We are living in a time of two pandemics- racial injustice and Covid-19. This year has shed a light about many structural inequities based on intersection of race and class. Some of us are awakening to how much we did not know about the realities of black and brown lives- the notion that the United States was founded on white supremacy and that persists today in implicit and explicit bias. Resmaa Menakem talks about how simply being born in a non-white body is a traumatic experience. Just as we are gendered from an early age we are racialized. Certain doors are closed and certain assumptions are made about individuals simply based on the color of their skin.
On top of all that we have seen the deaths of loved ones and heroes. We may have lost our jobs, our homes, our regular routines. Things that once used to anchor us have become unsteady or been removed.
We are experiencing a collective trauma. Trauma is anything that overwhelms our nervous system and mind. It often brings up the sense of being frightened. We unconsciously move into fight, flight, or freeze/shut down to cope. We lose capacity to fully think, have compassion for others, find gratitude, or see each others full humanity. Typical trauma symptoms are depression, anxiety, engaging in numbing behaviors, rage, irritability, despair, difficulty with sleep, loss of motivation, feelings of shame, hopelessness, eating too little or too much, shutting down.
We have become even more polarized as a country. Many people are terrified about the upcoming election and who will be the next supreme court justice. I invite you to not turn away from your discomfort, from your not knowing. To not stay in despair or terror for long. This is an opportunity. An opportunity to explore what is coming up for us. What traumas have we experienced in our lives? What is our body trying to tell us? What are wounds within me that I have not touched or cared for tenderly? What is the body remembering of feeling scared, not feeling heard, not feeling seen, not being in control?
This is an opportunity to find something to ground in. Perhaps the anchor is faith, our ancestors who have been through difficult times before, perhaps it is a spiritual practice. Can we remember to breathe into this moment exactly as it is. Noticing the tendency of the mind to travel to the future and create catastrophic possibilities. A reminder to come back to the present moment again and again.
I heard Thomas Hubl say: “Are you willing to take a step when there is no floor? When you take a step the floor appears.” If we keep turning away from our pain our world becomes smaller and we lose opportunity to transform, to evolve, to increase our capacity to tolerate not knowing and discomfort. We can gain clarity over time. Can we find community to help support us on this confusing journey. Community can help us expand rather than contract. Beautiful things can arise from the ashes, from the mess especially when we support each other through it. Can we grieve together?
I offer you this meditation that has been inspired by a book I read years ago by Sylvia Boorstein called “Happiness is an inside job”. Please be tender with yourself:
Sweetheart. I know you are in pain. Relax. Take a breath. Check in with what is happening inside of you and outside of you. Take your time. When you are ready we will figure out what to do.
What I love about this meditation is that it has all the qualities of a grounding, compassionate practice. Refer to yourself by some sort of nickname, perhaps naming your inner child. Acknowledge that you are in pain. Invite in ease and softening. Take several conscious breaths to help calm our nervous system. Check in with how your body is talking to you, what are the images and thoughts coming and going. What is happening around you. No need to rush this process. Trust that when you are ready you will know how to proceed. What gives me hope is that if more and more people are connecting to the collective grief and trauma that has been going on in this country for hundreds of years things have to change. Old structures cannot persist if we keep putting one foot in front of the other. We can be tender with ourselves and each other while still being fierce in our pursuit of justice for all. How do we all get free.
Join me in an upcoming workshop to dive deeper into trauma sensitive yoga, anti-racism, or meditation as a self-care practice. More info available here.
Nathalie Edmond is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of trauma from a mindfulness based and somatic approach. She is also a yoga teacher and anti-racism educator. She lives with her family in New Jersey.