I hope this finds you well in these challenging times.
I've started to write this newsletter something more than three weeks ago, a few days after the death of George Floyd and the starting of the protests against racism and police violence in the US.
I was on fire.
At the same time my life has been going through some mayor changes (which I'll share in another moment), so I couldn't really take time to sit down and write until now.
In the meantime I've been overtaken, from time to time, by strong emotions of sadness and anger.
Wordless and, at the same time, with too many words longing for a way to come out.
It has been (and still is) such deep inner-work to acknowledge my emotions, allow them to be, start the delicate process to name things out loud and at the same time trying not project these emotion.
So, here I go..
I've experienced so much sadness and anger in front of another racist murder.
Sadness and anger in front of another episode of police deathly violence.
Sadness and anger in front of the denial that racism and police violence is not just a US issue but a reality everywhere.
Sadness and anger in front of the resistance of many to look into the fact that racism is inherent and intrinsic to the capitalistic system. That colonialism, post-colonialism and immigration policies are interconnected manifestations of the same patriarchal capitalistic seed that has been planted many centuries ago. And that, as our lives are completely soaked into it, we're somehow nourishing it on a daily basis.
And that the many forms that this seed have taken out there, is a mirror of something that has been taking place inside of us. And still is.
Sad and angry in front of the denial that supremacism (the belief that one group of people is superior to others and that this supposed superiority (because of sex, race, ability, class..) entitle that group to dominate others) is an inner reality as much as its outer manifestations.
Sadness and anger that we still have to argue about if WHITE PRIVILEGE really exists and what it means.
In this powerful cocktail, there have been few ingredients that have been particularly hard to digest. I won't make the whole list here, but I want to name one very loudly with you: the silence of a lot of spiritual organizations, teachers, students, practitioners of yoga, healing arts, shamanic studies, and other spiritual traditions.
Particularly deafening to me, has been the silence of a lot of white women engaged in the so called «Feminine awakening». I'm still not getting the point of calling out loud for sisterhood for a global Feminine awakening and then remove our voices from what is happening right now. To refuse to say clearly: YES, we NEED to do our shadow work as White Women. Because, saying «we're standing with you» (when we do say it..), is not enough to deeply embody anti-racism. As much as it's not enough to have non-white friends, buying ethnic (a word that gives me goosebumps) stuff, work in an NGO or support immigrants (I'm speaking out of my own experience).
There's something much deeper and huge we need to explore as white people... in our consciousness, in our bodies...
Yes, dear friends, I've been outraged to see, and not for the first time, how those who identify themselves as spiritual, have so much trouble and resistance to identify, relate and take a clear position in front of power structures. SO much resistance to acknowledge how these power structures abide deep within us. How they inform our cells, our DNA and how they are actively (consciously or unconsciously) conditioning our ways of looking, thinking and experiencing life.
Here I share few reflections that I've managed to put into words. These are opens questions and spaces of inquiry (starting from inquiry into myself... such a delicate work in progress). They do not pretend to be exhaustive and do not wish to put the finger on anyone in particular. But after years of observing dynamics that do not resonate with me (inner and outer dynamics! This is not the first time I'm sharing about it) I feel the need to name things in the clearest way as I can in this moment. And so incomplete...
It will be a pleasure for me to know how this resonates with you and your actual feelings and thoughts. An invitation to inquire into our patterns at this crucial time…
-Racism, colonialism, post and neo-colonial dynamics are a phenomena that, as white people, we need to learn to deal with. Willing or unwilling. It's part of our collective shadow in which we have to find the courage to really stare into if we really want to start to co-create a different society.
I don't think there's any need to explain how white supremacism has not only allowed the pillage, destruction and looting of so many civilizations encountered on the path of whiteness, but it has been a normalizing factor of it for so long. And how this has been influencing and still hugely influence nowadays post-colonial dynamics all around the world.
I don't believe that considering oneself on a spiritual path can be in any way an element that exempt us from the responsibility to research and get to know the very dark aspects of the history we're coming from. Nor does it exempt us from inquiring into what and how deep we have internalized values, biases and prejudices that permeate that history.
For sure, no spiritual seeker would ever wish to be saddled with a racist or post-colonialist label. Not more than wishing to be identified with any supremacist attitude, but...
In recent years, I've witnessed the growing of so many yoga festivals, yoga projects or events sponsored by brands like Nike or Adidas, to just name a couple of those big names. It is nothing new that the delocalization of the manufacture of these big multinational corporations find its reason in unhealthy capitalistic logic, deeply rooted in post-colonial reality (structurally racist). The horrendous exploitation of workers and child-labor practiced by those brands in unpunished ways has been denounced in so many ways within, at least, the last 20 years. Still, a big part of the yoga world, glowing in its shining aura of Love and Light (disembodied?), disconnected from the experience of bodies and souls of non-white humanity, seems to ignore it.
How then can we think ourselves free of white privilege and its insidious forms of racism and supremacism once we look straight at it? Isn't it white privilege (and its internalized racial assumptions) that allow us to be happy and proud to participate or, even better, to have a prominent role in those kind of gatherings? Isn't it white privilege that allow us to offer our bodies (I hope not our soul, even if, after so many years, I still wonder how can we separate them) to sponsor, more or less consciously, brands whose ethical stance is clear?
We're often hearing about greenwashing, we might have to start speaking about spiritual washing ?
How much responsibility do we hold in perpetuating racist dynamics of exploitation when we accept invitations and propositions of this kind ?
And what about non-violence, such a popular word in yoga rooms. Where does it go in those moments?
Yet non-violence is flaunted around by so many spiritual seekers. They state that « I'm not racist, but I don't agree with violent protests ». When they proclaim ‘non-attachment to world-matters,’ and in phrases often heard in ‘spiritual conversation’ such as « everybody is responsible for manifesting in their life what they desire ». And Dharma and Karma are unrolled on the precious preaching carpet when the discussion focuses on when, how and if it's really right or not to protest.
Who else could ever state anything like that than someone comfortably laying on the sofa of his- her privileged position?
-Dharma, Karma, Ahimsa, just to name some of the terms that hurtle on social network pills of wisdom... How much cultural appropriation exists in pretending to explain the complexity of reality in just few lines (with a nice picture of us, meditating), using concepts whose depths dwell in a sacred language that such a small percentage of yoga practitioners know? No serious scholar will ever speak about any philosophical concept of any western authors without having read and re-read her-his work in the original language. Yet, in the western spiritual world, with such a light nonchalance, this is a daily reality.
The majority of the philosophical and spiritual knowledge of Yoga (and most of the spiritual non-western traditions) is nowadays accessible to western practitioners through English Translation (or from English to other languages) and very few of us can check the accuracy of them. Isn't it a subtle act (yet no less violent) of cultural appropriation to think that we can rattle off concepts that the majority of us have get to know through translations we've accepted as loyal to the original texts ? Concepts whose depths abide not only in the meaning itself but also in the vibration of that language, which is, for that, untranslatable in its essence?
Rumi poems are often quoted in English. How many of people quoting Rumi's sacred words are really familiar with Rumi's universe? The more well-known version of Rumi poem are from Coleman Barks, an American poet and professor. I personally find his (Barks) language very musical and beautiful. But he has no idea of Persian and if we dig a little deeper we discover that Barks has «re-written» Rumi's poems from older English translations, considered "too heavy" and "not very accessible" to the western reader. Barks has even said that he wanted to offer to the western reader the «essence of Rumi message». What heaviness is this professor speaking about ? And what essence is he referring to? By the way, any kind of reference to Islam has completely disappeared in Barks translations. And together with it, the density of a language and a mystic that are not really easily available nor accessible without a great attention, real opening and inquiry into who we really are (there are some French translation that are far more accurate and much more demanding to the western reader). There is so much more to say, but what is really dear to my heart is just to open a space of reflection into how much cultural appropriation and cultural neocolonialism exists in the spiritual quick fix, feel-good attitude we're soaking in within our spiritual circles.
And how much exotic attraction (which is white and westerner by essence) and little inquiry and depth emerge in the watermark of the idea to access the spiritual path without any need to really soak into the complexity and depth of Spiritual traditions. A spirituality we desperately try to grasp on to as a survival mechanism in a world that crumbles under our feet, in front of our eyes.
No, we're not colonialist... but a few history books, some authors of post-colonial studies (hopefully not a westerner!) wouldn 't be so bad in Yoga teacher training and Spiritual education programs. At least we could avoid some forms of violence, however "only verbally pronounced" in the passive aggressive style we're so used to in spiritual circles. The violence that is being created (with no real intention of making it happen, I'm pretty sure) from detached judgments on protests rooted in centuries of oppression. Unwilling violence against those ones that are now saying «ENOUGH IS ENOUGH».
And it is really this power to oppress without meaning to, pointing to our privileged condition that I want to shine the light on and question here. And I believe that today we're strongly invited, as white people (being or not on a spiritual path, by the way!), to reconsider where we're coming from and to look at the attitude to the world that we've have taken on board, and still take on board. And so to try to dismantle within us all that which has made us believe that the World- Nature (of whom everybody speaks about today, but how many have really open their inner doors to connect with Her?) and Cultures are available for consumption, disposable objects to alleviate the infinite void that devours us from within.
Either we decide to look and listen to what is screaming at us from this Pandora's box or we choose to continue thinking and practicing more or less subtle forms of appropriating reality. And, indeed, so white.
-I'm not saying that there is no spiritual perspective from which we can look on worldly matters (individual or collective). Not at all. But when this perspective becomes absolute and doesn't welcome and acknowledge the embodied experience of a part of humanity that live and have lived centuries of oppression and violence, we are becoming, once more, compliant with the oppression. We are, once again, acting and reiterating that same oppression (and this is true concerning racism and police violence, but it can touch many other aspects of our lives).
When the "spiritual gaze" is used as a way to avoid being in contact with our emotions (especially the less glamorous ones), with The Other's ones, emotions rooted in The Other experience we cannot access because of our privilege, when we us it to escape from our human condition, from suffering, from the possibility to look at the myriad of aberrations we have been, and still are, able to manifest as humanity, that gaze becomes such a dangerous offensive weapon. A weapon we're using to write, step by step, through our Spiritual clichés and our silence, our white privilege on this Earth.
A privilege that we're refusing again and again to stare into. A privilege we're, unconsciously but steadily, nourishing.
A privilege stained with blood that no Oneness invocation will wash clean.
And we fall deeply into the duality we're trying to save ourselves from when we invoke Oneness.
In recent years, I've seen how spiritual bypassing is such a powerful ally of domination dynamics (dynamics that are very embodied and down to earth!). Dynamics that keep leaving their prints on The Other's Body. That keep writing and rewriting the privilege from which the Other, because of its Otherness, is excluded. How many times, within these years, trying to share reflections, practices and researches around women's body, our cyclical rhythm, our energetic reality, in the yoga world, I've heard that « soul has no gender », that it is « so important not to fall into duality », in « gender issues », that « All is One ».
So, what about our embodied experience of women?
How many times I've tried to question the absolute need to touch bodies for « absolutely important adjustments ». Bodies with histories and life experiences we know nothing about. I've been often said that if the intention of the adjustment is « doing good (?) to The Other », and if « the person agrees to be touched », « adjustments are soooo healing!» But how many people that have suffered from abuse are absolutely not able to settle physical-energetical boundaries with The Other? Neither are able to state anything like «I don't want to be touched» ? But this, and countless other aspects of human experiences, do not exists in teacher training programs because, it's assumed that «we're doing good » when we « teach » yoga..
In denying the embodied experience of The Other, spiritual bypassing, insidiously, entitles us to continue to reinforce power structures that underlie our society, to reinforce the abuse that has already been committed and we choose to be unaware of. Those structures that connect different social realities and to which we belong.
Do we really want to keep bypassing reality in the name of a higher realm ?
Every time I hold a women’s gathering, it is so fundamental to me to share that is not enough to sit together to come out of patriarchy. That our circles are not free from patriarchal hidden dynamics. Patriarchy lives within us; it is not just an outer beast we have to fight or from whom we have to protect. Patriarchy is in our cells, embedded in the relationship we have with ourselves, our body, the relationship with other women, with any other living beings, with « our » Planet. And if we do not dare to dive deep (with infinite tenderness and self-compassion) into the patriarchal weft of our structures (a very long inner work, hard and sometime really painful, but that bring along so many precious gifts) we can read everything we want, participate to any circle or retreat that exists, write posts and publish successful books : the internalized patriarchal values will keep active. Moreover, we will keep reproducing them, mantled by a feminine-spiritual aura that make everything much more insidious, difficult to acknowledge, identify and transform. And the same is true for what it concerns any supremacist beliefs weaved in our flesh.
This is, for me, the necessary shadow work that every circle should allow to emerge for each one of us.
I have to say, out of experience, that unfortunately it's not always like this. Within last years, we're seeing an amazing increasing of events related to the Feminine. Or to women? But, what's the difference? Is there any? And what about non-binary people? Can we open real spaces to breath into all this?
This year I've seen post celebrating 8th March as «The day of the Feminine». !! Maybe a little confusion? Some historical denial of what underlies 8th March in women circles?
It feels to me that the huge number of events are paradoxically diluting the possibility of reflection and depth we need so desperately to address, if we want to transform what has oppressed us for several millennia.
What can we create together to come out of this spiral?
More and more, I get the impression that what is valued is not to dive in, practice, go deep, study and research the issues we really go through. But rather to take and use them to flood social networks with our pictures, videos, to show how beautiful, free, sacred and successful we are. It is so difficult to exist within this context if we do not sell continuously our image, items, art crafts, workshops.. if we don’t' speak constantly (through images, as words, if any, have to be quickly eatable and easy to digest to be « liked ». So that followers do not get bored and can quickly, hypnotically go on scrolling and liking the next post). If we don't show frenetically how many special things we're doing. If we don't constantly sell magic packs to access our own magic power, cosmic orgasms, our true femininity...etc
Isn't it so deeply harsh to constantly be told it’s about « going in », « listen to your needs », « be in resonance with your own rhythm » and then, to really function, to be able to « exist » and work, depending on an algorithm that guarantees your visibility the more you're « out there » ? An understanding of visibility based on an aesthetic and a marketing language which is not going too far, and sometimes not even a millimetre apart, from any mainstream working environment, deeply patriarchal and capitalist. Always hyper connected, potentially available and active?
How much of it is really part of our shadow, that is carving us from inside out, despite ourselves? Shadow that we nourish daily, despite ourselves. That has somehow nourished us since our mother's womb.
I think that the silence in which a huge part of white women (more or less well known in the “waking up of the Feminine” movement) have bathed within the last weeks is just mirroring the difficulties we still have in getting in contact with our shadows. In this case, in the case of racism, to get in contact with the shadow we are carrying as white women. The shadow vibrating in our privilege and our hidden biases that are screaming out loud to be courageously met.
I truly believe, as a white woman and white person, that it is not enough to empathize with the current protests, saying « we're anti-racist » and « we stand with the one that are protesting » to really dismantle the racist structures of the world we're living in.
We need to do our inner shadow work with no compromise. Because it is in the darkness we refuse to look into, the place where that racist structures take place. It's our responsibility, however painful it might be.
If we do not accept, with all the courage, determination and infinite tenderness and self-forgiveness we need, to look straight into the eyes of this growling monster, if we don't accept to soak into what of capitalism, racism, ableism, sexism, classism and the many other supremacist « -ism » dwell deep within us, our spiritual practices become nothing else than a powerful anesthetic that is just nourishing the perversity of the system we live in.
Let's educate ourselves.
Let's dive in.
Let's stop defending ourselves.
Let's call in all the bold courage, sweetness, self-compassion and self-forgiveness we need.
Let's welcome shame and our (white) fragility, our (white) vulnerability...
Let's stop to pass on a heritage of which we can’t' be proud to next generations...
Let's not hide anymore.
Just let's do the work and choose to give a possibility for a real co-creation to emerge on this planet.
This fire has been burning for so long..
I'm so convinced that all that is happening is a powerful gift, an invitation to such an amazing transformation that can lead us to a real (r)evolution.
Together we can.
Together, like the Other and me.
Together like me and all those parts of me that are not shining of light.
Together, you with your Light and Darkness and me with my Light and Darkness.
With infinite compassion and tenderness.
It's not about guiltiness or fault.
It's about Responsibility.