Bending Racism With Your Mind

Can you imagine a world without racism? What would that world look like? What would you give to make that world possible? Better yet, what would you give up to make that world possible? In Together Colorado and other justice seeking organizations, there are people who put in a lot of effort in order to make such a world possible.  There are organizers, educators, activists, and volunteers who go out into the world and when necessary use their collective voices to awaken the minds of some of our citizens to the many injustices that plague our society. But no matter how far we’ve come, it often seems like we have even further to go. Now what if I told you that it was possible to end racism in your world this very day? What if I told you that you could bend this racism construct to your will—that even though it might feel like trying to catch a tiger by the tail—you have it within you to tame that tiger? Would you believe me? If so, great. If not; why not? If our vision is for racism to end someday, why can’t we imagine it ending this day? This is the question I came away with after having a powerful conversation with Kara Dansky, a lawyer, policy analyst and advocate, and meditation instructor through Shambhala.

As a lawyer in the criminal justice system, Kara became aware and very troubled by mass incarceration, systemic racism, and the militarization of the police forces. She soon discovered that despite understanding the problems of racism intellectually, there was a disconnection between what she understood and what she experienced in her outer world. She realized that as a person considered “white” in this society, she could not escape her privilege or her conditioning. In response to this awareness, she made the decision to integrate her intellectual understanding with her spiritual practice. The way she did this was by deliberately taking what she was reading on systemic racism into her meditation practice—a process that mirrors what contemplative Christianity calls lectio divina or divine reading.

The purpose of lectio divina is to provide a method for the contemplative to gradually let go of their agenda and open themselves up to what the message is trying to tell them. Through this intentional process of letting go and receiving, the person is transformed from within which, as one could imagine, fundamentally shifts the outward expression of the individual which in turn shifts their relationships to others. And so it goes. This is a clear reminder of our inter-connectedness and that the work we do on ourselves can have a positive effect on the world we take part in creating.

Racism, injustice, and all forms of bigotry are outward expressions of inward conditions. What Kara is demonstrating in her practice and what she is teaching others through her guided meditations is that to end racism and other divisive paradigms in our outer world, we must begin with ending them in our inner world. Is this not what the Oneness traditions teach at their core—that what we are seeking is within us? Can we not also apply this to our hopes for a world free of racism? I think Gandhi put it best when he taught, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  This work is a way to do just that. This is said not to deny that our societies, governments, and cultures require transformation if we are to live into the highest visions of what’s possible, but rather to demonstrate how taking individual responsibility for the world we believe is possible can help facilitate that transformation. As we sing in our church from time to time, “Let there be peace on earth! And let it begin with me.”

Kara will be working with Brian Rocheleau of The Blind Cafe and I to extend this opportunity to dismantle racist constructs from the inside out next Tuesday November 15 at 7PM @ The Sanctuary at FirstCong of Boulder. All of the information can be seen below. Up to date information can be found by clicking on the image. If you’re local, we hope to see you there.

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