National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month!
As I continue to ride the waves of so many mixed emotions – pain, hope, rage, compassion, fear, love, shame, humility, sadness, gratitude, discomfort – I try to remind myself of my own humanity, flawed and limited yet filled with a desire to contribute to positive change. In the light that is being shined on recent events, reflecting the depth and breadth of systems of oppression and racism, it is critical to highlight National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and honor the fact that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) experience unique struggles in regards to maintaining mental health when experiencing disproportionate inequities.
“I can’t breathe”. As a human and a yogi, these words struck deep in my soul. Breath is one of our most basic human rights – the right to life – and it is one of the vital yoga practices to attaining inner peace. The pain and sadness I felt when I heard those words was indescribable and I can only imagine what it felt like within BIPOC communities. As a white woman, I carry the collective shame that comes from knowing my roots grew from the toxic soils that fostered such inequities. I am grateful for the light that shines on this shame. The dialogues and actions that have arisen from the growing awareness and acknowledgement of ongoing social injustices bring me humility and hope.
I am sitting with my own discomfort knowing that it is required for transformation. It is often when the pain becomes unbearable that action emerges. So when I see and hear how white allies are moving into action to partner with the courageous BIPOC to expand awareness and understanding of the need for inclusivity, equity, and accessibility, it fills my heart with love and compassion. Love as the fuel for the courage and compassion for the collective suffering.
I also recognize that at times my fear overwhelms me and I feel helpless, not knowing what the right thing to do is in the moment. Not wanting to offend or unconsciously show my white privilege, I sometimes want to withdraw and not do or say anything. It is in times like these that I remind myself that inactivity breeds fear and shame. I want to be a part of the dialogue and the solution, not part of the problems.
If you too have been experiencing emotional effects of the violence and injustice, I humbly provide the following intention-setting ideas that can be put into action now to support personal growth and collective change. I encourage leaning in with an open heart and mind:
- Look within. Transformational shifts start with each individual welcoming and embracing their shadow side. Unless we actively work to make the unconscious conscious, we will be continually motivated to act from the shadow. When our unsettling behaviors create conflict – within ourselves or with others – it is an invitation to take a journey of exploration within our inner landscapes. It is important to be kind to ourselves on this journey, so when powerful emotions such as anger and shame present themselves, we can simply invite them to sit with us for a moment. We can befriend our emotions and ask them to let us know what they are trying to tell us. Consider befriending one powerful emotion that might scare you a little and write about it unfiltered for 5 minutes or 5 pages. Set it aside afterwards, sense into your body, place a hand on the space in the body where the mind is drawn to and simply ask yourself “What do I need right now?”. Listen deeply to the response and follow through on the request.
- Educate yourself. It is a personal belief of mine that education is vital to the growth of not only the individual but the collective consciousness of the world. Education does not need to come in the form of “formal, higher education” although it is an option. However, we can take immediate steps to educate ourselves more on systemic social injustice through reading books, watching movies, listening to podcasts, and/or visiting websites. Please consider committing some time to broadening and deepening your growth by challenging hidden implicit biases. Below I have provided some options to consider:
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
- How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and the Racial Divide by Crystal Fleming
- White Rage; the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
- Just Mercy (2019)
- Rosewood (1997)
- Harriet (2019)
- Selma (2014)
- Queen & Slim (2019)
- The Hate You Give (2018)
- 12 Years A Slave (2013)
- Hidden Figures (2016)
- Code Switch
- United States of Anxiety
- The Stoop
- Still Processing
- https://thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov/education/behavioral-health (free and accredited e-learning program
- racialequitytools.org (Tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice
- https://nned.net/7253/ (How Implicit Bias Affects Our Work)
- https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ (Project Implicit)
- Have a difficult conversation. Talking about racial inequity may be difficult, yet they are mission critical to lasting change. Thoughtful conversations with an open heart allows differences in perspectives to be heard and validates a person’s lived experiences through being seen and felt. Knowing and honoring the fact that the conversation will bring discomfort is a good starting point, one that might open the door. Invite your curious part to lead the dialogue, asking open ended questions. Asking your judgmental part to take a short vacation is also helpful. Keep in mind one of the habits from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book of ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ as a good mantra for keeping the door open during these conversations.
- Take political action. The most powerful way to get our voices heard when change is needed is to vote, so it is my hope that if you only set one intention this month, let it be to show up at the polls on November 3, 2020. In the meantime, perhaps you contact your local or state leaders by sending a letter or making a call to voice your concerns and desire for change. Another option to consider is to simply sign a petition or two as there is powerful energy behind adding your name to a cause. Petitions are one of the rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Here are a few to consider:
- Safely join a protest. The protests that have arisen recently in response to the violent effects of the deeply ingrained social inequity represent a wave of change that hopefully will not be silenced or ignored any longer. The people showing up to protest truly reflect the diversity of America, including white allies. If you consider joining one, please do so carefully, respecting the rights of all during this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share!