a bit taboo to say, but it’s true.

I get an enormous amount of pleasure from watching my favorite shows. At the moment, if you’re curious, they are: Orphan Black, The Americans, and Family Feud.

Anyways, there is nothing wrong with loving television. It gives me a tremendous amount of joy, laughter, and relaxation. Put simply, it feeds me.

Most of the time.

I can also use TV as a tool for avoiding life when checking in, not out, is would serve me most. I noticed recently my viewing habits detracting more than helping and no surprise my first thought was “I’m going to just give up TV. Go cold turkey. Block Hulu from my computer. Commit to reading a book a week….”

Yes, my initial response was to go on a diet.

But the problem for me in this case wasn’t television, but the amount and the way I was using television.

Sola dosis facit venenum.

This translates to: The dose makes the poison.

I learned of this principle in graduate school.

We were taught that everything in the world is medicine and everything is poison, depending on the dose. This idea is a pretty radical in a world that loves to categorize most things into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Organic local apples = pure goodness. Wonder Bread = bad, devoid of any value.

But it’s not that simple. You can eat enough apples to make you sick. You can enjoy a sandwich on Wonder Bread without any negative consequence.

And this rule, “The dose makes the poison”, extends beyond food to include everything we take in: relationships and people, music, television, movies, alone and social time, time in the sun, and so forth.

With everything there is a tipping point where it goes from serving us to taking away from us. Herein lies the delicate balance of self-care. It’s easy to make blanket statements like “Get rest” or “Move your body” but at what point is sleep or physical activity no longer of service?

We can’t say, can we? Or rather, we can’t say for anyone but ourselves in a given moment.

There are no rules here. There are no formulas.

And what works for us at one point can change in a moment. We might have spent months exhaustively working on a fulfilling project and then run out of steam. So we turn to a period of restoration, but without mindfulness the even rest can turn excessive when it’s not longer what we need or what serves us.

Oh how we love an all or nothing scenario though. Our black and white oriented brains get a hit of calm when we (attempt to) draw a hard line in the sand. This is the rush that comes with the start of a diet or a rigid commitment to be in bed by 10 pm, every single night. We love the boundary—until we don’t.

You see we spring back from the hard line, rebel against the confines of our tightrope-of-a-plan in part because the things that we think are poison, are also medicine when served up in a different dose. A warm, carb-filled meal after a long day. An extra two hours of sleep. A marathon of our favorite television show when shutting the world out is sometimes, even often, just what’s called for.

Nothing’s all bad, or all good, as much as our reductionistic minds would like to make them out to be. There is a time and place for just about every thing.

So what are we to do when the very same thing can turn from serving us to detracting from us in a day?

We forget perfection and stop chasing purity.

Outside of a newborn baby, purity and perfection don’t exist. When we try too hard to eat perfect, look perfect, and be perfect we end up cutting ourselves off from life and from things that, in certain doses, are really do serve us.

We pay attention.

Diets, even those that restrict television and not food, allow us to be on a sort of autopilot. When we’re on one we don’t have to think or feel, we just have to follow the rules. But, to live our lives free and well we have to pay attention.

We find the kind choice.

If nothing is all good or all bad, we have to inquire moment-by-moment what the kind choice is. Sometimes not doing the thing is kind. Sometimes doing the thing is kind. By following kindness we find our way in a world where nothing is just black and white.

Lastly, we double check our knee-jerk reactions.

Notice what you label as good or bad without question. What gets a knee-jerk green light from you? and what gets a red light?

Right now I’m off to finish sewing up my latest project. Tomorrow at this time I might be catching the latest episode of Orphan Black.

Sola dosis facit venenum.