In the spirit of spell-casting (and with a lot of hope and a little fear), I share now my desire to offer what I currently teach as college courses more widely—within and beyond higher education. I’d love to co-learn and co-teach publicly—with others committed to everyday living for justice. I’d love to share the contemplative practices, writing prompts, small-group exercises, sequenced assignments, readings, and other materials I’ve developed over the years. I’d LOVE to “go public” as a writer, educator, and activist.
I share these desires as I’m in the midst of teaching two courses this spring: (1) Contemplative Writing and (2) Writing for Social justice.
I’m also in the midst of developing a 40-day practice for a local church on strengthening emotional literacies to counter white supremacy. Increasingly, as I step in and out of classrooms and other teaching spaces, I’m thinking about how to make such learning experiences more widely available.
Toward this goal: in the coming months, I plan to expand Heart-Head-Hands.com to describe offerings. These might include in-person workshops, e-courses, retreats, consulting, or coaching. These likely will include more readings, resource lists, and suggested activities.
To move forward, I know I’ll need help. If you’re interested in sharing feedback or learning more, I’m interested in talking. Please reach out with requests or suggestions: email@example.com. I appreciate any support in moving these desires into manifestations.
In the past two weeks, I’ve been listening to a LOT of guided meditations, as a concussion has me grounded. I’m grounded in the sense of a child who’s misbehaved: sent to my room, with limited activities, and in reflection on what’s gotten me here. And I’m grounded in the sense of rooting down and deep, strengthening the base/foundation from which I can grow.
I treat myself gently, with tenderness through this process, learning humility.
I call upon others, including my future self, for help.
I sleep. I trust. I allow myself to heal.
As these winter days invite contemplation, I invite you to write and speak spells into being. Perhaps you’ll also cast a spell with adrienne maree brown. Or perhaps you’ll follow another of the contemplative practices offered through the Healing Justice podcast. Or perhaps you’ll simply sit with the breath, grounding in the body’s inner wisdom.
Whatever practice calls to you at this moment, I hope you’ll follow the call and use it as fuel for the road ahead. For contemplative practices have much grounding and guidance to offer. From building emotional literacies to noticing what goes unnoticed, contemplative practices help develop capacities for the long haul toward justice.
Each year, celebrating MLK Day also brings new opportunities for re-reading Dr. King’s words and re-seeing the work that he—and so many people working for racial justice—have envisioned.
MLK offers visions of the ought to be, of engaged activism, and of multi-racial movement-building. Such visions are essential to avoid getting stuck where we are and to spark imaginings of new and more equitable futures.
As a white woman witnessing, learning from, and participating in MLK Day, I’m reminded at this time of year how Dr. King’s legacy and wisdom can guide me in the work of visioning. His words keep me focused on what’s possible rather than thinking only about what’s problematic.
Specifically, three of Dr. King’s often-cited quotes keep me focused on my role in taking steps and speaking up, even when inevitably and always falling short of what I can, should, and want to do. With gratitude and humility, I hope to amplify these words and share how they provide guidance in my life today.
1. “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Though I have trouble placing this quote’s origin, the King Center in Atlanta describes how Dr. King combined two scriptural verses into one to create this line. I’ve been repeating it for years, since noticing how white colleagues ask for professional development as a prerequisite to taking action. Ongoing learning is always important, yet I’ve seen how it can be used to delay, dismiss, and excuse away the responsibility to act.
Instead, taking some action, any action, matters. It helps us learn, gets us started, gives us practice, makes feedback available, and opens opportunities for additional actions. It helps us join and build relational networks, and it helps us develop habits or routines for taking action.
Taking a first step and a second and a third and so on adds up to sustained action, and the importance of “Doing Something Small and Sustained” is part of why I’m vegan for social, environmental, gender, and racial justice. Certainly, there are many more steps to take, but a daily commitment to taking steps helps grow momentum, while allowing for rest and self-care along the way.
2. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
As part of the Steeler Lecture in 1967, these words remind me of the importance of breaking white silence, as silence does real harm. I remember the gut-punch I felt when watching many white friends and family remain silent after Charlottesville. After writing “For White Friends Using Social Media and Not Responding to Charlottesville,” some sincere conversations emerged with white folks who expressed “a loss of words” and the fear that they could do more harm by saying the wrong thing than by saying nothing at all.
Just as a fear of doing it wrong and the desire to “learn more” blocks taking action, a fear of saying it wrong and a desire to “listen more” blocks speaking up.
To these fears, I’d say that there are many ways to speak by amplifying the voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) who are already speaking up and leading the way. If you’re not reading and reposting feminists and womanists of color, consider doing so. Sharing the work and words of activists, scholars, and leaders of color help promote and make widely visible their leadership. Amplification is an important form of speaking and one that invites listening and learning too.
As a white woman, I also need to remind myself again and again and again to let go of perfectionism. The possibility of a “perfect” or even “right” way of speaking is another lie of internalized inferiority and superiority. I’m sure to trip over the words. I’m sure to do it wrong. I’m sure to confront my own limitations. But I’m also sure that I must speak up in order to practice, to get feedback, and to learn by doing (with the attitude of “try-try again”). And more than the importance of learning, the costs of complicity are too high.
3. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
I end with this line from Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” because it reminds me of the costs of failing to act or speak up. It reminds me why I must keep the reality of white supremacy and the commitment to racial justice at the fore throughout everyday living. It reminds me why an intersectional approach to justice is needed and why I have a role to play in this work. And it reminds me why imaginative, creative, critical visioning is so deeply needed.
As I spend MLK Day this year tuning into myself, I’m reminded that, like Dr. King’s words of wisdom, our embodied, lived experiences have much to teach us about how to act and speak up in the world. I’m resolving in 2018 to “Speaking Up by Speaking Aloud Embodied Responses,” even or especially when my body hurts and my voice shakes. I’m resolving, too, to use inner listening to learn more about when and where I can direct my energies, knowing that I have a role to play in the work for racial justice.
After the heaviness of the holiday season, I’m grateful for quieter days and lighter eating. Self-care feels important for refueling and reconnecting with myself, my dreams, and my commitments. Though self-care certainly varies and at times involves hot cocoa and comfort foods, right now it’s manifesting in a desire for more fruits and vegetables. So, I’m making more salads.
One of my favorites is inspired by Urban Beets, a vegan café in Milwaukee that serves especially creative, flavorful food. In the past, they’ve used hearts of palm salad to approximate a lobster roll, serving the salad with fresh dill on a gluten-free hoagie with lemon and kettle chips on the side.
What follows is my recipe for a similar salad that I typically eat with rice crackers.
Hearts of palm —14 oz. jar or can
Celery — 1-2 stalks or approx. ½ cup (roughly, ¼ of the amount of hearts of palm)
Fresh dill — 3+ tablespoons (approx. ½ of the amount of celery)
Capers — ½ to 1 tablespoon
Vegan mayo — 1 tablespoon
Dill pickle juice — ¼ teaspoon
Lemon — ¼ teaspoon
Salt — approx. ¼ teaspoon, to taste
Pepper — optional add-in, to taste
10 minutes, including time to cut, combine, and serve.
Dice the hearts of palm and celery, and chop the fresh dill.
Add these cut ingredients into a mixing bowl.
Then add the remaining ingredients (capers, mayo, pickle juice, lemon, salt, and pepper), and stir until well-combined. I like to taste while mixing and add more of these ingredients, as needed. The capers, pickle juice, lemon, and/or pepper can be left out for a smoother, milder flavor.
Serve with a few sprigs of fresh dill on top for additional color and flavor.
Enjoy with crackers or chips. Or add to a salad or sandwich with lettuce and tomato.
I keep seeing caterpillars and moths, so I begin researching their symbolic significance. Suddenly I realize this is another example of everyday divination and miraculous timing, as caterpillars are helping me see the potential of birthing new projects and ways of being in the near year. They ask me to look more carefully at changes in my life and to ask what transformations I’d like to experience this year.
Just as caterpillars transformed into butterflies can influence weather patterns miles away, the butterfly effect reminds us that actions can create far-reaching ripples. A flap of the wing matters.
With the caterpillar’s reminder, I’m entering 2018 attentive to small moments. I’m asking myself in what moments am I closer to my best self. When am I truer to my commitments? When am I standing TALL? When am I acting in ways that might ripple outward toward social action and social justice?
I’ve noticed in the past days a few moments that might be small flaps of my butterfly wing:
Talking with a white family member about how the frame of whiteness limits our understandings, experiences, and relational networks.
Witnessing sexism impacting me and repeating to myself: “That’s not mine. I’m not taking it in. I’m investing my energies toward building gender justice.”
Instead of blowing up in a hard conversation, noticing myself get angry, allowing the anger, stepping away, and then re-engaging when ready.
Preparing and sharing yummy vegan foods for kids who ask for more: more strawberry smoothies, roasted potatoes, pancakes, tempeh sticks, and other foods creating memories.
The small signs of seeing caterpillars and moths are reminding me to appreciate small actions like these. In 2018, I hope to amplify, multiply, and learn to sustain these small actions. And I hope that like asking for more yummy foods, we ask for more of ourselves and our collectives. A sort of “more” that manifests in everyday, seemingly small, and consequential ways.