Higher Self Archetype: Midas/Miser
Sacred Geometry (How): Discernment
Yoga (Action): Boat Pose
Mudra: Chaturmukham Mudra - Gesture of Four Faces
Oh, Time, you strange relative measurement of life. I do not know where October went. Luckily, Facebook and Google Photos can let me know what I've done this month and hopefully some of it will be related to this card spread. And if it isn't, I can forgive myself. I haven't even learned my mudra for October. And I definitely didn't do a boat pose. Oh, wait... I did do this mudra this month.
Let me refresh my memory...
October 31: Last day of teaching my first class on campus at SWIHA - it was an 8 week course, one day a week.
October 30: mailed in my early voting ballot
October 28: 9.3 mile Fall Colors hike in Sedona.
October 25: Revising orientation at work
October 25: Mindful Meditation at SOY: Turning walls into Connection
October 15, 16, 19, 21, 23: Coached Yoga Practicums at SOY
October 21: Holistic Health Gathering at work
October 17: started 10-day movie challenge on FB and changed the instructions so that I could take as long as I wanted and not feel like I was losing at Facebook.
October 12-24: working on Sacral Chakra quilt
October 12: started moving into new office at work
October 5: witnessed the birth of a grand-nephew
October 2, 13: rained so much from the remnants of a hurricane that we ended up having wettest October on record.
While I did not actually do boat pose this month, I did imagine doing boat pose several times. And for me boat pose is about the solar plexus chakra, the power center, the core, and it is also about lifting the heart. This month's mudra is also about the solar plexus. This ball of energy is held in front of the abdomen.
And Midas - entrepreneurship and creativity. Well, I definitely tapped into my creativity this month through photography of the fall colors hike and quilting the sacral chakra.
I think there's more for me here and I trust that I'll have the opportunity to continue working on my solar plexus chakra and my entrepreneurial and creative abilities.
Sacred Geometry (How): Miracle
Messages from the Mat (Action): Child's Pose - Balasana
Mudra: Mani Ratna Mudra - Gesture of the Precious Jewel
I feel like this month may be a parallel practice. The above cards are applicable to my personal journey as well as the journey of the characters in my imagination. So, I will be practicing the writing habits I developed for August's blog as well as a practice for my health.
The Heroine has a "passion for a journey of personal empowerment." She "confronts increasingly difficult obstacles to awaken an inner spiritual power and achieve a heroic vision that ultimately serves the tribe."
The Miracle card invites me to "trust in the unlimited possibilities the Universe can provide" and to recognize the miracles in my life and all around me.
Child's pose affirms, "I let go, surrender and trust. I accept all as it is in this present moment."
And the mudra's core quality is global healing. "Bathed in the crystal light of healing, I experience the sacred wholeness of my being."
For my writing practice, this seems fairly obvious. I will continue to develop my habits of writing and I need to surrender and trust the process. My heroine will experience her journey and the miracle will be that I will have been an instrument of creation.
For my physical practice, I am reading The Medical Medium and will adhere to the 28 day program. I'm walking each morning to the store to pick up celery for juicing. I'll eat fruit when I'm feeling the need for more brain food. And I'm doing the rehab exercises for my frozen shoulder.
Personal growth doesn't always fit neatly into 30 days. Perhaps that is what I needed to surrender to. Life is messy and we often need to be torn apart in order to grow; the phoenix burns before it rises.
I haven't written. I have started and interrupted my medical medium cleanse at least 3 times. And I have allowed myself to wallow in the grief of the travesty of the supreme court confirmation hearings. I've surrendered to trains of thought such as, "If Atwood's Gilead turns out to be prophetic, who would I want to be?" I've asked myself this question a lot during difficult situations in my life - situations with no clear right or wrong answer. "Who do I want to be in this situation?" While identifying with the main character is almost always my first reaction, the truth is I am much too old to be a handmaiden. By the time they broke my spirit, I'd be approaching menopause. Would I be a Martha? Would I live out in the woods on the border between Canada and Gilead? Could I be a part of the resistance, a member of MayDay?
One of the fears I have about writing fiction is the downward spiral into madness. What if I immerse myself in an imaginary world and I never come back out? What if I am powerful beyond measure? If I am, I could write myself back out whenever I chose. Even in my dreams, I have this power. For as long as I can remember, I've had the ability to "change the channel" on my dreams - rolling over to rework the ending or choose another story. What if becoming lost in a world of my own creation is much more empowering than being lost in despair within reality.
p.s. this mudra was a big help whenever I felt overwhelmed by grief
Sacred Geometry (How): Communication
Artist (Action): Spiritual Experience
Mudra: Uttarabodhi Mudra – gesture of highest wisdom
I've been doing this monthly personal development practice for eight months now, and I have felt the most resistance to this month. And surprisingly enough, this is the one I want the most. It is August 26th and I've contemplated and thought and haven't actually designed nor implemented a practice yet. For that reason, I'll reflect first and then write about the development.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I even chose my college major, Anthropology, thinking that it would be a good background in research for a writer to have. I had the underlying belief that in order to be a writer, I must first experience life. I had no expectation of how much experience was enough, though. So, when I saw this card, The Storyteller, come up in my 2018 reading, I was excited. Finally, I will become a writer. This is my chance. However, the first card was actually blank, which I interpreted as meaning I had a choice. I could choose to be a storyteller in August. That left a lot of room for overwhelming doubt.
What if I'm not good enough? What if no one wants to read what I want to say? What if I am really good and get pigeonholed and readers don't want to read another style of book from me? What if... what if... what if.
The truth is that writers are writers because they write. I know this in an intellectual way. I know that I need to develop a habit. That would be my yoga for August - daily writing. I'll get up in the morning and I'll write. I wouldn't even need to get up any earlier. I can just skip the social media mindless scrolling and get right to the writing. And yet, as the month progressed, I slept in later. I played this game on my phone that my grand-nephew downloaded. I mindlessly scrolled even more. I was resisting.
This was my chance and I was wasting it. And yet, knowing that was not moving me from my bed. I realized this was my edge. My identity as a future writer needed to be dismantled. A future identity is a fantasy that can be oh so comforting. This fantasy was no different from my "when I win the lottery," "Walk from Patagonia to Alaska," and "Disney World wedding" fantasies I've had at other times in my life. The difference is that with one simple habit change, this future identity could be real.
So my yoga this month was studying this resistance. And I'm not saying I've got it completely figured out in one month. However, I am here, on the morning of September 11th at this point, writing. My resistance has a lot to do with my desire to write something momentous and profound - overwhelming expectations. Mostly, though, I want to be heard. When someone picks up a book, they are choosing to listen to the author. My fear was that I would hear reviews and social media rants that sound too much like the many times loved ones have ended conversations with the phrase, "you think too much." While I'm sure there will be bad reviews and social media trolls. I can move forward, though, knowing they choose to pick up the book and I think the exact right amount for me.
The next step is the development of the habits of writing.
Higher Self Archetype: Wild/Vampire
Sacred Geometry (How): Soul Time
Past Life (Action): Medicine Man or Woman
Mudra: Dirgha Svara Mudra - gesture of expanded breath
This was an interesting draw of the cards. I originally drew a wild card, which I interpreted to mean that my choices this month determine whether or not the next card, the Vampire, comes to pass. In preparation for this struggle, I read Dodging Energy Vampires by Christiane Northrup, M.D. The book is written from the perspective that assumes the reader is an empath and that other people are the energy vampires. And I had to ask, "What if I'm the vampire?"
Last month I examined ways that I might overwhelm others with my enthusiasm and unrequested generosity. This month I'll examine how I'm depleting my own energy. No. I almost forgot about the wild card. The vampire card makes me "aware that someone or something is draining [my] life force." I choose to focus on the unlimited energy available to me through my connection to source.
"The frequency of Soul Time asks us to allow the possibility of a new reality to emerge - one that embraces the concept that, while the corporeal body is mortal, the soul is timeless, limitless, and infinite." This card is my how. And the action card I drew is from the Past Life oracle deck by Doreen Virtue and Brian L. Weiss, M.D. The card is Medicine Man or Woman. It asks me to bring forward knowledge from my past life as a healer.
I am working on upleveling hypnotherapy courses for my day job. I feel like my practice this month is using self-hypnosis to connect to my akashic record and tap into the power of my past lives, specifically my lifetime as a healer. And I will use that wisdom to establish a fount of limitless energy and life force. The opportunity of the wild card is to create a situation where I am neither a vampire, sustaining myself on the energy of others, nor one who is drained by a vampire.
The Dirgha Svara Mudra invites me to "attune more deeply to my breathing, the life fore revitalizes my entire being." It's core quality is the "expansion of life force energy."
It is August 8th and I still haven't completed my reflection around this month. I was traveling with family and friends. The Medicine Man and Woman could represent our hosts - who are both healers. There was a trance and a conversation about our parents who have passed on - soul time. I did manage to conserve my energy, while traveling and living in close quarters. As an introvert, I have never managed to do this in the past. My outbursts would then drain others' energies. I wonder if that is the lesson - by protecting my boundaries and conserving my energies, I'm actually protecting others from being vampired by me. Yes.
Higher Self Archetype: Prince
Bird (How): Pheasant
Artist (Action): No Fear
Mudra: Ananta Mudra - gesture of infinity
I have to laugh out loud because all year I've thought that this Prince card meant that I was going to fall in love and I really, really was not about falling in love. And yet, I knew I should do the work healing my heart in preparation for whatever June had in store for me.
However, as I re-read these cards from a place of momentum, they indicate abundance. And the healing I was doing was much deeper than a romance-related broken heart.
In the last days of May, I came face to face with many truths in the form of this blog, Why Teachers Are Walking Out. I had had many of these thoughts. I had even had conversations with other female teachers about these experiences. However, there was always a part of me that assumed I was exaggerating or overreacting or just letting off steam. Somehow reading these words from a man had the power to validate my experience. And that's another truth smack to the solar plexus and the heart. All these years of just accepting that my skills and gifts would not be valued and would not be seen... all these years of making it work and doing what was right and necessary... it was a manipulation, a systemic twisting of my nurturing nature.
So, the Prince's "romantic charm and potential for power" is so much broader and deeper than one romantic relationship. It's systemic. "See, behind each one of these expectations lies the unspoken threat– 'Don’t you love your kids?'"
The light attribute of the prince is preparing for leadership with compassion, fairness, compassion and wisdom. And part of that for me is releasing this expectation that if I truly love my kids (clients, employees, colleagues, or community), I'll just do what I need to do to make it work.
The Pheasant's affirmation is "I acknowledge the overlighting consciousness of the pheasant in helping me to see my attributes and glory in them." At the beginning of the year, this seemed to support the romance interpretation. However, now I see there is so much more nuance in this card. Pheasants are associated with royalty. This line, "You are connecting with your own power and authority now." And by connecting to my humanness last month, I've harnessed the "shadow aspect of [my] nature...; it no longer undermines [my] progression towards a ful connection with [my] own source of power."
The artist's card this month is titled "No Fear," and then goes on to describe jealousy as a mask for fear. Again, I originally thought of jealousy in the context of romance. In my current context, though, this jealousy is the fear of not being valued. If I demand or even merely ask to receive an energy exchange matching my worth, will others agree with my estimation of my worth? Maybe they don't value the same things I value. Maybe the work I've been doing is actually counterproductive to their goals. Maybe I'm the only person who places value on the services I provide. Perhaps I've been providing my service to people who don't need or want it. These are my fears.
Enthusiasm is my charm. I have come to understand this month that I will dive head first into a project with so much enthusiasm. And it appears that I have done an awe-inspiring amount of work, even if it was just an hour of pure inspiration download. And then other stakeholders are either charmed by my passion and enthusiasm and agree without consideration or they agree to my suggestions just because they don't want to let all my hard work go to waste - they assume I'm attached to the outcome after so much work. Then I end up doing a lot of work that was never wanted or needed in the first place.
I'm not sure I could change my process if I wanted to. I will always dive in enthusiastic and brainstorm while inspiration is fresh. However, I can use discernment to choose when and how to share the results of that process with other stakeholders.
I also need an outlet for my creative expression that is fully mine. Through this avenue, I can channel my full-energy enthusiasm. I won't need to give 150% to a job that really only wants, pays for, or values 50% of my contribution. That was a hard pill to swallow this month. My giving more than is asked of me is not a bonus. It is not a gift. It is a burden to others. I thought I was being generous and that the extra would be appreciated and eventually awarded. The truth is that the extra creates more work for others down the line. They have to undo what I've done.
This realization has been a pretty heavy one. I've been experiencing a lot of grief this month as a result. Which is leading into July. Vampire - depletion, something is draining my life force. And I'm guessing it is me. Yikes. A year of intuitive personal growth is not for the faint of heart.
Higher Self: Father
Mudra: Vishuddha Mudra
It's hard to imagine the part of my Self that is the archetype of the father. Gender roles can be blinding, even when we're clearly talking about metaphors. I turn to the shadow attributes of this card: "Dictatorial control. Abuse of authority." Okay, I can imagine myself doing the work to avoid abusing authority. The light attributes are a "talent for creating and supporting life. Positive guiding light within a tribal unit." That is a lot of responsibility for my little s self. Which is undoubtedly why the rest of the reading is about surrendering to Spirit.
"The nightingale sings to us of the reality behind the illusion of life. The nightingale reminds us that while we think we suffer and weep, our universe is singing all the time. If we could but tune into that song, our suffering would just evaporate... You have a choice today: hold onto your attachment to this particular form of things, or let go, and discover that - instead of losing something - you have gained an expanded possibility."
The Spirituality card from The Artist's Way, reminds me to continue last month's work with connection. "Spirituality has often been misused as a route to an unloving solitude, a stance where we proclaim ourselves above our human nature. This spiritual superiority is really only one more form of denial."
So, in essence, I can avoid abuse of authority and be a guiding light, if I surrender to Spirit through my humanness, as it is in my role as a human that I am connected to the All in this moment.
The Vishuddha Mudra is the gesture of purification. It is helpful for releasing tension in the neck and vocal cords and awakening the intuition. If I am meant to be a guiding light, I will need to speak.
This month I showed up in my humanness and connected with divinity.
I showed up this month and breathed through my imperfection. With my partner in presence, Jennifer, I said an enthusiastic yes to a Mindful Meditation Studio Class at Spirit of Yoga. I facilitated a Love Talk on privilege and definitely breathed through my imperfection on that one. I did my first Facebook Live. I also gave a bit of tough love to someone who needed a bit of encouragement to face some fears. I'm normally not a tough love person.
In allowing myself to be seen, I also have the opportunity to truly see others. I coached several yoga teacher training practicums this month and realized what a privilege it is and how much I love this work. In observing others take that giant leap of faith by stepping into the seat of the teacher, I see so much. I'm not even sure I can describe or explain it. I just know it is beautiful experience. I feel trusted and blessed and honored to be a witness.
Spirituality in Humanity:
I also had the opportunity to create a coaching program aligned with Ramadan [long pause where I don't say all the awesome things I'm thinking because of client confidentiality.] And of course, my google searches were noted by the data collectors. In my news feed was a video of a woman discussing being period shamed during Ramadan. Talk about being human in your spirituality. Women are excused from fasting while pregnant, breast-feeding, or menstruating. This makes a lot of sense, from a purely biological perspective. However, the shame and stigma around menstruation in most cultures just makes everything weird. When I look for the divinity, the spirituality, within the humanity of menstruation, though, I wonder if women will ever be able to proudly display to the world the evidence of their fertility. Will there come a day that a muslim woman eating during Ramadan, a blood stain, a tampon purchase, or hot water bottle at work will get a nod of, "hey, goddess, I see you cleaning out your uterus and preparing for another cycle of potential creation."
Inner Child VS Adulting:
I did not suppress my inner child this month, no matter how silly I might appear. One of the pieces of advice from the WomanSpeak Festival last month was to imagine a tail of any animal species extending from your tailbone. It automatically straightens your posture and distracts you from your nervousness. It even gives me a little sassy attitude like I've got a secret and no one else can see my lion tail. So, this month I actually bought a clip-on tail and lion ears. And I wore them to work.
I also bought a mermaid tail for myself and my grand-niece. I realized afterwards that my niece is much too young for the mermaid tail as you have to be able to swim underwater with a dolphin kick. I had just bought one for her to justify getting one for myself. Hopefully that will be the last time I hide my inner child behind actual children, lol. I will play if I want to play.
Ironically, by not fighting the inner child, I also made some progress with adulting this month. I've cleaned the pool as a mermaid. I spilled a giant bucket of celery water out of the fridge and my sister and I ended up using it to mop. It was fun. I was later able to stick with a couple of other spills until they were completely clean, without too much negative self-talk.
By showing up in my full humanness, I have expanded my possibilities and I integrate my Father archetype and show up as a guiding light.
Engage without striving; flow without force.
Engage your core.
For many of us this is a pretty loaded request. It sounds an awful lot like “suck in your gut,” which sounds a lot like your belly is not allowed to be here in this space. For me, the act of sucking in my gut is violent. It feels like my organs are being stifled, “Shhhh…. Stay quiet and take up as little space as possible until bed time, then you can be organs.”
When I stopped caring about the belly-should-brigade, I just let it all hang out… I had organs floating around 10 feet in front of me, leading the way as I walked.
Through the practice of yoga, though, I’ve discovered that engaging the core is more subtle, intentional, and loving. It’s not about the belly and the organs, it’s about the spine. When we engage the core, it’s an invitation to support the spine with love.
“Suck in your gut” is the Elmyra version of love.
Engage your core is the kind of love in the anonymous quote “When you like a flower, you pluck it. When you love a flower, you water it.”
Engage the core just enough to support the spine. There is still room in the abdomen to breathe and for the organs to do their thing. Imagine the spine is a baby just learning to sit up. You want the baby to learn to sit up, so you’re not going to hold on to her tightly. However, you hold your hands so close so that if she topples, you’ve got her. You might even provide a soft cushion for support.
Experiment with the differences between these experiences in the body. Pay attention to how each feels.
First suck in your gut in the way that you normally would. Do you have room to breathe? Do you feel relaxed or anxious? Does this feel sustainable? Perhaps you've been engaging all along.
Next relax your core completely. Does your spine feel supported? Do you feel like you can do what needs to be done safely or do you feel a bit disjointed or untethered? Do your organs feel like they have room to do their work?
Now move between these two extremes like a pendulum. Engaging the core a little at a time, checking in with your breath, feelings, and organs. The goal is to support the spine while remaining pliable in the abdomen for breath and digestion.
This is engagement without striving, flow without force.
Artist's Way: Criticism
Mudra: Kurma Mudra
Clarification Cards: The Curse, The Drum, The Crow, The Eagle
I find it very interesting that I'm not as intimidated or afraid of this month as I would've been at the end of 2017. Each monthly practice of 2018 has built on the last and I feel prepared and even a little excited to confront my addictions.
At the end of his viral TED talk, Johann Hari says, "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it's human connection." Shame and disconnection often lead to more addictive behavior. Every time I've focussed on eliminating my behaviors, I've just spiraled further into the behavior. However, when I focus on the benefits of the replacement behavior, I have a bit more success.
Hari described an experiment where rats who had a stimulating environment, friends, and mates chose water over heroin-laced water. He transferred that understanding to humans, saying that the audience could be drinking vodka and yet they're choosing to drink water. He attributed this choice to having "bonds and connections [they] want to be present for."
As I confront my addictive behaviors this month, I'll ask myself what part of this situation do I want to be present for and connected with? Yes, a part of me is wanting to escape and check out from some aspect of the experience. That's why I mindlessly sugar up, shop, marathon television reruns, and pick at my skin. I have both tendencies within me: the desire to connect and the desire to withdraw. I'm choosing to seek and strengthen connections. I'm choosing to be fully present in my rat park.
The affirmation of the Phoenix in the Bird Cards is, "I ask the overlighting consciousness of the phoenix to help me transcend the destruction of my old support structures." On my April 2nd hike in the desert I kept seeing images of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The dead cacti were becoming one with the soil that fed the nearby living cacti. I experienced an overwhelming feeling of connection and simultaneous non-attachment. We are all connected and eternal and yet constantly changing form. This is the energy of the Phoenix.
I asked a new deck of cards for clarification. I drew three cards: The Curse, The Drum, and The Eagle. The Curse seems to connect my disconnection with karma from past lives and/or ancestral limiting beliefs. For me, that thought releases me from judgement. I need not be perfect and beyond reproach. I am but one expression of this struggle between disconnection and connection. I need not know the whys and the specifics. I just need to do the work along my journey in this present moment. The Drum can provide the rhythmic trance to keep me present in the moment. And The Eagle invites me to become my observer self during these moments of connection and disconnection.
In this first week of April, The Spirit of Yoga issued a pose of the week challenge to practice Crow. Crow is a pose that takes equanimity of plank to the next level. How does one stay balanced when deliberately off-balance? Crow, Eagle, Phoenix... a lot of birds. A lot of opportunities to "be taught how to fly." The Crow card says it is the keeper of universal law of truth. It is about walking my talk and maintaining integrity between my word and my deed. Later this year I'll be teaching a mindfulness class. And to be in integrity with that work, I must release the last of these addictive, evasive, disconnecting behaviors. I choose to be present and connect with this existence and my fellow beings.
In connecting, there is collaboration and co-creation. In order to collaborate, I must be able to receive criticism. Receiving criticism is also a practice of non-attachment and simultaneous engagement.
The intention of the Kurma Mudra is to reduce sensory overload. Hari also discussed one of the crises of our culture - our replacement of human connection with stuff collection. When the sensory overload of our modern world overwhelms me, I create the gesture of the tortoise and breathe, resting inward, finding clarity and vitality.
I started this month realizing that it's time to face my sugar addiction. I had just polished off a big bag of M&Ms. And today, May 2nd, I ate only one of a 3 pack of a healthy chocolate macaroon that I bought two days ago. I used to have this feeling of urgency, like I had to eat treats before they went bad. I couldn't let them go to waste. This has to be the past-life or ancestral limiting belief, probably related to the Great Depression or other times of lack. I can limit my contribution to food waste by not purchasing food in great quantities. I feel like I can enjoy healthy treats now without being attached to them.
Over the course of the month, my screen time became less mindless and more intentional. There was less random sharing and more connecting with specific people.
My focus on connecting also had some unintended consequences. I was able to release some limiting beliefs around money, specifically some resentment I had around paying my student loans (ageist fine print on teacher loan forgiveness conditions). That resentment had been addictive in its own way.
Most of my yoga this month has been off the mat. I've been connecting and collaborating with friends, loved ones, and coworkers. And yet, when I needed to be in my body, my asana practice was there.
Artist's Way: Spontaneity
Mudra: Shunya Mudra
This is an interesting group of cards. The affirmation for the shunya mudra, or gesture of emptiness, is "With greater openness to new ways of seeing, I create space for the journey of awakening."
The bird card is about finding or creating my true home. The healer archetype transforms pain into healing. And the Spontaneity card says that by releasing the fear of abandonment, our loved ones are able to love us back with more spontaneity.
The spontaneity card reminds me of work that I've been doing for myself and others around healthy boundaries. And finding my home with the help of the Weaver can be interpreted as my domicile and my body. My practice this month, will align with both interpretations. I will focus on my home and my body. For when I open space in both and they are uncluttered and functional, I am able to continue last month's work of putting compassion into action by transforming pain into healing.
I also learned from last month's over-complexity of yoga sequences. This month began with a full moon, so I'm practicing a moon salute. On days when I have a little more time, I'll add poses that support my intention for the month.
I was able to incorporate aspects of this month's practice in little ways here and there throughout the month. I used Shunya Mudra whenever I wanted to create a little extra space. I specifically remember using it during the Forgiveness Ceremony at SWIHA and during opening meditation at the Yoga Family Night at Laveen Elementary School. I practiced moon salutation while hiking, at my desk, before bed, upon waking. This sequence was so easy for me to memorize and move through with my breath. This must be what sun salutation feels like for other people.
I only listened to my recording of this sequence once. I trusted that my higher Self held onto the intention and I focussed on being in the moment with my body and my surroundings. I listened to the birds and the wind rather than my voice.
As I start looking at April's cards and considering what that practice looks like, I realize my work in March was preparing me for April. April's archetype is the addict. This March practice around embracing my power as a healer, strengthening boundaries, and weaving my home was the prep work for dealing with my addictions. This realization validates for me the beauty in just trusting the process. I didn't know where this March practiced was headed. My ego was distracted by February's Advocate practice, thinking that I was embodying the healer in order to support others. I'm reminded I don't always need to know the why or the destination, I just trust the process and enjoy the journey.
"Find the comfort within the discomfort that's necessary for facing the reality of our current state of inequality so we can use the power of privilege to shift into equality."
Us & Them
Many years ago my father and I were driving cross-country and we passed a historical marker for The Trail of Tears. My father said, "It's a shame what we did to them." I thought for a moment about something his mother had recently told me. Her great great... grandmother was Native American. She had confided this information to me as one confides a shameful secret. I replied to my father, "It's a shame what we did to us."
Othering is the process of choosing sides. When we line up on opposite sides of the playground it's easier to throw balls at each other. When we go one stop further and dehumanize the other side, it's easier to launch missiles, enslave, and deliver small pox infested blankets to our fellow humans.
The Just World Fallacy
When as individuals we feel helpless, we can self-soothe with a false sense of control based on a belief in a just world. In a just world, everyone gets what they deserve. We victim blame because it feels safer than admitting that we, too, are vulnerable to injustice, violence, and betrayal.
When we combine the just world fallacy with othering, it's easy to blame entire groups of people for systemic injustice. We might even be willing to believe that only the immigrants that deserve to be deported will be deported. And we may desperately want to believe that Eric Garner's pre-existing health conditions were the reason he couldn't breathe.
When we combine the just world fallacy with the sacred myth of the American Dream, we are tempted to believe that billionaire CEOs worked hard for everything they have while their employees living below the poverty line just aren't trying hard enough.
The False Hierarchy of Human Value
The false hierarchy of human value places more value on white males. A white woman, might find it easier to accept this than fight the system. She might put more energy into raising her son than her daughter, expecting that he will someday take care of her in her old age. In this false hierarchy of human value, she has a pretty cushy spot. If she can only make the white males in her life happy, she'll be okay. She might take a few beatings or swallow her pride so often she loses her voice. And 53% of her ilk will throw the other 47%, plus people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, those worshiping the faith of Islam, legal immigrants, migrant workers, refugees fleeing war-torn regions... basically everyone except white cis-males under the bus.
And 53% of white women are not alone. Being one rung down on this ladder is a temptation for many people and they choose to ally themselves with their oppressors rather than the rest of humanity.
However, the reason we call this hierarchy false is because true power is not finite. It just feels finite to those hoarding money and power because they believe power is power over others. They want to hold onto that oppressive, coercive power. True power, though, is power with, built through connection, cooperation, and compassion.
The just world fallacy makes it palatable to believe certain stereotypes about ourselves. In my opinion, this is the hardest part of the work of examining these power structures and our contribution to them. Often the smallest internalized oppressions can be the most mind-blowing. This work is slow because it is depressing. For example, realizing that the heroes in romantic comedies are often actually abusive, creepy, stalkers, left a gaping hole in my life. I needed to replace that with other entertainments and find my new center before facing another internalized oppression.
Re-learning history and re-evaluating your role in society and ultimately history can be very scary. Many people would rather keep their blinders on and not know the truth. However, if you are ready to examine your privilege, you may need support. It can feel somewhat lonely. As you peel back these layers, it can be rather shocking. Those who already know these truths are not often patient with your feelings because they've been living with the truth for years. Those who are not yet ready to see might be defensive in their denial. Please, seek support from a professional or a group of people in the same stage of discovery.
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After burning out from a long career as a middle school/high school reading/math/science teacher, I returned to school to study massage, hypnotherapy, mindfulness, aromatherapy, and yoga.