Heartbreakingly Beautiful. A Tribute to my Friend.

One thing all of us will do is die. Last weekend I was able to be with a friend, Victoria, as she transitioned, and it was heartbreakingly beautiful.

In class the week before, I talked about the practice of dying in savasana (typically the last pose in a yoga class.) Savasana translates in English to “the seat of a corpse.” Sometimes I talk about savasana as a time of rest or integration, but it is also an opportunity to practice surrender. Death is the ultimate surrender.

What was beautiful about my friend’s death was her readiness to surrender. She was complete. She was at peace with her life. She was able to say all the things she needed to say. She was not afraid.

It was heartbreaking because her body experienced a lot of pain. Also, knowing soon we would not have our senses or our bodies to connect with each other brought grief. I miss her voice, the way she looked at people, her smile and her hugs.

After she passed, I felt a spaciousness around me like she was everywhere. A week later I walked through the woods at Seward Park crying and I felt her in the trees. At the same time I cling to the last voicemail and text message I got from her because it is a connection to her limited human self to which I am still attached.

My grief is heartbreaking, but also beautiful. I am lucky I got to spend more than a decade with her as my friend and my grief is connected to the beautiful love we shared. I am surrendering to this grief and to that love.

May all beings die fearlessly. May all beings die with emotional ease. May all beings die with physical ease. May all beings die peacefully.

Here are the words I had the opportunity to share at her graveside service:

Victoria and I met on yoga teacher training over a decade ago. At the end of that training she gave me a jar of homemade jam. I didn’t know at the time how much she would share with me and teach me through our friendship. Victoria taught me about seeing the good. She could look at any situation, no matter how dire, and find something redeeming. And she meant it. People were good and she believed in them all.

Victoria taught me about laughter and joy. Our adventures in the wilderness with Stephanie and Tristan, also know as Team JAC (Just Around the Corner,) were always so fun because of Victoria. While we were laughing hysterically from exhaustion, swimming in mountain lakes or she was fixing my broken backpack with dental floss, she taught this Midwest suburban kid how to be immersed in nature and fall in love with it even more.

Victoria taught me about being a good dog mama. I remember the day she got Hugo and brought him to my house. He took over my dog’s bed and fell fast asleep. In the years of knowing her as Hugo’s mom I learned about kind, compassionate boundaries, the unconditional love that comes from that special relationship and when to freak out and not freak out.

Victoria taught me about trusting life and taking risks. From leaving her full-time job as a PT to start her private yoga therapy practice to falling madly in love with Laurie these last few years. She let life lead her and she was good at saying yes to whatever life brought.

Victoria taught me to care for others deeply. Her love for others shown through in her constant care of those around her. She would start up a conversation with anyone and everyone, look people in the eye and be fully present. Even in the last few days of her life she was there lovingly for everyone who came to be with her. She shared that she was complete with every person in her life and was open to hearing what others needed to say so they could feel complete. She always took time to be with people from a full, open-hearted and unconditionally loving place, whether they were family, friend, a student, a patient, neighbor, or just a fellow hiker on the trail.

When Victoria was first diagnosed with cancer she taught me about vulnerability, honesty and being open to support. We cried together, talked about our fears and our hopes, the painful realities of treatment, and she was able to share clearly both how we could help and how she wanted to continue to support herself. She taught me about the sweet balance of maintaining independence and agency and allowing others to hold and care for her.  

Victoria taught me how to live and how to die; mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We talked about death openly and honestly from day one of her diagnosis. Her brother Andy told me, “She helped me more than I helped her through her passing.” That is true for me too. Victoria taught me about feeling complete, being ready for the next adventure and being fully present to the moment, no matter how painful or how beautiful.

Victoria told me there is no death. She was not afraid to die because as she said, she knew she was passing through and emerging into pure love and consciousness. So every time I see love I see Victoria. From the sunrise, to the redwood tree outside her and Laurie’s home, to the raccoons who greeted me in the driveway after she passed, to the whales, to Hugo, to even my grief. Each tear I shed is a testament to that pure love and consciousness we share, which means she is right here with me and with all of us now and always.

Giving Permission for Hibernation

Winter is a natural time of going inward, and my body has been feeling that pull this winter. 

Honoring the season and my desire to retreat does not come with ease. The pattern of engaging is strong in me. The pattern of saying yes to all the things and of shoulding on myself. I should meet that friend. I should say yes to writing that piece. I should go to that action.

There is a lot of ego wrapped up in my shoulds. I should because it is important for me to be out there, to speak and show up. This is true, and it is also true there is a need (for me) to slow down, integrate, evaluate and reassess how I am living my life and doing my work. As one of my mentors recently shared with me this inward reflective and refining time is necessary to keep doing effective work in the world, and potentially to be even more effective. 

There is a push/pull of permission to take more time for solitude while also questioning the validity of it. Am I depressed? Is something wrong? Am I sick? The questioning even goes into my core identity. Who am I if I slow down? Who am I if I am spacious instead of packed, rushed and constantly on the go?

When I drop all the shoulds and all the questions I am loving this time. I have told friends I am taking first quarter off of being social. I have said no to things I did not think I could say no to. I am watching more movies, spending more time cuddling with the dog, cooking and preparing food and just moving much slower. It is spacious and glorious.

As soon as I allow myself to enjoy the quiet, beautiful moment the questions and shoulds return. How long is this going to last? Should I push myself past this to go do something?  What if winter ends and I still don’t want to engage? The teeter totter keeps moving back and forth between full enjoyment and ease to contraction and what if stories. 

The first word of the Yoga Sutras is Atta. Atta translates to now. When I am in the now I am loving this precious quieter time. When I leave the now to wondering about the future (how long will this last?) or leave myself wondering about others (what will this person think of me if I say no?) I leave atta. When I can trust the now I believe it will guide me to the next right thing. When I have to understand or micromanage the now suffering arises. It can feel vulnerable to surrender to the now because it is a surrendering into what is, not what I think should be.

Love from my winter cave,

Do You Want to Support the World You Want to See?

Future location of Gathering Roots Retreat and Wellness Center

I do, which is am excited to share an amazing opportunity to support Gathering Roots Retreat and Wellness Center, a POC-owned, led and focused wellness center coming to Whidbey Island. Please consider sharing widely and offering all the support you can. 

Read more directly from the folks with Gathering Roots:

Gathering Roots Retreat and Wellness Center is a POC (person of color) owned, led, and focused wellness center in the Pacific Northwest. Gathering Roots, consisting of a lodge and the surrounding land on Whidbey Island in Washington State, will be home to community collectives highlighting Buddhist, social and ecological justice, and wellness programs. We intend to provide cultural connection and right relation to each other and to the land. Our guiding principle, “The land is the medicine,” informs our goal of farm sustainability and land stewardship. By partnering with a variety of teachers and artists, both in the Pacific Northwest and nationally, Gathering
Roots seeks to be part of a consortium connecting spaces for transformational healing and liberation.

May we create a space and time for all of the participants’ intersectionalities to lift the oppression of generational trauma and provide respite for POC communities.

The Big News!
We have found property with a large residential building that perfectly suits our needs on Whidbey Island. The property is located one hour from Seattle, Washington. It is reasonably priced and in need of very little renovation. Purchasing this site will allow programming to begin as early as Summer

The Big Moves!
We have formed an Advisory Council that includes Karen Toering, Robin DiAngelo, and Sharon Suh. We have formed the business entity and land trust (Gathering Roots, LLC) to make an offer on the property. We have also formed a non profit organization to support the collective programming of Gathering Roots.

The Big Ask!
We need to raise funds to purchase this property very quickly. Our goal is to raise $1.5 million dollars by the end of December to purchase the property in full.

Our strategic funding plan is divided into three tiers: 1) Benefactor, those who give $10,000 or more; 2) Lotus, those who give $1000 or more; and 3) Fern, those who give any sustaining amount. In keeping with our values, all levels of giving are equally honored. We are also open to other  arrangements such as equity gifts, estate giving, and long-term private loans.

Will You Build With Us?
We would like to connect with those in your network who are open to sizeable donations ($5,000 – $100,000+). For smaller donations, we have built a crowdfunding page to accept tax deductible donations, which you can share:  https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/gathering-roots

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Tracy L. Stewart, MA

Play as a Balancing Act

Photo by Robert Collins

At the beginning of 2019 I made a pact that I would play at least once/month.

I was feeling serious most of the time, and burnout was lurking in the background. I knew I needed to make some changes, but the old self-care ideas were not going to cut it. I get bodywork each month, I get enough sleep, I meditate daily, and I have support people in my life. Each of these forms of care are useful in sustaining me doing the work I am passionate about in the world, but I was not smiling or fully belly laughing as much. I decided to add play to my life. Some of my play dates included roller skating, indoor sky diving, an inner child picnic, tubing, a game night and soon trampolining!

In the Yoga Sutras there is a concept called Kriya Yoga, which has three components (tapas=work or heat, svadhyaya=self-study and isvara pranidhana=surrender).

My life had become out of balance with too much work, striving and analysis and I needed a little more surrender. Play became my way to surrender. 

Play, as a form of surrender, I am learning is an embodied experience. It is not structured like a yoga asana class where I am learning to put my body in particular shapes. It is freeing and unencumbered. It can feel wild like indoor sky diving, but it can also be relaxing on a river while the current takes me along for a ride. It has a childlike quality to it that I do not experience often. 

Rebecca Solnit says, “Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.” Although play and joy feel different to me, joy is one of the feelings evoked when I engage in play.

I love hearing how others play! What do you do to play and/or surrender?


Undoing Whiteness on the Cover of the Seattle Times

Photo by Dean Rutz
Photo by Dean Rutz

I want to thank Marcus Harrison Green for his time, patience, dedication and beautiful writing. I was grateful to sit and share some of my story with him, and I was both honored and humbled to be on the front page of the Seattle Times last week. You can read the article here

A dear friend asked me the day the story published how I would talk about this 10 years from now, and I immediately dropped into one of my current commitments: courageous vulnerability. 

It was difficult to talk to the media for the first time since the backlash 4 years ago referenced in the article. During my interview with Marcus, I dissociated a lot, asking Marcus to take breaks so I could get back into my body. I am forever grateful for the way Marcus handled this story and held my vulnerability with compassion.

Before the story published I went on a hike and in the cold rain surrounded by trees I asked, “How can I navigate this with grace, ease and as a tool for liberation?” What I heard was: community, impermanence and lovingkindness. 

Community. I was held deeply in community this past week. Friends checked in. I talked to mentors who offered guidance and support. I could not, did not, and never would want to do this on my own. I am grateful for the people who monitored Facebook, who kept me company while I read emails filled with love, rage, gratitude and hate, who listened to my voicemails and opened letters that came to my home. Thank you in particular to Reagan, Genevieve, RW, Stacey, Jovi, Leticia, Shelly, Christina, Shannon, Becka, Laura, Dylan, Fleur, Judy, Kristen, Russ, Marc, Ruby, and so many others. 

Impermanence. This moment of discomfort for me is impermanent, while white supremacy and racism are not going away anytime soon. I received praise and blame and both would come and go quickly. It was an interesting experience to watch my nervous system respond to an email that calls me a “hero” right after another email that calls me a “fucking bitch.” The Buddha says, “Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” I felt the discomfort in my body and desire to wiggle away from both the praise and the blame. My practice is the tree that helps me stay in the midst of it all. 

Lovingkindness. After a few days, I asked the question again. “How can I navigate this with grace, ease and as a tool of liberation?” In my meditation I heard, “stop making fun of trolls.” I was trolling trolls in my own head. Making fun of trolls was a coping strategy for me to wade through these waters, and it was also a form of dehumanization. This is not how I want to show up in the world. I want to practice being radically honest about how I feel (scared, angry, confused, averse and contracted are some of the ways I react to trolling) rather than pushing feelings away with humor and degradation, even if that was coming in my direction. 

In service of liberation and lovingkindness for all: May the many people of color doing this work longer and better than I ever could be uplifted and celebrated for their work, resilience and strength. May all white people see the ways white supremacy are dehumanizing our relationships, our world and ourselves.

May all beings be liberated, free and whole.

With love and solidarity,

Why Undoing Whiteness?

Last month I posted the monthly Undoing Whiteness classes on social media and received a lot of questions and feedback. As I continue to process and integrate the feedback I want to address some of the questions that arose. I will continue to write and share my own questions, grappling and process around the work of justice and equity, and I hope you will too. 

What is an affinity space?

Affinity space, or sometimes called caucus space, is when people who are assigned the same social membership get together to work towards justice and equity. Caucusing can happen with a variety of social memberships (i.e. people of color, white, queer, straight, etc.). Caucus space has been used for decades in racial and social justice movements, and Rainier Beach Yoga is committed to both caucusing and multiracial work.

Why “undoing” whiteness?

There has been a call for white people to name our whiteness for decades now, and this is an opportunity for white folks to face our socialization under white supremacy and how it shows up in the body, mind, emotions, relationships and all social systems. Facing whiteness is about being in process with the implicit and explicit norms that maintain white supremacy, and this exploration is to discover and bring awareness to how those norms operate within and around us. Interrogating whiteness means that we no longer hide from the conditioning of whiteness, and we name and take responsibility for the ways white supremacy advantages and dehumanizes us.

Who am I accountable to?

I am accountable to my mentors of color and white anti-racist guides. My approach is informed and inspired by bell hooks, adrienne maree brown, Ijeoma Oluo, Robin DiAngelo and personal friends and colleagues (both white and people of color). I also work directly with Reverned angel Kyodo williams, Leticia Nieto and Shelly Tochluk. I will continue to learn for the rest of my life. At times I work with people of color and other times I respond to the mandate to address white supremacy with other white people.

Is this a safe space for white people?

This is not a safe space or a brave space. This is a bold space, and a space to be challenged and to find your edges. I can not and do not guarantee comfort.

Why are you reading a white author’s book?

I am deeply committed to bringing in a variety of voices, and there is always something in each session that comes directly from lessons from mentors of color. The book we are reading at this time is written by a white cis woman. Our work is to learn from her journey and also to critically examine that work for how it may still be perpetuating white supremacy. We are committed to listening to both POC and white voices.

Can people of color attend?

Everyone is welcome.

How can a Yoga class work with undoing whiteness?

This is not a class of physical yoga postures. The word yoga means union and wholeness. White supremacy gets in the way of finding union (both within ourselves and with each other). My awareness practices, including yoga, have deeply impacted my own interrogation of whiteness, and I offer the things that have helped me. I am forever a guest to Yoga and also understand that using a colonized practice to face whiteness is evidence of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is another aspect of white supremacy that I want us to face. We do this through a variety of tools and methods including: awareness practices, theater, embodiment, writing, art and discussion. It is important to continue to examine the ways I use Yoga practices and the impacts this has. I am committed to deepening my understanding of how Yoga has been historically colonized in the West by white people-and how my training is a part of that which I can not get away from it.  

Why are you doing this work in a gentrifying neighborhood?

Gentrification is one of the most destructive ways white supremacy is currently operating. Here is a list of ways white people like me can work towards repair:

  1. Support POC-owned businesses
  2. Get to know people of color in the neighborhood.
  3. Support POC teachers
  4. Support POC caucus space
  5. Do not interrupt or question the need for POC caucus space
  6. Learn about the impacts of gentrification
  7. Offer reparations
  8. Offer free or low rent
  9. Hire people of color and pay a living wage

Rainier Beach Yoga is committed to these actions. It is clear these actions will not end gentrification as this is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed systemically.

How do you come home?

Soaking in the wisdom of the Sequoias.

Since Lama Rod Owens came to town last month (Save the date he will be back March 27-29, 2020!) I have been teaching the Yoga for Resilience classes through his “7 Homecomings,” which he talked about as a remix of the Three Jewels of Buddhism. He shared he needed more than the Buddha (the teacher), the Dharma (the teachings) and the Sangha (spiritual community) to come home.

What does coming home mean?  For me, coming home is coming to a place, either with myself or in the company of others, where I am whole and fully held as I am. Sometimes home is a place of comfort, retreat and rest. Other times home is a place to challenge and grow my edges. Sometimes home is where I go to fall apart, grieve and mourn. Other times home brings me new awareness, insight and capacity to meet what life brings. What does coming home mean to you?

Here are Lama Rod’s Seven Homecomings:
1. Guides. 
2. Texts.
3. Community.
4. Ancestors.
5. Earth.
6. Silence.
7. Myself.

Guides. When thinking of my guides I bring to mind my teachers and mentors who are further along the path than I am. They are my teachers of yoga, racial and social justice, compassion, resilience and liberation. They are my role models who I aspire to be like when I grow up. My guides include Leticia, Rev. angel, Lama Rod, Shelly and Kavitha. My guides bring me home in encouraging my growth and supporting me know the possibility of doing something that feel impossible. They can witness a fuller perspective of myself than I can at times, and I am so grateful.

Texts. Texts can be any media that brings us home. These can be spiritual texts, and can also be social media memes, albums or songs, movies, books, magazines, TV shows, etc. All of my guides are authors, and their books have supported me coming home to myself in countless ways. I also come home to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali every morning before meditation when I read a sutra to ground myself. This morning I read Sutra 2.1, learning and re-learning about the necessity for work, study and surrender to the Divine. One of my other favorite texts is the Golden Girls. The Golden Girls are where I go to when I need comfort and tenderness, two important aspects of home for me. Watching Sophia, Blanche, Rose and Dorothy be home with each other helps me find home within myself.

Community. My guides are part of my community, but they are not the people I am with in my day to day. My community is my family of choice and those relationships I have cultivated where I am moving side by side through the world not so alone. My partner of 15 years and our dog are two of my homecoming rocks. I am so grateful to come home to both of them each day. Fun fact: my partner and my in laws actually built Rainier Beach Yoga and Satmato Yoga Therapy from the ground up. My businesses were literally built by community. I also am grateful for the community of friends and co-conspirators who love me unconditionally, are radically honest with me and who I can be my full messy self with.

Ancestors. Part of whiteness for many white people, me included, is disconnection from ancestors, and this last year I have connected to the grief of this disconnection while also re-connecting to my ancestors with the support of Rain Crowe. My work with Rain as well as a magical letter I was instructed to write by Christina Orbe support me learn how to come home to a part of myself that I have lost in exchange for the benefits of whiteness. This work has also helped me to hold my ancestors in their fullness, not just as oppressors who caused harm. They also instilled compassion, love of reading and education, determination, stubbornness, love of nature and animals, and creativity in me. I am heading to Germany in May, which will be the first time I will be in the land of my ancestors, and I am looking forward to connecting to the land and people there. More on that later, and my ancestors are the newest form of homecoming to me.

Earth. My dad instilled in me a deep love and respect for nature, and nature has become more and more of a homecoming for me. The picture above is a magical moment connecting with a sequoia tree last month. Nature, trees and water in particular, help me connect to a more spacious viewpoint, impermanence, grounding and steadiness. My daily morning walks at Seward Park are one of the ways I come home to nature every day, and I am grateful for this amazing place in the city that brings me home.

Silence. I remember my first silent meditation retreat and how nervous I was about being silent. After 24 hours I was in love with the silence. All the social niceties that take me away from myself fell away. I did not have to entertain people or to talk to make anyone, including myself, comfortable. I could come home to everything that was occurring within myself, which was sometimes terribly uncomfortable, other times boring and other times beautifully magnificent. I now crave silence and look forward to those times I can disconnect from the outside world to reconnect to the inside world. I find this momentary disconnection from the external helps me reengage with the world from a more integrated, whole place.

Myself. How do I welcome myself home? All of these other homecomings help me welcome myself more fully to myself. When I am supported by all of these homecomings I can more easily show up as the whole human I am: messy, beautiful, in process, making mistakes, refining my actions, cranky, present, loving, angry, hopeful, hopeless and everything in between. I can embrace myself fully as the imperfectly perfect human I am with love and kindness.

What helps you come home? Who or what are your homecomings? Movement is another homecoming for myself, and I love that my body will show me how to process experiences that my mind will sometimes not be able to. Maybe some of these homecomings resonate with you, and maybe others do not. Maybe you have other ways you come home to yourself. If so, I’d love to hear!


When Love is Used as a Weapon

Love is grasped fiercely in white, spiritual circles, and many white women, myself included, use love as a soothing balm when racial discomfort arises. I sense an urge inside myself to divert conversations on racism to a topic I am more comfortable with: love. When I engage in diversion I am not loving though, I am tone policing, silencing and losing an opportunity to unpack ways racial stress and whiteness live inside me by using love as a weapon of white supremacy.

What is love? “Love does not lead to an end of difficulties, it provides us with a means to cope with our difficulties in ways that enhance our growth,” bell hooks says in All About Love. When I use love to move away from difficulty and growth I am spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypass, a term created by John Welwood, is a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks. The conditioning of white supremacy and other forms of supremacy (i.e. male, able-bodied, Christian, cisgender, etc) are unresolved emotional issues and psychological wounds that impact bodies, minds and hearts. Love for the sake of maintaining comfort and privilege will not heal those wounds. “Dreaming that love will save us, solve our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of love-which is to transform us,” Welwood shares.

I, along with many other white women, have been conditioned through internalized sexism to be conflict avoidant. I am also conditioned to expect to be comfortable most of the time due to internalized racial superiority. Conflict avoidance and an inability to tolerate discomfort can turn love into a weapon. These ways of enacting conditioning assure white women do not have to feel uncomfortable while at the same time feeling superior. In times of racial stress I feel the desire to use love to shut conflict down, and when I use love instead of anger I feel an internal pat on the back for “keeping the peace.” This “peace” upholds white supremacy and my complicity in it.

Conflict, like love, can be transformative and generative. Conflict is a necessary part of true and radically honest love, and conflict does not mean violence. When a person of color sets clear and direct boundaries with me that is an act of love. Saying no can be an act of love. “To be loving we willingly hear each other’s truth, and most important, we affirm the value of truth telling,” bell hooks continues. My white conditioning has taught me that discomfort and conflict feels unsafe and learning to tolerate these can increase my capacity to hold myself and others with a truer and broader sense of love. When I can stay with my own and someone else’s discomfort and pain I can potentially do the loving act of holding and honoring the pain instead of causing more harm though the weaponizing of love.

“Getting in touch with the lovelessness within and letting that lovelessness speak its pain is one way to begin again on love’s journey,” bell hooks continues. In the largely white yoga and spiritual communities I am a part of I feel the collective desire to not focus on things that are perceived as negative, which can include anger, oppression, aversion, hate and lovelessness. For a long time I would say, “I don’t hate anyone. I love everyone.” This is not true or honest as lovelessness, racism, othering and hate live inside of me. How can we as white women use love to transform the conditioning we have inherited? The first step can be awareness. When ways I am loveless are pointed out I attempt to share gratitude for the gift being offered to help me show up in the world in a more humane way. Instead of denying lovelessness what if I turned towards that pain in order to transform it rather than push it away and onto another human being? This is my spiritual work, to deepen what love means and to connect to a radical way of loving.

Radical love is deeply honest, courageously vulnerable and willing to go into the depths with myself and others in order to move toward transformation. Radical love does not need to be sugar coated, tone policed, silenced or have a veneer of niceness. Radical love does not deflect discomfort but moves towards it and it knows the difference between violence and discomfort. Radical love is open to conflict as a useful source of change and growth, and it celebrates boundaries, directness and truth. What if my fellow white women and myself can connect not only with the beautiful and blissful aspects of love but also the uncomfortable, conflict generating love that will not only challenge us to grow but transform us?

When the Past Returns to the Present

The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew 
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you 
kept shouting 
 their bad advice–

though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 
“Mend my life!” 
each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible.

It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones.

But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world,

determined to do 
the only thing you could do– 
determined to save 
the only life you could save. 

Rest in Power Mary Oliver, a womxn whose writing touched my heart, inspired my mind, connected me to myself, others and the natural world around me. I am grateful for your words being in the world and in my world. Dear community, 

In high school I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life…write for Rolling Stone. I was a huge music fan and editor in chief of the school newspaper. I loved writing, I loved being a journalist, and I decided to major in Journalism in college.

In high school I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life…write for Rolling Stone. I was a huge music fan and editor in chief of the school newspaper. I loved writing, I loved being a journalist, and I decided to major in Journalism in college.

By junior year of college I realized I had not written anything for publication in 3 years. I was still writing for myself, but not for anyone else. I also realized the classes I enjoyed most were Psychology. I declared myself a double major and thought I would probably never put that journalism degree to use. 

Fast forward almost 20 years to my first article in print coming out in Yoga Therapy Today! I wrote a piece called, Yoga Therapy Beyond the Koshas: Examining Unearned Privilege and Oppression.  

Writing has always been a healing process for me. I love writing these newsletters to you each month. I love sharing parts of myself with others with the hope that it will offer some support and/or connection. My writing can feel personal and vulnerable at times, and through my writing I understand myself more deeply. It is a big step for me in the beginning of this year for my words have a further reach. That in itself feels vulnerable and humbling, and I am grateful for the opportunity. 

This past year I also received my first rejection to an on-line magazine as well as to a writing residency. I took myself on my own writing retreat and was not sure I had anything to write. I ended that retreat with over 10,000 words written and 15 hours of writing.

Many times it is difficult for me to envision how life will unfold or intersect with other parts of my life. I made the assumption that writing was something in my past. In reclaiming writing it feels a bit like a homecoming to part of myself I didn’t know wanted to exist anymore, and I am grateful for some wonderful people and painful life circumstances that put writing at the forefront of my life again. I was challenged to write when I didn’t want to, and in that challenge I reconnected to the love of it. 

In 2019 there may be more writing, and I am also not setting goals for myself. I am going to approach writing with pleasure and inspiration rather than the old ways of deadlines and getting space filled, which is probably a couple of the reasons I stopped writing all those years ago. I am currently shopping a piece around to different publications and would love to hear the publications YOU like to read. There are so many amazing authors and publications around I am unaware of!

In closing I want to acknowledge and thank some of my favorite writers: Reagan Jackson, adrienne maree brown, Father Gregory Boyle, Cheri Huber, Ijeoma Oluo, Brene Brown, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Desmond Tutu, Nischala Joy Devi, Shelly Tochluk, Kavitha Chinnaiyan and Eli Claire. 

With love and gratitude,

We can’t do it alone

“Without inner change, there can be no outer change, without outer change, no change matters,” –Reverend angel Kyodo williams

As I hold the last month and the last day in my head and heart I acknowledge both the victories and tragedies. The first Native American women elected to Congress and attacks on trans rights, the first Muslim women elected to Congress and the terrorism at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a grocery store in Louisville, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts and the increasing militarization to prevent refugees and migrants from coming onto this stolen land and police will get de-escalation training in WA and there will not be a carbon tax added to protect the environment

As I feel pulls between rage, horror, despair, overwhelm and moments of possibility I also feel a loss for words. When I feel this loss I turn to others who teach and challenge me. Here are some words that have inspired me to show up, take action and allow myself to feel and be with the fullness of my experience as well as others. 

Here are words from Lama Rod:

“Here is what my prayer sounds like right now: I evoke all those beings and sources of refuge who have ever loved me to come sit with me because it is now that I feel most alone. I evoke the Blessed Mother, the Sacred Father, Spirits of Light, the essence of wisdom, my teachers and elders, the communities who have always caught me when I have fallen, the ancestors who have never stopped holding me, the sacred earth who helps me to stand, silence which wraps me in the space to be with my heart, and I call upon my own innate compassion. To all those I have evoked, I offer my grief and what seems like my perpetual mourning in this body. I offer my fear, my numbness, and I offer my inability to dream beyond my shutting down. Most of all, I offer my fatigue. I am tired. Today precious earth let me lie upon you and remind me of my body and my heart. I want many things but I need only one thing now- to give up what I cannot hold to you. I pray that I evolve past my belief that my pain is mine alone to carry. To my sources of refuge whom have been evoked, you have taught me over and over again that this is not the truth. You have taught me over and over again that it is not my pain, but our pain. You remind me that my worship of isolation is not conducive to my liberation. I want to be free and so I offer what I struggle to hold to you right now knowing that you are only here to share this heaviness with and to love me. I am afraid of the world. I am afraid of people. I am afraid of what I must do to survive in the world. Even these fears, I offer to my sources of refuge. Today my precious sources of refuge, in your love, offer me rest. In your love, never abandon me. In your love, haunt all others who feel lonely and tired. Please continue to haunt me in this life, in death, and into all my lives to come until one day I become a source of refuge for other beings. Yet it is also my prayer to become a source of refuge for beings right now in this life. Please continue to take care of me so I may take care of others. May I and all others in this realm and beyond be blessed forever. These are my prayers right now.

And from Nikkita Oliver:

Yes, vote, if you can.
But also… 
get involved in your community;
show up to city council meetings;
cop watch;
be involved in local schools;
support home schools and alternative educational opportunities for children and youth not served by mainstream schools;
share food and resources with your neighbors;
be willing to protect your neighbors from ICE;
intervene when you see racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, xenophobic stuff happening;
spend your money at small businesses, Black owned businesses, Native owned businesses, POC businesses;
pay rent to the Duwamish (or whomever the Native nations are where you live; especially if you are the descendent of settlor colonials);
have knowledge of gentrification, how it works, and when you can push back;
if you work for a company that is doing harm to communities, speak up, challenge practices, protest at work, whistleblow, quit if you have to;
support rank and file led unions;
make art about the world we want to see;
know your neighbors;
donate to healthy community based alternatives to prisons, courts, and police;
talk to people on the street… etc.

Voting is important mitigation, but I know firsthand how hard it is to run for office. I know that my ballot had a lot of unopposed judges and it isn’t because there aren’t qualified people. It is because running for office is hard and costly. It is because even if you win the seat the system is still white supremacist, capitalist, and patriarchal.

So yes, vote, if you can.
But don’t let that be all that you do.
Revolution and transformation requires more than your vote. To be honest, voting is just mitigation until we bring the revolution and transformational change we most need.

And if you don’t want to vote because you don’t feel like it does anything or you’ve been hurt by the system or you’re tired of trying or you’re tired of not having anyone to vote for… I understand. However, do something. I gave you a list. DO SOMETHING. This isn’t just about you. It is about US.”

The inner changes I commit to are my daily meditation practice and writing. The outer changes I commit to beyond voting are cop watching and joining the Seattle People’s Party. What are the inner changes you are committed to? What outer changes?

Let’s inspire each other. We can’t do it alone.