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Lesson 1, Chapter 18-22


Nicole
(@nicole)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 39
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Q. How do you take care of yourself to sustain your energy long term?

Q. Take time to envision a different culture of incarceration. What does this new culture look like?

Q. What is whiteness without white supremacy? What could it be?


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David Westlake
(@breathingstillnessgmail-com)
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Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 15
 

How to take care of myself? Well, isn't that the million dollar question? After years of being a social conscious yoga instructor and before that a school teacher learning to apply the same principles to my own life that I was advocating took time. I spent so much energy making sure others felt free to be themselves that I found myself pretty burnt-out. The experience of Covid turned out to be a blessing in many ways. I was forced to stop, to discover my practice and start to observe what I needed for health and well being. Driving here, advocating there, speaking, teaching, all beautiful work, but I was crispy around the edges and starting to feel very cynical. I had to literally turn my phone off for weekends, spend time just walking my dog, sit for long stretches of time with my wife and partner, eat regular meals, and well...just be.  Ironically, all the stuff I shared is what I needed to do. 

I remember the last time I spent with the men at the Spring Creek Correctional Prison. It was solstice 2020, we celebrated a type of sun salutation practice. Little did I know that it would be the last time I saw them for over a year. Oddly enough, they must have felt my fatigue. At the end of our time together, they told me they felt sorry for me that I had to be racing in the world and that they felt as if they had the easier path being in a place with a determined rhythm and challenges. They told me they would hold me in their thoughts and practice. There was such compassion in their eyes. Funny. Men sentenced to life or almost life would say that to me. 

What would a culture of incarceration look like, more importantly feel like? How about a thoughtfulness, an objective meditation upon the systems we live in and a courage to dismantle what doesn't work? This feels very overwhelming in many ways for me. So many systems need change. It starts from the earliest systems created by our culture to assimilate us into society, head starts, education systems, school buses, sitting in rows, grading, fitting in, the message of work and the inconsistency of who really needs to, the ideas of right and wrong. So many things to look at and become aware of these days.

Maybe it begins with organization like PYP or our little crew here in AK and the slow breath of awakening ourselves and the realization that we are all doing time in this society and that the work is about liberation for each person we teach. The longer I work in this field the more all my classes  whether at the local gym or behind concrete walls become prison yoga sessions. 

Whiteness! Such a weird construct, such a prison. As a white passing person, Jewish, North African, South Italian and Irish I feel held bondage by this identity. But because of where I grew up, blue eyes, the pretending I have done and the ability to "blend" in, I am white. This nomenclature, this identity then alienates me from those I feel a grater kindred with as well as this arbitrary group of people called white that I live amongst everyday. White, the culture of niceness and morality, what a strange bland place. Here, people ask me about my tan, where I have been, why I get so dark. When I say in jest that I haven't traveled or barely spent any time outside, it's actually my ethnicity, it becomes quiet. What is white?

Maybe the letting go of white supremacy is the recognition of it as a construct, a system that alienates all of us, makes us contend and fight against each other for such limited resources. identifying it as a story, a poor narrative constructed by those in power places with everything to lose, who ironically are also in bondage to this identifier. Maybe it starts with hard honest discussion like we are doing right here, seeing past the veil together. 

I hope these ramblings and flowing thoughts have made sense and have offended no readers. May we all be free. 

 

 


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Nicole
(@nicole)
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@breathingstillnessgmail-com

 

Such beautiful words and it all makes sense to me. Thank you.

I love the story you shared about the men inside. We learn so much from our participants and are better because of their compassion.  


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Shawn
(@shawn-chereskin)
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1. I'm only just learning how to truly take care of myself. I've always been a caretaker and a 'helper' and I've taken time to reflect on the why of this which is probably a much bigger answer. I often step into a place of overcare and realize that for a long time I did this in a codependent way and would burn myself out quickly and then become resentful. So I'm learning to say 'no' more often instead of an automatic 'yes' or at least a 'let me think about that and get back with you'. I can relate to what David said about being a teacher of these self-care practices and yet not really taking great care of myself. The pandemic has also given me the opportunity to step back and realize that I have needed to save some of my energy for me. So these days I try to get out in nature daily, do my own practices of yoga, breathwork and meditation, sleep more and take time to play and be silly. 

2. A new culture of incarceration? Wow. This is a question that could take days to answer. So much would look different! Ideally there would be less of it or it would be completely gone. I would love to see incarceration become rehabilitation. Using the funding that goes towards incarceration and putting it towards more resources and programs in more low income communities, starting with the schools. I would love to see more recovery programs instead of incarcerating those struggling with addiction. And in the prisons (although in an ideal world prisons would be no more), seeing more funding and value for programs that truly heal, including our yoga programs, not only for the incarcerated, but for the staff as well. There would also be more offered in the way of support upon reentry. But, ultimately the entire system would shift to create more equity and resources in all communities and less over policing in black and brown neighborhoods. 

3. I think Resmaa says it best...that whiteness without the white supremacy is about taking responsibility. To realize that as white people we hold privilege and opportunities that are not available to POC. It means doing the work in our communities to heal, to shift the narrative that we've been perpetuating and to focus on the fact that by extending these same privileges and opportunities to all, nothing is taken away from white people. I completely agree that a new culture is needed in white communities that is inclusive and loving. One that includes love of Self so that we can better love everyone else and one that recognizes that we all deserve liberation.


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Nicole
(@nicole)
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@shawn-chereskin

All so beautifully said! I've given a lot of thought recently to what it means to shift the narrative. How do we get people to think and talk differently about whiteness? How do we get people to see their own privilege in a way that makes them work for collective change? All rhetorical, but where I am at now. 


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Caroline
(@carolinecl)
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Q. How do you take care of yourself to sustain your energy long term?

I continue to learn how to take care of myself; it is an ongoing process of recognition, slowing down, and relearning.  I have practices I go to maintain my sense of self which nourish and restore my physical and emotional well-being, however, I'm beginning to notice that still "breakdown" in exhaustion.  Movement is a huge part of my mental health and I listen to what my body needs--a run, walk, swim, Netflix, talk with a friend--it all depends on the day, my mood, and energy.  There are core things I do nearly every day like meditation, reflection readings, essential oils, music.  I have being listening to the "Weightless" piece of music that Resmaa suggested a lot...while I'm walking, doing chores, lying on my mat...it's calming.  

Q. Take time to envision a different culture of incarceration. What does this new culture look like?

The culture of incarceration would be grounded in a recovery-based foundation.  Mental health counseling both individual and group, yoga and meditation, and more time outside.  People would be offered ways to heal through their bodies, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Opportunities for education, reading, writing, skills to prepare individuals for work when they re-enter society.  I would absolutely abolish solitary confinement; it is detrimental to a person's soul and the antithesis of what it means to be human...it removes a person from community and humankind which we all need to survive.

Q. What is whiteness without white supremacy? What could it be?

To sever whiteness from supremacy, white people need to reinvent and redefine what white means.  As Resmaa explains, "the engine of this transformation will be the creation of new culture" which will involve a dismantling to "rebrand" what it means to be a white American.  I really appreciate the example of the AA/NA, etc. culture; this framework would be very useful in creating a new culture and identity of white that remove supremacy.  The piece that strikes me is how divided white people are; how do we begin to communicate, connect, and change the minds of white supremacists?  Where do they "go" if unwilling to join this new culture of what being white means?  That for me seems like a great barrier...  


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Joanna
(@joannathurmancomcast-net)
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Joined: 1 year ago
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Wow I really appreciate everyones' thoughts and insights. I am grateful for this discussion forum.

Q. How do you take care of yourself to sustain your energy long term?

I consider myself a high-energy person and find movement to be my primary resource for maintaining balance and perspective. Being in nature each day sustains me and refreshes my soul, if I cannot be outside moving I find myself getting cranky and easily agitated. The solace of nature I have found in running has always been a sanctuary for me, whether it's the dirt beneath my feet or the sky above me. When my mom was alive and aging into her 90s, things were different as I was the primary care giver. It was not the physical aspects that exhausted me, but the sadness I felt from watching her decline and the resulting inability for her to be the best friend I had always counted on that broke my heart and wore me down. From this I learned that it's ok to ask for help, and to ask specifically for what I need. From the prolonged stress I finally realized that I had been holding my breath for so long that my body was stuck in this state. So even though I instinctively knew that nature was my healing place, I also had to take personal responsibility to unlock and release what I held onto so tightly. Developing my yoga practice and spending time actively paying attention to my breath have been powerful forces in now sustaining my energy.  I also know that community is vital for me and hearing stories from people each day offers me inspiration and creates excitement. I think it is that sense of belonging that Resmaa talks about which we all seek and is so important for daily and long-term resilience. 

 

Q. Take time to envision a different culture of incarceration. What does this new culture look like?

I am sure there are many people with more knowledge and expertise than I who are working to create programs and processes that would improve our current system of incarceration. To move forward, I think we need to first address peoples' fears and perceptions about criminal justice. Few are likely to be aware of our long history, the impact of targeted racialized social control, intersectionality, and the resulting extreme inequities that pervade our communities. To address today's problems we need to have knowledge of how and why we got here. The fact that the Nazis and South Africa's apartheid both looked to the structures of slavery that were so successfully implemented as foundational in America as a model for their own practices is a devastating realization of how deeply imbedded are the roots of our incarceration culture. 

Everyone I work with at Homeboy Industries has somehow been system-impacted or incarcerated. Our conversations about their experiences in prison always come back to one thing - being treated as less than, less than human, less important, less worthy of love. If the guards would just treat us like human beings it would make a world of difference they tell me. This is the concept of regard for one another. Prisons are a means of control, subduing, and denying basic human dignity. That is the culture. Agrarian Wendell Barry, one of my favorite authors, writes "we need to imagine lives that are not our own." To me this is the crucial point around which our systems must be organized, a new culture developed by the understanding of where we come from and how we got here.

HB founder Father Greg's constant reminder to us is one of standing always on the side of compassion - "We have somehow forgotten that we belong to each other, and the idea has taken hold that some lives are more valuable than others."

Q. What is whiteness without white supremacy? What could it be?

I really appreciate what you all have already said about whiteness without white supremacy, and I agree that is it down to those of us with white skin to accept and acknowledge all that we have been afforded by this happenstance of our birth. It does start with each person labeled as white to question this designation and honestly understand what goes with it, both the opportunities to make changes and the ownership of the ugliness. To me it is much like the yamas and niyamas in yoga, the processes of self-reflection, truthfulness, non-harm, purity, self-discipline, and letting go - all of these practices offer us guidelines for re-inventing this identifier in our own lives. As long as I can remember, checking the box "white" on all the requisite forms we must fill out in life has made me question this classification. All of the other boxes were more appealing because they offered an identity, a belonging to something specific. The white box was so vague and it never seemed to say who I was, maybe that was white supremacy itself.


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Marjorie
(@m-denisgmx-fr)
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1) As I was educator and I have done a burn out as many social workers, I learnt to take decisions, and habits which are good for me and alows me to keep working with human beings. Take the decision to do a yoga training was the best decision that I have done in my life. It made me change my way of life to the way of life that I needed. I take care of my energy by taking time for myself. Having calm and lonly moment, to just recharge me, to connect with me, but also to take a step back and observe my needs or experiences of the days. This time for myself can be doing meditation, or yoga (movement), but it can also be gardening, cooking or walking.

I also have an healthy way of life, which is for me the key to keep a balance concerning my energy. Good sleep, good food and physical activities.

 

2) I think we are already going to a new culture of incarceration. There is more educational trainings, activities as cooking, yoga or meditation into prison than before. For me, the fact that it is possible to provide yoga classes into prison, is the evidence that it is changing. Also, maybe there is more awareness around the condition of life into prison, and why people are going to prison. I hope it will continue it that way, that prison become a place to learn, to grow, and to strat to build his future, instead of a place to just be stucked, suffering and loosing all his hope concerning his future.

 

3) I don't know what would be whitness without supremacy, as the concept of whitness is coming from the system of supremacy. As racism was created to legetimate the exploitation of others ethnies, whitness was a creation of a system of domination. However, if we manage to do a deep work of decolonization of the mind, and "desupremacy", to be whit would have just no signification. It would be a skin, that it.


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Kristin
(@kschoolersaviogroup-org)
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Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 8
 

Q. How do you take care of yourself to sustain your energy long term?

To take care of myself and sustain my energy long term, I have a consistent practice of evaluating what fills my cup and what drains me, and I audit my life in appropriate ways to sustain my energy. I think it's important to have practices that work for us and our unique makeup. We all have unique needs. Knowing those needs, such as, I need to breathe for 3 minutes before I face the world, and i need to take the 3 minutes to do that it important. 

Q. Take time to envision a different culture of incarceration. What does this new culture look like?

A new culture of incarceration... hmm.... I haven't had the opportunity to be in the existing space to formulate a response to this that would have any sort of relevance. But if I were writing the book, I suppose that a new culture of incarceration would be one where people could receive access to many different modalities of healing. Because hurt people hurt people, and breaking the cycle is a long, arduous process. Healing is needed for these souls. All kinds of it.

Q. What is whiteness without white supremacy? What could it be?

I don't know how to answer this question. I realize there is a lot of pain in the world around this issue. I am "white". I have never been anything but "white". I realize that I am somehow a part of this system of oppression, and I hate it. I hate that I am a blend of many cultures across the globe, but my ethnicity is diminished because of my general outward appearance, and I am therefore limited to "white and a part of the problem". My prayer for this world is that we can all see souls, see the inner light, see our connectedness, and build from there. And I realize how simplistic and stupid that probably sounds to some. We all have pain. Deep, visceral pain. But we are all capable of joy. And LOVE. To access these inner caverns, again requires copious amounts of intentional healing. It requires work. It requires conversations and understandings, and a release of sides. It requires a release of the philosophy "you are for us or against us". It requires us to stop dehumanizing each other. Because the truth is, we all do this. No matter what color, or religion, or whatever we are, it is a function of the human mind to dehumanize others in our brains to reduce our pain. That needs to stop.


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Sarah
(@skamahele78gmail-com)
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Posts: 8
 

Q. How do you take care of yourself to sustain your energy long term?

I personally spent a lot of time working on sustainability. I was gifted an amazing boss who knew to prioritize self-care. I was very inclined to burn out and still can be. At this time I am only putting things on my plate I know I can handle. I schedule certain days to guarantee time with my family. I also only work when I've scheduled it. 

Q. Take time to envision a different culture of incarceration. What does this new culture look like?

My idea of a different culture of incarceration is understanding each and every human being is one mistake away from being there. If we really want to make the entire future better for mankind it involves an understanding of why we're so emotionally reptilian brained when we're traumatized and recognizing these features within ourselves before we begin concerning ourselves with anyone else. Incarceration wouldn't mean "bad people held away from the community to keep other people safe". It would become "a place for those who have been hurt and are in pain, who have shown a consistent lashing out to harm others, come together to work on their pain simultaneously in an environment where they're taught a new way of perceiving the world, existing in the world, and feeling this life as a whole."

Q. What is whiteness without white supremacy? What could it be?

 

Whiteness could become it's own culture. Where they can be proud of who they are and their skin color. American whiteness has become the predominant existence and "goal" to reach for many. Those not realizing the loss that white people have experienced as well, the pain and trauma that has created this capitalistic monstrosity. It is becoming less white, more mixed. People cross-identifying and continue to meld together. We cannot change the past, we all have a choice in each moment, when we can move through "clean pain" and work together to make what we all really want: a safe place to live and exist. 


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