Breaking Commitments and Recommitting through Mindful Reflection

A little more than a year ago, I wrote the following statement to describe this blog project:

“Embodied knowledge matters. So do commitments. And especially acting on commitments as part of everyday life, BIG and small. This blog shares ongoing efforts of feeling, thinking, and doing for justice. Posts include reflections, recipes, research, and resources: all seek to make sense of what it means to live a life for justice.”

This language signals that, at best, I’m attempting to live for justice and to share these attempts. What this means is that the everyday-ness of lived experience goes hand-in-hand with seeking or striving for justice. Striving means that I experience moments of getting closer to living in alignment with a more just, truer, and committed life. And I also experience moments when I’m far, far away and out of alignment with this goal. My hope is that I learn from my own incongruity and that the moments of alignment grow more regular. This learning—along with attempting, seeking, and striving—builds resilience for “the long haul” toward justice.

Such a hope leads me to reflect on the moments when I fall short of my commitments. Recently, I broke a commitment to a co-author and close friend, and I contributed to a larger pattern of co-authors falling away from important projects, a pattern that calls up pain. And I’ve been reminded again that pain can be an important teacher.

As a white woman (a white, cis-gender, able-bodied, U.S.-born, upper/middle-class, raised-Christian woman), I’ve inherited internalized inferiority and superiority aligned with the narrative of being a “good person”—a narrative that I’m always needing to unravel and unlearn. The more I let go of the need to be a “good person,” the more I can be just a person—a whole, human, and messy person. And as a person (not a super-human and not a dehumanized being), I can see and confront the harm that I do.

Breaking my co-authoring commitment did harm in my friendship, and it did harm by contributing to a pattern of broken commitments around justice-oriented research. It also did harm because of the material consequences for my co-author, who’s already experiencing precarity, overwork, and a particularly stressful semester.

As is so typically the case, my body told me that something was wrong. From tight chest and stomach ache to what felt like the inability to breathe, I could feel my heart hurting.

Grateful for embodied knowledge, I turned to contemplative practices that help with sifting through the harm and figuring out how to know and align with my commitments more often, more of the time. These practices have included gentle movement, yoga nidra, and sitting meditation. They’ve also involved the RAIN meditation that I’ve learned for working with difficulties.

14514259497_ea7878c930_o
Photo credit to Matthew Grapengieser (creative commons licensing).

As I’ve explained previously, RAIN involves four steps:

R—recognizing experiences, thoughts, feelings, conditions, etc.
A—allowing the states of being, no matter how bad, embarrassing, or privileged.
I—investigating deeply to gain new or additional understanding.
N—non-judging or non-identifying to avoid attachment with the experience, emotion, and even understandings (toward embracing impermanence).

Here’s what RAIN has looked like for me, as I’ve been exploring my broken commitment:

Recognize that I’ve broken the commitment; that I’ve done harm to my friend, and because I love my friend, to myself as well; and that this harm is painful. Recognition feels important for taking responsibility and also for naming the complex dynamics within the larger situation. It feels important for seeing the links between this particular broken commitment and larger, systemic injustice.

Accept the pain. Like joy, pain is part of life—not something to push down or pretend isn’t there, but to see, experience, and get curious about. I keep asking: “Pain, what do you have to teach me? How can I learn from you about making commitments I can truly keep?”

Investigate the fuller situation. The more I get curious (instead of shutting out the pain), the more I can see how I’ve been operating in contradiction. On the one hand, I’ve been wanting to follow my “strong YES,” and on the other hand, I’ve been wanting to please others. On the one hand, I’ve been wanting to redirect my energies (away from this particular project and direction in my life), and on the other hand, I’ve been wanting to keep what’s familiar and comfortable about this established direction.

Though I’m aware that I get into trouble when not listening for/to my “strong YES,” I didn’t act on my intuition at the time of committing to the project, and that’s likely when incongruity entered the scene. What I see now is that instead of investing in meaningful relations with other people (including with my co-author and friend), I’ve actually been creating trouble for others by not honoring myself and my “strong YES.” Do I really want to undermine myself and my relations in this way? What will I need to change in order to trust, act from, and speak aloud my “strong YES”?

Not identify with judgments about being a person who keeps or doesn’t keep commitments, who does good or harm in the world, or who is static in ways that limit the complexity of full personhood. Not identifying means that I try to see this moment as though I’m floating above it at a distance. It won’t look or feel like this in the future, though it’s part of the many experiences that I’ll carry forward and hopefully continue to learn from. It’s now part of my history, but it also doesn’t singly or solely define me.

The RAIN process has been helpful in looking at my actions, in staying close to tough emotions, and to investing at this moment of pain. It’s often the moments when we’re noticing gaps between our everyday actions and our goals that real growth takes place. It’s also moments like these when there’s a lot of potential for developing resilience and long-term, staying power.

So, in the midst of processing a broken commitment, I’m re-committing to everyday attempts and the ongoing process of striving to live a life for justice. I’m sure to mess up and cause harm in the process, but may the moments of alignment become more and more. May I better align my actions with my beliefs. May I know and follow my commitments and my “strong YES.” May I stand TALL and true (truer and truer) for justice.


This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Holding Space and Being Present: Two Resolutions Following the Las Vegas Shooting” and “Listening for/to the ‘Strong YES.’” Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!

Vegan and Gluten-Free Savory Pie

One of my favorite comfort foods is savory pie. I’ve learned to use a 5-ingredient pie crust as the base for different onion, mushroom, and kale pies. These pies combine sweet and savory. They combine comfort with the goal of eating vegetables for half of each meal. They also work on changing my relationship with sugar as an act of self-care.

Like other recipes I’ve shared in this blog, savory pie is quick and easy. It’s something I prepare without following a structured recipe, and it’s something I eat as leftovers for multiple meals.

It also, I hope, shows the fun that can come from being vegan. If it weren’t for the motivation to try new recipes, I might not have discovered that I can eat pie for dinner.

Ingredients for Pie Crust:

  • 1½ to 2 cups oats—ground into oat flour
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of water (oftentimes more for stickiness)

Ingredients for Kale-Onion Pie Stuffing:

  • Bunch of kale
  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Daiya or other shredded vegan cheeze

Alternative Pie Stuffing:

  • More onions, leeks, and/or shallots
  • Spinach or other greens
  • Mushrooms

Preparation Time:

  • 20 minutes (overlapping with cooking time)

Cooking Time:

  • 1 hour at 375F (initially 15 minutes for pie crust and an additional 30-45 minutes for the full pie)

Instructions:

  1. Follow the instructions from Oatmeal with a Fork for making 5-ingredient, no-roll pie crust:

    4 steps:
    1. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
    2. Stir in the olive oil until the ‘batter’ is crumbly.
    3. Add in the cold water as needed until the dough is moistened, but not sticky.
    4. Press the dough into a pie plate, pressing it up the sides as desired.

  2. Bake the pie crust at 375F for 12-15 minutes, while preparing the savory vegetable stuffing.
  1. Wash and cut the kale, onion, leeks, or other veggies.
  2. Add veggies to a frying pan, and sauté along with oil, vegetable broth, salt, and pepper.
  3. Continue sautéing until onions are soft and kale is wilted.
  1. Add the savory stuffing to the pie crust.
  2. Top with a layer of vegan cheeze. I’ve had success with cheddar substitutes made by Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and So Delicious.
  3. Bake the pie for another 30-45 minutes or until warm and slightly brown on top.


This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “When Times Get Tough: Simple Sautéed Spinach and Tempeh,” other vegan + gluten-free recipes, or the series of posts answering why I’m vegan. Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!

Listening for/to the “Strong YES”

In the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about when and how I tune into my “strong YES” for decision-making. I find that I’m truer to myself when I’m following Marty Tribble’s guidance: “The absence of a strong YES is actually a no.” Reflecting on this advice is what led me to write “Using Your ‘Strong Yes’ to Guide Career Decisions” for Inside Higher Ed:

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 4.00.40 PM

I hope that this article helps others tap into the strong YES not only for navigating job searches and career decisions, but also for everyday decision-making and living for justice. I share in this article five strategies for finding the strong YES:

1. Follow the deeper breath.
2. Check in with the heart, head, and hands.
3. Keep an emotion journal.
4. Look for signs in everyday life.
5. Look inward through guided meditation.

Each of these strategies asks us to prioritize embodied knowledge, inner knowing, and emotional literacies that we too-often downplay or discount, especially in higher education.

Each of these strategies asks us to unlearn ways of being-doing-living that keep us limited to less than our whole selves, less than fully human and messy.

Each of these strategies asks us to slow down through imperfect meditation and other contemplative practices so that we stop shutting out what hurts and instead get to know ourselves and our commitments with greater clarity.

Despite practicing these strategies, I still often act without checking in with my body, without intentionality, and instead with procedural efficiency. I’ve had several recent reminders—from dropping my phone to becoming sick—that I need to slow down and listen more carefully.

When I listen for/to my strong YES, I sometimes have to change plans. For example, recently I’ve sat on several blog posts, not sure if or when they’ll feel ready to share, and I’ve canceled several meetings, not sure if or when I’ll feel ready to have them.

Truly, listening for/to the strong YES is essential for de-routinizing dehumanization, yet it’s so hard to do because I love routines, even when they undermine well-being. Similarly, the strong YES is essential for countering the lies of internalized inferiority and superiority, yet I’m so attached to these lies that I resist letting go. Noticing routines and resistance helps me shift toward more careful, mindful listening.

Toward better listening, I am starting today a daily practice of yoga nidra that I hope will help me stay truer to myself and my commitments. As I work to align with my strong YES, I hope you’ll join me in asking:

  • How can I release the “shoulds” that inadvertently direct my days?
  • How can I notice (and be kinder to myself when I notice) that I’m acting without intention?
  • How can I better align my everyday living with my hopes and commitments?


This post is written by
Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Imperfect Meditation and the Desire to ‘Slow Way Down’” and “Reframing ‘Independence Day’ as a Day for Truth-Telling and Committing to Justice.” Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!

40 Days of Yoga Nidra

A year ago, when launching this blog, I wrote about welcoming winter by looking within—resolving “to tune into how I’m feeling, what I’m thinking, and what I can do,” resolving “to be true to my truths, my commitments, and my joys.” These resolutions have accompanied me through the year and are now re-energizing the desire for introspective hibernation.

As luck (or divine intervention) would have it, Marty Tribble (my Reiki teacher) is offering a community practice of 40 days of yoga nidra, starting November 22. To learn more or to participate in this practice, see Marty’s website:

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.45.03 PM

As I’ve experienced it, yoga nidra, or “yogic sleep,” is guided meditation that invites active participation in deepening self-awareness. This practice integrates embodied, emotional, mental, and spiritual knowledges. It truly brings together the heart, head, and hands and asks us to know ourselves so that we know our commitments.

I am excited for this 40-day practice as a means to create new rituals. It was during Marty’s 40-day commUNITY Sadhana in 2014 that I put into place my daily asana practice. By doing the same 7-minute movement sequence for 40 days, I transformed a belief that “daily yoga practice is good” into the experience of truly practicing daily. This formative experience has stayed with me as I’ve continued to do at least some gentle movement, meditation, or other contemplative activities every day.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.50.53 PM
To check out Marty’s free yoga videos or to make a love offering, visit http://www.martytribble.com/podcast.html.

I share these experiences because committing to a practice can be significant, especially at this time of year when seasonal shifts are inviting critical self-care. I will be participating in Marty’s 40 days of yoga nidra, and I’d love to share this experience with you. I’m excited about the possibilities that consistent, committed practice can enact. Perhaps you’ll join me. If you do, please let me know.


This post is written by
Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts about yoga and self-care, you might try “Gentle Yoga Practice for Healing” and “Gentle Yoga for Releasing Burdens.” Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!

Revealing the Cultural Patterns of Rape Culture

It’s been a few weeks since the #metoo hashtag prompted discussion about the widespread and systemic nature of sexual violence. As I’ve shared stories and listened to others’, I’ve been struck by frequent questioning: “Does ______ really count as sexual harassment or assault?” And that question has led me to consider the many moments of sexual intimidation that aren’t harassment or assault per se, but constitute violence and are part of rape culture nonetheless.

Here are a few examples from my life as a professor interacting with undergraduate men:

  • A student waits until everyone has left the classroom to confront me about his grade, raising his voice and moving closer until he’s towering over me.
  • A pattern emerges in which at least seven students (all men) walk into my faculty office and shut the door (only for me to re-open it), making me aware of the tension that arises in my body from their assumed control of space and uninvited move toward intimacy.
  • A student enters an otherwise empty elevator and stands in front of me, blocking both the exit and the keypad for selecting floors. My body stiffens up so that I wait until he’s left the elevator before moving forward to the keypad and pressing the button for my office floor.
  • A student brings his friend (another man) to his writing conference late in the evening when the department is empty. This friend sits outside my office, essentially guarding the hallway.

Whether intentional or not, intimidation operates in moments like these because they play into larger understandings of agency, ownership, intimacy, and control of physical space. They obstruct efforts to maintain distance, to meet in public, to plan exit routes, and so on.

While none of these experiences constitute sexual harassment or assault, they show how presumed ownership of space communicates domination. They show how rape culture, which is based in domination, operates in classrooms, offices, elevators, hallways, and other spaces. They also show how no one is immune: even the professor who holds institutional power can be intimidated and over-powered.

rape-culture-pyramid
Rape culture is rooted sexism, heterosexism, and other interlocking systems of oppression, which we see reflected in attitudes, inequities, and everyday realities. Source: http://www.11thprincipleconsent.org/consent-propaganda/rape-culture-pyramid/.

I share these moments with the hope that we might better understand rape culture as a cultural phenomenon that is constructed and performed in everyday interactions. Moments like these aren’t ones I report to our Title IX coordinator, but they are ones that stack up the longer I’m in higher education. They are moments that come to mind when I think about how gender-based intimidation and invalidation—like other microaggressions—play out in many seemingly small yet consequential ways.

I share these moments, too, because they’ve become memories that sit alongside those of harassment, assault, and other sexual violence. When I think of my own stories and those shared by others, I see how moments like these are part of larger narratives of rape culture, or a culture that perpetuates deep injustice through sexism and heterosexism, including the objectification and exploitation of women’s and marginalized peoples’ bodies. Truly, such everyday moments make up the larger culture and have cumulative impact. They erode trust, provoke fear, and increase inequitable demands for emotional labor, among other matters.

I also share these moments because they reveal patterns—like the pattern I noticed of men shutting the office door. Just as there’s potential in looking for themes and outliers for everyday divination, there’s potential in identifying patterns of sexual intimidation and other violence. Identifying patterns allows us to better witness, name, and intervene into injustice. And the patterns supporting rape culture desperately need intervention.


This post is written by
Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Me Too: Standing Against Sexual Violence” or “Microaggressions Matter.” Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!

Everyday Divination

For Halloween, I dressed as Professor Sybill Trelawney, a professor of divination at Hogwarts (within the world of Harry Potter). This has been a favorite costume of mine in past years, because I like to fashion myself the absent-minded professor. This year I’m thinking about how I’m drawn to Trelawney because she fits the archetype of the dreamer, seer, and intuitive.

2017-10-28 16.45.36

Archetypes are helpful for seeing qualities and narratives that we carry within/about ourselves. Identifying archetypes helps us explore what we’re drawn to and why and, conversely, what we’re repelled by and why. Like other self-exploration, reflection on archetypes brings additional clarity about who we are and who we want to be. And such clarity helps with becoming our best selves.

Clarity emerges for me this week in the midst of Halloween, Samhain, Día de Muertos, All Saints Day, and the Full Moon in Taurus. I find myself embracing divination through the seasonal invitation for deeper introspection in dark days. As I embrace divination (and the role of intuitive dreamer), I find myself tracing the many ways I divine meaning from everyday life.

What I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) is that there are numerous signs and signals in everyday life that help us make sense of the world and how we participate in it. These signals include embodied responses and emotional literacies. They come through moving the body or dreaming in sleep, through practicing daily habits or enacting holiday rituals. They can arise in imperfect meditation, yoga practice, or even troubling interactions.

Like an ethnographer, to find meaning, I identify recurring themes or patterns and also attend to outliers, or those bits of information that seem not to fit the pattern. I look for the repetition of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. I listen for the repetition of words, phrases, and ideas. And I remain curious about the messages these repetitions convey, using online tools and contemplative writing to identify symbolic meanings.

Perhaps the best divination tool I’ve found comes from my Reiki teacher, Marty Tribble, who says, “The absence of a strong YES is actually a no.” For years, I’ve learned how to talk myself into things, how to weigh rationale arguments, and how to make the best-informed decision based on others’ advice. And for years, I’ve gotten myself into trouble whenever doing something because I “should.”

2017-11-03 14.19.28

Instead, the more that I listen for my strong YES—the sense that, yes, I want to do this thing, or, yes, this feels like it’s directing me toward ease/joy/love—the more I’m emerging as myself.

I know that divination invokes jokes in popular culture about false prophets and fortune-tellers, and Professor Trelawney’s character embodies frequent critiques that divining meaning is full of fluff, falsehoods, and fantasy. Yet, as I fashion myself a “professor of divination” and embrace the related archetype, I hope to share the possibilities of learning to live more intuitively, more in line with divine guidance.

Truly, there is so much to learn from everyday life. The more I open to my full senses—my heart, head, and hands—the more I learn my strong YES. And the more I follow the YES, the more I remain true to myself and to my commitment to justice.


This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Disrupting the Mind-Body Split,” “Imperfect Meditation and the Desire to ‘Slow Way Down,’” or “Playing Through Pain.” Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!

Speaking Up by Speaking Aloud Embodied Responses

Several times in recent weeks I’ve found myself in conversations in which things were going wrong. White folks were talking over folks of color. Men were taking up far too much space. White, cis-gender, able-bodied women were sharing their experiences as though they were universal truths. In each of these occasions, I found my stomach churning, my heart hurting, my chest tight, and my mouth dry. And in each of these occasions, I found myself entering conversation simply by naming my embodied responses as a way of identifying that something was wrong.

Essentially, I used my body’s guidance system to enter conversation, saying: “This is scary, but I need to speak up because my stomach hurts.” I then explained what I’d witnessed about the interactions, attempting to name what my body was registering. In each instance, I felt like speaking from/about my body was taking a real risk because we tend to value explanations and evidence from the realm of logic (the head) more than emotions held within the body (the heart and the hands).

What I learned from these occasions is that naming my body’s responses served as a strategy for getting the group to stop and discuss what was happening. This strategy opened space for others to name their own tensions or felt-senses that things were going wrong. Further, because I entered conversation without the language to name or shift group dynamics—but with recognition that the dynamics weren’t working—this strategy invited others to share insights and the responsibility for the disrupting dysfunctional communication patterns.

I’ll certainly continue to reflect on this strategy, and I can imagine times it wouldn’t work … but I share what I’m learning because I know that it’s too easy to remain silent in the face of injustice because the words (the explanations for the problem) remain out of reach. What if instead of identifying the problem, we simply identify our body’s signals that there’s trouble underway? What if we commit to speaking aloud our embodied responses—whether they involve anger flushing heat or sadness leading to a contraction of one’s shoulders? What if speaking up took the form of saying, “Hey, my heart is hurting, so something’s not right”?

Going forward, when I can see that conversations need disruption but I’m not sure what to do, I’ll try naming my embodied responses with the hope that saying something—even if it’s only that I’m nauseous—might reroute conversation and the direction we’re headed.


This post is written by
Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Disrupting the Mind-Body Split” or “Heart, Head, Hands: Explaining the Blog’s Name.” Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!