I spent a few hours getting to know the dedicated, passionate folks at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity this week as we talked about activism, mindfulness, and self-care. Here is a Q and A from that event.
Are there any follow up studies on activists better managing stress?
Per your request, I found the following study, “Relieving Burn-out and ‘Martyr Syndrome’ Among Social Justice Advocates: The Implications and Affects of Mindfulness.” It is a good read.
Here are three ways that the 14 activists in the study who had experienced burnout and used mindfulness practice as a rejuvenation tool stated it had helped, “(1) helping them find balance between their activism and self-care without feeling guilty about doing so, (2) helping them slow down and see the ‘‘big picture,’’ letting go of the pressure to eliminate injustice instantaneously, and (3) helping them more effectively manage the stress and anxiety of their activism” (2015, p. 707).
In the introduction, however, Gorski states, “… little heretofore has been done to evaluate the actual impact of specific strategies or sets of strategies for mitigating activist burnout and fostering activist sustainability” (Gorski, 2015, p. 697). So there is work to be done, and this is an area for potential.
Additionally, if you would like to read the original study I shared, here is a link to “Burnout in Social Justice and Human Rights Activists: Symptoms, Causes and Implications.”
Want to change your brain? Be more compassionate? Listen better to others?
Check out these resources based on the Q and A from Mindful Compassion and Connection, a training I facilitated in conjunction with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio for Americorp volunteers and teachers.
What are more strategies or resources to help with implicit bias?
Implicit bias is defined by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity as, “The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Activated involuntarily, without awareness or intentional control. Can be either positive or negative. Everyone is susceptible.”
In addition to the Narratives of Inclusion activity (which we did in the workshop), here are a few additional resources I would suggest as helpful tools to mitigate the effects of implicit bias.
Harvard Project Implicit has published online quizzes you can take in order to discover your specific implicit bias.
Facebook has made public their implicit bias training called “Managing Unconscious Bias.” You can go through the entire course here.
What are more strategies and resources on brain change?
One resource I would recommend if this is a strong area of interest would be Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well Being by Linda Graham.
Neuroplasticity, or the science of brain change, shows that we can change our brains in many different ways- for better or worse; this is a very broad question with many answers.
My suggestion would be figure out what you think you would like to change, and then start from there. In addition, this book by Graham is an excellent resource to begin pondering what change is helpful and how it can be accomplished. I learned so much from reading it.
I would also recommend the work of Dan Siegel. I am reading his book Mindsight now and have seen him speak; he changed the way I think about mindfulness and how it transforms the brain.
How does civility/incivility impact public life?
This is the driving question for a Socratic Seminar I hosted for teachers through the ESC of Central Ohio and PBL Ohio this Wednesday, October 26. Here is a link to this and other upcoming events I will host in collaboration with them.
To begin conversation, here are two short news clips and a link to a letter. After viewing/reading each one, write down initial impressions based upon the question: What is the impact of civility/incivility in modern, public life? Also record other questions these news items evoke for you around the topic of civil discourse.
- Watch this two-minute summary of the second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump which CNN named the “Scorched Earth Presidential Debate in Two Minutes.” Also included on this same link is a montage video of Trump interrupting Hillary in another debate and a video titled “60 Seconds of Pure Vitrol” where Clinton and Trump insult one another.
- Also check out this three-minute video called “Going Beyond a Civil Discourse” from Fox News which describes violence and threats made to both parties during the 2011 healthcare debates.
- Lastly, here is the recently released letter that George Bush left in the Oval Office for Bill Clinton after he had lost the election.
At the workshop, we used this entry event to generate a list of questions together. They are as follows:
- What is civil discourse?
- What is the current level of interest in civil discourse in our society?
- What is the impact of social media on our civility?
- What is the impact of our modern lifestyle on civility? (The immediate gratification culture)
- When is civility more difficult and why?
- What is the future of civil discourse?
- Have we become less civil?
- Where is the line between public and private life? Does this line impact our civility? Explain.
- How can we stay engaged in the discourse when we have been disenchanted and do not want to do so?
- Why do I want to engage in this modern discourse?
- Where is the line between civility and incivility?
- Is incivility necessary and when?
- Why does there appear to be greater public response when the discourse is not civil?
- Which is worse, secret judgement that is civil or uncivil, outward judgement?
- How does public discourse influence private behavior?
- Should we, as educators, model and expect civil and/or uncivil discourse from ourselves and students?
- How do we model civil discourse as teachers and role models?
- How does civility, or a lack of, influence production?
From The SpiritHouse Project website where Ruby Sales is the founder and director, Sales is a “nationally-recognized human-rights activist, public theologian, and social critic, whose articles and work appear in many journals, online sites, and books.” Sales came of age and took part in the Civil Rights movement and has continued her work since that time.
On Sept. 15, Krista Tippett had a conversation with Ruby Sales on On Being, Tippett’s podcast/radio show. They discussed Sales beautiful question, “Where does it hurt?”
Sales points us to the realization that “you can’t talk about injustice without talking about suffering. But the reason why I want to have justice is because I love everybody in my heart. And if I didn’t have that feeling, that sense, then there would be no struggle.” In this context, the question, “Where does it hurt?” brings us back to love.
On Being is continuing the conversation nationally by inviting people to answer the questions,
“What do you see in the way of generative relationships, of new openings and surprising connections, in your communities. Where does it hurt? And what gives you comfort? Where are you planting and finding hope and courage?”
I asked myself this question while running along the Olentangy River this weekend. The tearful answer re-centered me. I hope the practice is meaningful to you as well.
Photo taken of Anis Mojgani’s book of poetry and illustrations The Pocketknife Bible.
This last week I facilitated a retreat experience for the folks at Equality Ohio. I loved this opportunity to help build sustainable activism for a cause that is meaningful to me. At the end of our time, the group submitted questions. Here are my responses.
How can we balance acceptance through mindfulness with the activist’s desire to change the world?
This is a deep and ever present question for many. I will do my best. First of all, there is a rich history of intermingling, to mutual benefit, contemplative practices that boost awareness and acceptance with social justice work. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the work of Ghandi in India are both good examples of this rich history.
I think what acceptance did in those moments, and what it can do now, is to separate the act of doing from the result.
A mindful person is still an active and engaged, perhaps even more so because he or she is fully present in the moment.
There is also an awareness of the larger context outside of the self. This is important. It allows a person to see that they are not alone in the doing. In addition, objectively, one person can’t take ownership of changing the world, but they can affect change in individual moments. Acceptance provides a healthy mode of keeping us “right-sized.” What I do matters, and its not the only thing that matters would be one way to think about this dichotomy.
What can we do as a team to support ritual and practice in our work as activists? What other resources are available for this?
Going back to a historical perspective, there are many good models for how ritual and practice can be paired with community work, the Civil Rights Movement being one. In modern day, the Movement Strategy Center (here is a link to their blog, too) has some really interesting resources that might be worth checking out. I recommend reading Love With Power: Practicing Transformation for Social Justice and Out of the Spiritual Closet: Organizers Transforming the Practice of Social Justice.
I have often quoted Mary Karr’s sentiment, “Tell your story and your story will be revealed.”
I would like to add to that sentiment, “Live your own story, lean into the hard edges, and it will set you free. It will liberate you so that you can in turn liberate others.”
I live to let my own story- with all its sorrow, joy and resilience- be the point through which I further embrace my own humanity and connect meaningfully with others, and I do this with great gratitude and joy. This last Friday, I was reminded, in a beautiful way through community and teaching, what it means to do this work of both telling and living my own story in the beloved community of others who are doing the same work in their own unique ways.
What changed in my life while going without makeup for two weeks? Surprisingly little. Not a single person made a comment to me about looking “tired.” No one treated me any differently. People continued to be kind, caring and concerned in the way I know most humans to be on the average day.
The only thing that really changed for me is that when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t love my face. This sounds bad, but I wasn’t like, “Ugh, I hate myself. Why do I look like this?” It was more, “Yeah, I don’t really dig this right now.” And when I walked away from the mirror, the thought didn’t follow me around, didn’t nag me, didn’t even occur to me to be honest.
This is surprising considering that had I never stepped foot in front of a classroom or gone to a professional meeting without my safety blanket- concealer, blush, mascara and eye shadow. I did both of these things five days into the two weeks, and there was literally no difference between that day and any other.
Makeup is a complicated cultural phenomenon: a safety blanket, a mask, the gauze on a wound, a watercolor painting- it is all of these things.
When I was on my silent retreat, I went 12 days without a bit of makeup. I will be honest: this was probably the first time that has ever happened in my adult life- besides the last two weeks which have been makeup free for me (more about that later).
One thing that both horrified and fascinated me was the fact that I never got used to my own face while I was there. It just didn’t look like me (or at least not a version I liked). Of course, besides the occasional glance in the mirror, this was not a major topic on my mind; Most of my thinking was consumed by avoiding the part of my body that felt like it was on fire for the last twenty minutes as I tried not to move.
Even before my retreat, however, I had become somewhat intrigued by the inordinate role that makeup played in my daily life. I am not obsessive. I usually put on four products (mascara, eyeshadow, concealer and blush), and I don’t wear a lot of it. My routine is usually once a day. It takes about five to ten minutes.
However, I rarely leave home without at least concealer and a little blush. If I did it would feel very strange, and in general, I am very uncomfortable with certain features of my face, namely my uneven complexion and the dark rings around my eyes (hence the concealer and blush).
As a person who tries to be mindful of my thinking and habits, I had to wonder: why does this mean so much to me? Is beauty that important? What would happen if I didn’t wear it?
I have been thinking about beauty standards lately (see the post Why You’re So Pretty Sucks: Being Mindful of Dangerous Beauty Standards) and wondering: what unacknowledged forces are at work here, and how do they affect people- myself included?
In response to my questions, I decided to post a survey online to my Twitter and Facebook feed about women’s personal makeup routines (or lack thereof) and their feelings on why they use it (if they do). There were nineteen survey respondents, a fairly small sample size. I did, however, have a range of feelings and experiences represented, which I felt was helpful for exploring different angles on the topic. I was also able to see some patterns and some differences that were interesting.
In the arena of beauty standards, a personal position is not available to me without admitting to things that are embarrassing; shameful; or even, in the case of “you’re so pretty,” a little vain. Knowing this, dear readers, please understand that I speak from my own experiences with as much honesty as possible, owning the fact that I am one person among many. In no way do I intend to speak for all women. I learned already (from my makeup survey which I will publish later on the blog), that there are MANY different perspectives on female beauty standards and many stories to tell.
Disclaimers aside, here is one.
I know there is probably some curiosity about my silent retreat experience, which I am still processing and will write about soon. Until then, here is something I wrote about friendship, racism and being a privileged white woman who realizes her own blind spots. I wrote it months ago and have been hesitant to publish it because the topic is so complicated, so uncomfortable, for me and for others.
In my life lately, and also in my dreams, race and relationships have been a theme. A few months ago I started having dreams in which interracial relationships were continually a topic. Around the same time, I also became part of a group of racially diverse women-writers for a project on which I was working.
At this time and since, my dreams and my reality have swirled in my head. I find myself having conversations about race with other women continually. In each conversation, I try to tentatively explore where I am being led.