How Wellness Practices Can Support Our Commitment to Anti-Racism
Shoshana Belisle, MSW, MA, RYT
Namaste Integrative Wellness Advisor and Director of Wellness Research
Julie Wald, MSW, RYT
Founder, CEO and Chief Wellness Officer of Namaste Wellness
We are now months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss across many domains of life has been tremendous. But it has also laid bare the stark and significant racial and social inequalities that have poisoned our society for generations.
We have seen black populations hit disproportionately harder by COVID-19 - due to the consequences of a deeply unequal society. Black people are contracting COVID-19 at higher rates than other racial groups and are also more likely to die. This is a tragic fact that highlights dramatic health inequities that permeate our culture. The convergence of the pandemic with the recent brutal murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor highlights a sickening reality. Now is the time to shatter what was built incorrectly and rebuild a world in which it is a given that Black Lives Matter. We must all find a way to respond skillfully and consistently to cultivate justice and equality, and heal this aching world.
As a wellness company we believe that self-care does not stop with a focus on personal interest. Rather, self-care is preparation for noble and purposeful engagement in repairing our world. By committing to our fundamental well-being we fuel ourselves to promote the well-being of our global community. We at Namaste call upon ourselves and our partners and clients to LISTEN, LEARN, FEEL and ACT in the name of eliminating racism, and to continue to support each other in staying consistent and accountable toward this common aim. This is the same approach we use to support our clients in personal and organizational transformation. Now we are called to heal and transform on a macro level, on a national and global scale.
How can we find the clarity, compassion, strength, and courage to face ourselves, our world, and the challenges ahead? Quiet contemplation and reflection can be a powerful place to begin and enables us to do the listening needed to act skillfully. The task is not simple but it is necessary: Carve out time to turn your awareness inward to develop a relationship with your thoughts, feelings, and body. This may uncover intense emotion, numbness or discomfort, which is part of the process. It is important to sit with these uncomfortable feelings and refuse to deny or repress them. During this unprecedented time, the added responsibility is to reflect upon this pressing question: How am I contributing - whether consciously or unconsciously - to the deep injustices that surround me? And how can I awaken to my role as a responsible citizen who is committed to equality, justice, and well-being for all?
Use this moment in our collective experience to carve out time for a contemplative practice of your choice. This might mean taking a few minutes on a meditation pillow in mindfulness practice, following your breath, and watching your thoughts with non-judgmental awareness. This might mean a walk in the woods or time with a journal. Without criticism or judgement, invite your truth to emerge. Take this time to feel all of the emotions that arise, or notice feelings of disconnect. Do not resist or judge or react. Simply be with what comes forth and let it be a tool for personal awakening. Familiarize yourself with any biases and assumptions and make a commitment to test them and challenge them.
Consider a practice of “loving kindness meditation” to cultivate an attitude of universal compassion. There are a variety of ways to practice loving kindness, but the essence is as follows: Wish for the safety, well-being, peace, healing and liberation of a friend or someone you love. And then extend this wish to a neighbor, a neutral party, and then to someone you find challenging. Finally, wish for the well-being of all living beings. This practice reminds us of the interconnected nature of our lives, and has even been shown to enhance the quality of connection to others and to the environment.
Resting in awareness and compassion is essential yet insufficient in this pursuit of justice and equality. Our next step is to translate this into action. Acts of kindness are healing to both the giver and receiver. Right now, if every single person were to take decisive action toward promoting justice and equality, we would make a formidable collective step toward an enlightened world. The bottom line - we are responsible for the welfare of the world, and everyone in it.
Reflect on what you can do in your immediate circumstances to contribute toward justice and equality. Given your skills, talents, circumstances and areas of influence, determine something you can do today to move the mission forward. Perhaps you take time to read about anti-racism and/or join others in a peaceful protest. Perhaps this means educating yourself more deeply on our country’s history of inequality and ancestral wounding. Click here to find a list of resources to help in taking action. When possible, participate actively in policy change in your companies and communities, and get involved in local politics to ensure that the right leaders are in a position to lead the change we wish to see.
Finally, we must make these practices a habit. It is inspiring to engage in a flurry of responsiveness when the crises of our world hits a tipping point. But it is all too common to become complacent when the media turns its attention elsewhere. The cultivation of insight, compassion and just action must become part of the fabric of an awakened version of ourselves. This takes time and commitment.
Turn these practices into a habit: return again and again. Change takes time. Transformation requires commitment. This is a marathon - not a sprint.
This work is not linear. Look inside and get to know where you are hurt, lost or hungry, sit with vulnerability, and commit to healing your inner wounds. Turn the light outward and share your compassion with others through action. As the world wakes up, we too are forced to wake up. And as we wake up, we are able to wake up the entire world.