Before a fully formed theory comes a hunch.
Before a hunch comes a question.
Before a question comes curiosity.
I’m curious and I’ve got a question:
What if the same lack of self-worth that contributes to white men being violent towards others, women turn into violence against themselves?
A few disclaimers:
- These issues are multifaceted and any question I pose won’t illuminate some grand, pure truth. This stuff is messy and heavy with history and trauma and real-world impacts.
- I’m not excusing the racial violence perpetrated by white supremacists by drawing connections to poor self-esteem. Even if there is a connection it doesn’t make it okay. Not in any way.
- I’m not saying that white women aren’t also outwardly violent. They are.
- I’m not saying white men aren’t also inwardly violent. They are.
- I fully acknowledge that the way I’m framing this is rooted in the gender binary. I welcome your constructive critique and reframing.
What I want to get at is the thread of violence and othering. What I want to feel into is the ways in which what we are seeing out there that shocks us—in Charlotte, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, at the Dar Al Farooq mosque in Minnesota— also lives inside each of us. Not just in our implicit biases, unclaimed racism, or our white privilege, which it certainly does, but in how we are in relationship to ourselves.
When we aren’t connected to our innate enoughness and our place in the family of humans our pursuit of enoughness and belonging too often turns violent.
For some white men, this violence turns outward.
For too many women the violence turns inward, toward the self.
Through perfectionism, loathing of the body, suppression of hungers, silencing of voice, denial of pleasure, dismissal of intuition, resistance to rest, and constant comparison to others, we are violent to ourselves.
Yes, all of these behaviors are conditioned, encouraged and rewarded in a patriarchal society attempting to subdue the power of the feminine. After all, when a population of women is distracted and busy fighting a war against themselves they don’t have near as much fuel to resist and oppose real threats. AND our spiritual illusions foster us being complicit in this system.
This is the toxicity of the illusion of separateness. This is the danger in being asleep at the wheel of human living. Women must commit to stopping the inner violence and turn their peacemaking efforts not only outward but towards themselves. Women must take the anger and hatred that fuels self-criticism and redirect it to its rightful places.
So I ask us to explore these questions:
How are you violent towards yourself and what are the real-world implications of that?
What are the tools of violence you use towards yourself and do you know why you do it? Is it your tone? Your voice? Your words? Is it withholding permission? Is it physical torture?
When do you punish yourself?
When are you at war with yourself?
Where do you imprison yourself?
Where do you diminish yourself?
When do you starve yourself?
How do you beat yourself up and over what?
What within you do you denigrate?
What part of you do you guard yourself against?
Do you have such Stockholm Syndrome that self-inflicted violence feels comforting and safe? Do peace, softness, compassion, and kindness feel dangerous sometimes?
Are the ways that you’re violent towards yourself subtle? Are they easy to explain away? On the surface, do they appear benign and yet have impacts that tell of their harshness?
I realize I come to you with many questions and no answers. I’m not sure though that you benefit as much from my certain knowledge as you do from my directing you back to yourself as I go inward too.
What are your questions? What are you wondering? Where is your curiosity taking you and more importantly what actions are growing out of your questions?
As we see such horrific, intolerable incidents of violence I hope it inspires many things in us. I hope we are are raising our voices in whatever ways we can. I hope we’re talking to family members. I hope we’re physically showing up at vigils, rallies, protests, marches, the voting booth, and the offices of our representatives. I hope we are signal boosting non-white voices. I hope, if you’re white too, you’re doing the work to see all the ways you benefit from white privilege. I hope beyond anything that we are putting financial resources behind people and organizations that are on the frontlines of change.
In addition to these important responses, I’m adding that I hope we examine the places we have turned violence inward.
Peter Schroth, Trees, Tall Pine III
“…and your very flesh shall be a great poem…”
— Walt Whitman
Growing up just outside Washington, DC resulted in my childhood having it’s fair share of visits to historical sites, such as Civil War battlefields, like Gettysburg.
If you’ve ever been to a memorial site, especially one where great loss actually took place, you know that you can feel it. What you’re standing on at these places is sacred ground and each has a powerful energetic fingerprint. Perhaps you’ve felt it while visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, Auschwitz in Poland, or The Killing Fields Museum in Cambodia.
Sadly the world is full of sites where atrocities took place and left an imprint, physical or energetic.
In my early twenties as I was emerging victorious from my own battle with anorexia the only way I could relate to my body was as this sacred ground. While not visible to the eye, my body felt like modern day Gettysburg battlefield.
This flesh—my flesh—was where a war had been fought and won.
And what this meant to me was that anything less than sacred awe was not good enough.
In the years since then I have encountered in my life and in the lives of those I work with serious trauma. Childhood abuse. Sexual assault. Mental illness. Loss of parents and children. Battles with cancer. Amputation.
And it doesn’t take catastrophic incidents like these to leave trauma. Life is traumatic.
Life is traumatic and our bodies bare the brunt of it. They are our sensory input tool and they are where we experience (or repress) emotion. Our bodies are the tools or fight or flight…or freeze. Our bodies are the recipient of heinous cultural norms. Our bodies, depending on where we live in the world, aren’t even always considered our own.
Life is also miraculous. The ways in which our body heals, allows for connection, creates new life, and enables our lives is marvelous.
All this is to say: feel the sacred ground you are living in.
Feel that you are sacred in every cell of your body.
Stand in awe of not just what has happened on your ‘land’ but on what you have survived and created.
Consider reverence as a new template for how you inhabit this flesh of yours.
Like Whitman says, your “flesh shall be a great poem”.
Imagine there’s a knock at your door right now.
You go and answer it.
It’s your mother.
How do you react? Not how should you react, but how would you really react?
Now imagine that happening all over except instead of your mother it’s your ex-lover.
How do you react? Feel it. What is your knee-jerk reaction?
Now imagine it again, instead of your ex-lover, it’s a policewoman.
How do you react? Really. What would your first reaction be?
Now do it again.
You walk over and it’s a singing telegram with balloons, flowers, and a box of chocolates.
How do you react?
The point of contact with anything is the most important moment.
Two objects collide and whether they shatter, ricochet, or merge all depends on the moment of contact and what happens there.
I’m utterly fascinated with the moments of contact with our hungers.
There is so much to learn about what happens when one of our hungers knocks on the door and we answer it. Or maybe we don’t. Maybe we peer through the keyhole and decide to remain silent and still. Hoping it thinks we’re not home and goes away.
Maybe we answer and with tears of joy pick up the hunger and spin it around in our arms as though Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes has just bestowed a windfall upon us.
Or we might open the door but as soon as our hunger speaks we plug our ears and say “Lalalalalalalala” in attempt not hear what it has to say.
It could be as simple as opening and shutting the door, with a quick ‘no thank you’ in between.
I offer you this meditative inquiry:
What is happening at the point of contact with your hunger or hungers?
If it played in slow motion, could you see and feel the moment of contact? Could you feel what happens next?
I offer you this thought: the air between you and your hungers has so much wisdom. almost as much as your hunger itself.
I used to teach a course called Ease Hunting: Six Weeks of Discovering Every Exhale.
This powerful journey included lessons, live calls, an ease scavenger hunt, expert interviews, and two guided audio meditations all aimed at supporting the huntresses in discovering an easeful way of being, no matter what life was throwing their way. It was truly beautiful. One participant described it as “A yoga class for your mind.”
Spring is here and while the flowers may be blooming and the warmer weather lifting our spirits, I know that life is still challenging for many of us.
I woke up today wanting to support you in finding ease in your life right now. The Ease Hunting course isn’t currently on offer, but today I’m giving away the two Ease Hunting meditations.
These recordings, one for morning and one for evening, are simple 10 minute opportunities to recenter and rest. They were among the Ease Hunters favorite parts of their experience. Here are a few of their words:
“I’ve been using the PM mediation every day, and I’m going to keep using it. I loved that I could download the meditations onto my phone. That made it easy to listen to them on the go and also as I was falling asleep. Doing 15 minutes every day has definitely impacted my ease levels.”
“I liked having the meditations as a go-to if I needed them…when I did need them, they were both helpful and I’m grateful to have them as a tool in my toolbox. There was one morning in particular where I was fretting, and I said “ah, we have a tool for this: AM meditation.” I did it, and the fretting subsided and made way for some ease.”
If you’re needing a little more ease in your life or a supportive, simple way to start and end your day, here is my gift to you. To listen online, simply click the links. To download, hold down the option key and then click the links.
As you may know, I’m a student of Wayne Muller. His book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives was a total game-changer for me. In fact, I kept my own non-traditional sabbath for several years inspired by Muller’s words. This practice still influences how I live my daily life and my work in the world. You don’t need to be religious to benefit from this profound book–I’m not.
Muller has a fantastic new book out: A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough. Doesn’t the title just make you happy?! I wanted to share this excerpt from the book with you because it so wonderfully sums up why I coach and what I love about coaching.
“So in order to live well from the inside out, to listen for the right choices and the firmly and courageously act on them we simply cannot do this alone….
Because we are not taught or supported to live in this way, rarely educated or encouraged to listen and act from our own inner wisdom, never told how to follow the firm but invisible thread of the next right thing through the world, we will always need the support of good, honest friends.
We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors with one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course, grounded or flailing.
As in all sacred, life giving practices that require a deep and confident faith in ourselves, we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom, and healing.”
– Wayne Muller, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough