As a nation, we often discuss racism, but rarely do we discuss how racism affects the health of our communities. Racism has mental, physical, emotional and spiritual effects on our society. Research shows that racism leads to anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue and symptoms similar to post traumatic disorder. In truth the heightened public display of racism, injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism has put the entire world in a state of trauma.
One evening in June as I sat in a quiet space in my home I was tuned in to one of my favorite guided meditations by Deepak Chopra. The meditation begins with guided breathwork and specific instruction to BREATHE IN for a count 5 followed by BREATHE OUT for a count of 5. This exercise is repeated for a few minutes and shortly after beginning the practice I usually find myself in a pleasant even flow of breath. This particular evening as I listened to the words “BREATHE IN and Out” I found myself conflicted as I remembered the words “WE CAN’T BREATHE” that were chanted by protestors that passionately walked down the streets of Los Angeles earlier that day. The words amplified and tears began to stream down my face as the image of George Floyd took over my usual guided meditation practice, I noticed that my breath became shallow and shorter with every second that passed. During my years of yoga and meditation instruction I have never experienced such a wrenching and challenging moment to grasp my breath.
I found myself faced with the question of, How can I contribute to the dismantling of injustice and systemic racism? As the movement for Black Lives Matter continues to make waves across the world, I recognize everyone directly or indirectly affected by the public racism is faced with the same question. Where do you stand in the face of injustice?
The only way to answer that question with the depth required for true global change is to reflect within consistently, and to understand radical change and repair are necessary. This starts with each one of us doing the inner work to become aware of how racism lives within us and how it is perpetuated through us.The Black Lives Matter movement is a symbol of change, an American born movement that has the power to spark sweeping positive change away from the discriminatory ideologies that govern the lives of all marginalized people – provided we continue the conversation. Reclaiming Our Breath, is not only here to continue the conversation, but to also create a safe and calm space to ask ourselves how we can dismantle racism and show up in solidarity with the Black community.
For over 300 years people of color have been negatively and disproportionately impacted by every societal measurement of wellbeing. In health, education, poverty, housing, state sanctioned violence, and by a myriad of other indicators of basic wellness, we have not been able to breathe fully for centuries, it is time to practice the opposite and reclaim our breath. We will use the practice of breath awareness, and meditation for others that have been brutally stripped of their opportunity to do the same. In this series
We will breathe for them, breathe intentionally, breathe fully, breathe for the past, the present and the future, and allow each breath to propel humanity forward into understanding of self, each other and equality.
Today, we have an opportunity to give back, and stand with black people in solidarity against the mechanisms of oppression that hurts us all.
It is time to reclaim our breath!
Say Their Names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Samuel Dubose, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Jordan Davis (and many more…)