What Does It Mean to Wake Up?
The summer I was 17 changed my life. I was sitting in a dark car outside of Toe's house, madly in love and talking about what it means to wake up.
I have basically created a life (and a brand??) around the importance of this. But, huge but, I never connected “waking up” in a spiritual way to race and power dynamics in this country. My privilege as a white, cis-gendered hetero lady didn’t ask me to.
And as I read, reached and taught about awakening for years, the privilege that let me center a life around it has been the biggest impediment to my own waking up.
White privilege is such a buzz word. And I know a lot of you that read this will cringe.
But WHY, I wonder, have I never been curious about it before now? I didn’t grow up thinking or talking about race and systemic power in an earnest way with elders or friends. I had never heard of Juneteenth until I saw Get Out earlier this year, and it was not until THE DAY OF this year that I knew what it meant. (Do you catch the passive tone here?) I couldn’t be bothered to look it up, because I'D NEVER HEARD OF IT and “If I’ve never heard of it, it’s probably not important”. I cringe writing this but it’s true.
This is precisely the kind of entitlement that white privilege engenders and perpetuates.
Catrice Jackson wrote in her book, Antagonists, Advocates and Allies, The WAKE UP Call Guide for White Women Who Want to Become Allies With Black Women:
“My intention for this book is to start and engage in a conversation that wakes people up to uncomfortable truths and painful but real realities that hopefully will lead to honest dialogue about women, race and gender. My intention is to offer you a new perspective, a new lens from which you can begin to see the world and the people around you with new, curious and honoring eyes. My intention is that you will become more conscious about the power you have to create real, transformational social and racial justice change…”
I read this over and over. I thought that’s what I was doing – offering an invitation to engage a conversation around waking up consciousness. But I missed the race piece because of my whiteness.
So now I’m reframing and asking again. What does it mean to wake up?
Waking up is a practice of opening your eyes, being willing to see yourself clearly and honestly, and taking action to use your powers for the good of all.
Waking up is as important to me as ever. If I don’t acknowledge the privilege I have OVER other people and because of others' oppression (this is the piece I am really digging into now) how can I be honest with myself about who I am? Who cares? you might ask. I value making my own decisions and if I’m acting on unconscious biases and fear then I am likely doing more harm than good.
I can slow that last part down. Ignorance is NOT bliss. If I choose not to see what is influencing my decisions, both known and unknown, I am part of the problem.
I don’t have the answers. I practice moving my body to become familiar with what is non-binary, feminine, radical and healing. I do this like this:
1. Every day I move my body in a way that invites feeling. That’s the whole goal: to experience the joy* of having a human body – in whatever form it’s in that day.
2. A few times a week, I do really hard physical things. Right now it’s lifting heavy shit. It brings me mentally to my edge and gives me the opportunity to practice compassion through challenge.
3. I walk. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little.
4. I practice not sitting still. I breathe into stillness.
5. I give my feet a lot of attention and love.
And for today, that is enough.
*the joy of expressing my true self is a joy that is primal. It is not always outward joy. Sometimes it is deep grief. And that is also my true self. So the joy comes from being with myself instead of against.
photo by Annie Spratt