I’m typing fast while my kids watch yet another show on an iPad. We’re a tight squeeze in our temporary cottage while we wait to move into our new home, and Big Feelings abound. Like you, we are sickened by the events of the past few weeks and galvanized more than ever to use our privilege to fight for justice and freedom. It’s crucial that our spirituality bring us INTO the world instead of becoming a kind of spiritual bypassing. Absurdly, in the midst of everything, our kids still needs meals, clean laundry, and snacks. Life is so strange that way.✨
I’m writing you from inside a pocket of green. From my window I can see deep shadowy evergreens, bright fluttering leaves, and an actual field of daisies. I have never been somewhere that felt so peaceful, so healing, so alive. My tired heart and body are gratefully soaking up the vibrant life force of this place.
Meanwhile, the world burns.
Protestors fill the streets in the USA to protest yet another Black person’s death at the hands of police. Their rage is so very, very justified and I stand with them unequivocally. The true outrage is that it took us Americans so long to demand change. I will regret this for all my days.
My kids are unsettled and anxious: not because of what’s happening in the world (though we are teaching them, clumsily and imperfectly) but because we are all out of our routine here, in a new place, trying to quarantine so we don’t bring germs to our new community, navigating all the paperwork and details of a move, getting ready for the big things we’ll be doing next week: ripping out carpet, painting, and finding places for all the (too many) things that will be showing up in a big moving truck. They miss their friends. They don’t have bikes or toys and everyone wants to numb out on a screen. My husband and I haven’t had childcare in three months, and our minds are showing signs of fraying around the edges from working in minutes and snatches, one ear always half-tuned to the kids, trading off for client calls, moving our whole lives across the country while keeping all the trains running.
I want more than ever, right now, to be clear. I don’t know how to be clear.
Many of the beloved kindred spirits I’m talking with are hurting and raw, often with past trauma being triggered by current events. My clients are intensely empathic, many reeling with exhaustion, grief, and rage. Every single one of them wants to show up and be useful. Most of them have already been being useful for years. We talk about rest, about tuning their energetic radar to strengthening channels, about tapping into timeless energies of revolution and healing, about alchemizing rage into action. About refueling so they don’t burn out.
Last week in this missive I asked that instead of reading a story from me, my white readers find one written by a person of color and listen to their experience and amplify it. In the following days, my mailbox has been pinging with carefully crafted statements from entrepreneurs and organizations writing to state their strong support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s good. It’s a start. It’s actually the very least we can do– to say publicly where we stand and follow it up with action. I’ve wondered how I can possibly say something remotely adequate from my current fog. Then Ben and Jerry’s said it best anyway.
The moment for white people to say “I don’t know where to start” is behind us. We’ve always known what we had to do, if not how. There are countless good lists of resources out there, like here and here and here. A writer I love and respect is teaching a free donation-based class to send funds directly to Black Lives Matter movement. If you don’t know what else to do, read and give money.
Even more than what we post on social media, more than what we do publicly, I think we each have a responsibility to show up in our own personal worlds. Maybe for you, that’s explaining to your internet friend why the phrase “all lives matter” is bullshit. For me, I want to speak to something that’s happening in a world I inhabit with unease at the best of times: the coaching one.
I still cringe slightly at the term “life coach,” because it’s so inadequate to describe how much I love my clients and the deep, sacred work we do together. I think the question “Did you manifest it or was it white privilege” pretty much sums up my thoughts on the law of attraction. And there is so much snake oil masquerading as “high vibes” and “positive thinking,” and too many people trying to work on other people who haven’t done any of their own work.
So I try to stay out of that world. Although I’ve learned many useful things from many of my teachers, I’ve never found a community where I fit long-term. But I’m part of it whether I like it or not, so let me speak to something that’s happening.
Apparently there are people who are saying we need to bring “only love and light” to this moment in time. That anger is “negativity” and unhelpful. Apparently there are big name coaches who are gaslighting Black women in their groups; tone policing; spreading white fragility and violence. They are doing this in the name of being “spiritual” and “having a high vibration” and it is utter, utter poison.
Hear me, dearheart. If you ever come across a coach/guru/teacher/healer who tells you that your thoughts about injustice are the problem, and not the injustice itself– please turn and run.
If someone tells you you should rise above it all and they are not Nelson Mandela himself– you can assume that they are full of shit.
If you try to tell the truth about the life you have lived and they tell you you’ve attracted your own experience with your vibration– please tell them I said they could go fuck themselves.
I don’t know any of these coaches personally. I’ve never been a part of their communities. But this philosophy is sickeningly prevalent in the personal development world, as it is in so many spiritual communities.
And of course we can understand why.
Because oh, this world will break our hearts. It breaks people’s bodies. It is made up of corrupt, unjust systems and most of us don’t even know our own history. This life is so beautiful and yet also so awful and messy and distressing and horrifying: it will break you right open if you get too close to it. So I truly do understand the intense desire to float above the physical world and live in a place of peaceful rainbows, fluffy clouds, and only pretty things. (I too love beautiful things.) And I understand desperately wanting some sort of system that will make it all make sense, from “pray the right prayers and God won’t smite you” to “if you just work hard enough anyone can be successful.” But our world is more complex than that.
When you use spiritual bypassing to ignore what’s happening in the world– especially when it’s happening to other people and you have the privilege to ignore it, when others don’t– you aren’t living in a state of enlightenment. You’re contributing to the suffering.
Our spirituality is meant to bring us INTO the world. It’s not meant to help us escape from it. Its purpose is to bring us back into it with more heart, more compassion, more fire, more righteous fury, more generosity, more grit, more humility. If your spirituality doesn’t help you bring healing into the broken places– if it just keeps you wrapped up in a comfortable bubble– it’s toxic.
It’s strange to write these words here. I spend most of my time here talking about the opposite thing.
I spend most of my time urging my readers and clients to pause, to step back, to refuel. To nourish themselves for the long haul, so they don’t burn out. But that’s because so many of you are already IN the fray. You’re down in the trenches. You’re activists, nurses, therapists, lawyers, teachers, doctors, social workers, advocates, writers, healers, artists. You don’t need to be told to pay attention to the pain of our world. You’re already steeped in it. Sometimes you don’t even know how to turn it off.
Most of my readers need to be reminded that you can’t STAY in the pain all the time without drowning in it. You need to give yourself permission to stop and breathe so you can come back to it again tomorrow, and the next day.
If that’s you– if you’ve been fighting the good fight and you’re exhausted– please rest. I see you. I honor you. I will not forget you.
If you’re the fresh recruits, please show up humble. Please show up knowing that your first step is to listen and learn and be ready to be in it for the long haul.
The fog is clearing away and we’re seeing who we are.
But don’t give up on who we can be. I believe in you. I believe in us.