That man with Freedom in his eye...

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All I remember about the first poem I wrote was that it was in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember one fragment: that man with Freedom in his eye

I was nine years old.

Even today, I adore the human being, the organizer, the disrupter, the person of faith we call MLK.

A couple of days ago, Michael and I performed at the Army War College at the Carlisle Barracks in PA. Amidst the uniforms and the formal hierarchy of that military base, I felt myself get small. I was suddenly unsure of my truth, if compassion and peace would make sense in the space. Why observe this holiday for a peace maker in an institution created for war?

Prior to our performance a Catholic priest quoted a prayer from King's Strength to Love. As I listened, I remembered again why I love this man--humility. Even those of us on the side of Justice and Peace, fall short. We love too little. We favor our egos too much. We look for ways to avoid pain. We are humans walking an imperfect path, imperfectly.

But as we concluded the performance I let MLK speak through me I felt his authority and his HUGE VISION. It was a rush, a flood of energy and power. And the soldiers dug it!

Today, Michael and I will be performing at the George School a Quaker high school and then getting on a plane for California. There, we get to spend two days creating art for justice and peace with Francis Wong, a Chinese American composer and saxophonist.

I'm grateful to you for accompanying me on this journey. I'm touched that I get to accompany you. If you'd like to go deeper with me, if you're ready for accountability and support this year, please reply to this email I've got lots of options for you!

May we all live into the fullness of our dreams and power in 2018.

So be it!

peace and love,
Amanda

P.S.--Tribe of the H..E.A.R.T. Retreat at Pendle Hill is my only in-person workshop this winter. Great for those ready to take a break from the internet!

What To Do for Racial Injustice Heart Ache?

Photo by Arvia Walker, Used by Permission

Photo by Arvia Walker, Used by Permission

“You take aspirin for a headache. What you do you take for a heartache?”*

This was a question that stopped the conversation. We are so used to making pain go away. We take pain relievers without looking for pain solvers. We are so used to it being something outside ourselves that we can buy and swallow. Instant relief.

But what about when our hearts are breaking for someone’s child who has washed up on a beach after a failed migration? What do we do when someone has been run over and killed because she stood up for justice and equality in Charlottesville? What about when we hear a four year old comforting her distraught mother as she watches her father figure bleed out on Facebook live?

What do you take for heart ache?

Many of us look for an aspirin equivalent. I, myself, have prayed: “Please, God, don’t let me feel that. I can’t take that!” We resist the ache but that does not mean it goes away. Sadly, it stays with us. When I resisted the heart ache and anger about the killing of Sandra Bland, I went numb. Not only did I not feel “bad” I did not feel ANYTHING.

Suppose that’s what this system of white supremacist capitalistic patriarchy wants. Suppose it RELIES on us not feeling anything too deeply? It want us, it’s opponents to mimic its heartless tactics and ways of being. Maybe it wants us to only feel horny, anger and fear because that can be easily manipulated.

Suppose feeling grief and sadness (not the same thing as numb or dead) allows grief and sadness to move through us and in their place comes love, peace and connection to our Trusted Source? Does that sound unlikely? Does it seem like the pain or sadness is to big for it to ever end?

Let me tell you about an experience.

A few days after the Charlottesville killing and attacking, I sat on the phone with two people I mentor. We felt angry, sad, hateful, and scared. What to do? After we held space for transformation for a few minutes, I said let’s really feel our feelings. Let’s not talk about them. Let’s be with ourselves as we feel them together. Each of us got something to draw or color with, and for ten minutes we just moved our writing implements across blank paper. The only rules: no words, no judgement, just stay with the feeling and express it through this non-verbal, non-linear, embodied action. By the time we completed and shared, we had each come back to our strong, flexible selves. I went straight from that call to a difficult situation and noticed how i felt confident and whole while dealing with the stress in the room.

In contrast the suppression, repression and rejection of these vulnerable feelings keeps us intellectualizing, attacking, critiquing, or other modes which may agitate but not move us to actions aligned with our goal/vision. We need action that aligns with the world that we are creating. You reap what you sow. If you sow hatred, you will reap hatred even if the people you are hating are really, really hateful.

Listen to your allies, your mentors, your sisters and brothers in the movement to create a new world. Are they “hard to the core”? Does their rhetoric feed you? Does it strengthen your connection to your heart?

What about you? How are you allowing feelings to flow through you? Are you resisting or cutting off your heart in favor of analysis and critique? Where will that take us? How far will we travel? What depth of transformation can we effect without being vulnerable?

Don’t take an aspirin. Don’t distract or numb. Express yourself. Let sadness, anger, fear, hate flow through you onto a page, into movement, through sounds. Do it alone or in community. Daily. Do it imperfectly. Without a lot of thinking. 5 minutes. 3 minutes. 1 minute. Whatever sounds doable. Just do it!

Peace and love,

Amanda

*P.S. — Thanks to David Vita at UU Westport for asking me this question.

Top 5 Reasons to Enroll in the Say the Wrong Thing Course

A friend of mine asked me a great question three days ago.  "Amanda, I've read your book and listened to your audiobook twice. Why would I need to take your course?  What's the difference?". Before my friend asked, it never occurred to me.

Since I've created both, I know the Say the Wrong Thing course includes lots of new juicy materials and exercises that will actually help you do what I've done.  Check out the top 5 reasons you should take a class with me ESPECIALLY if you've read and appreciated my book Say the Wrong Thing:  Stories and Strategies for Racial Justice and Authentic Community.

1. The book shares my story of triumphs and failures. 

This course is focused on YOU and supports you trying out the strategies and having a community of accountability and support as you PRACTICE the strategies of the heart.

2.  The book doesn't actually guide you through how to apply the strategies.  

In contrast, the class offers STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS and I elaborate on what each strategy means.  I imply via the quotes in the book, but in the class we go into more explicit and greater detail and each week there's home practice actions that will get you ACTIVATED.

3.  The class places you in contact with other people (white identified folks and people of color) whom you can relate to outside of class and together impact community and the country. 

4.  You will continually and intentionally expand your understanding of white privilege, white fragility, difficulties in coalition building, institutionalized white supremacy culture; and how non-profits end up replicating systems of domination they say they want to undo. 

You will get a resource list of articles, videos and books to keep expanding your learning during the class and after the class.

5.  Participants in the class get ME, coaching and mentoring  you on your particular questions and dilemmas.  

There's nothing like a real live person listening and focusing on you.

I'm really glad that so many people have bought and read or listened to my book.  If you are ready to take the next step and go beyond understanding me to understanding and stretching yourself, PLEASE JOIN ME!

Peace and Love,

-Dr. Amana

Do you need to trash your mantra?

Do you have a subconscious mantra that drives you to despair or panic?  Check out how I uncovered mine and adopted a new one instead. I am onstage, performing the final words of “Say Her Name,” a poem that charts my resistance to mourning Sandra Bland. I have no one to sing me through the despair. My friend Vanessa could not come. I had not asked anyone else. In the silence that followed the poem, the spiritual “Hush” comes to me. I sing it alone while the audience holds its breath and watches my pain.  I feel alone and vulnerable.

Later, while talking with my friend Matthew, I realize the missing element is community. I had not invited the audience to sing; I had not invited the formation of community.  I had been afraid no one would join me.

Two days later, I sing “Hush” at the end of this poem again.  This time twelve women from Haverford College's Outskirts file onto stage, harmonizing behind me. A young Black woman with a smoky alto stands beside me and takes the lead. We sing together. She steadies the pace and the pitch. The women behind us blend softly and then loudly, rolling the sound out into the audience. I ask people to stand and sing. They do. Together we ask “Oh, my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?” The spiritual binds us in our humility, in our responsibility to heal and transform. A silence falls after we sing it a final time-- together.

I treasure that moment.  My mind returns to it again and again.

Yet, something strange happens when the following week I stand in a circle of four women, none of whom I know well   As I start to say “my community loves and supports me,” I actually bend over, holding back the sobs.   I have to push myself to keep speaking, letting them know simultaneously my deepest longing and my deepest doubt: My community loves and supports me; I am all alone and nobody cares.

I’m having lots of feelings in this Deeper Change forum on somatic conditioning.  My circle of women who don’t “know” me, wait for me to rise, to catch my breath. Together we stand shoulder to shoulder, outstretched arm to outstretched arm, embodying my newfound mantra. We are reconditioning my body to stand with both feet planted, rooted to this mantra—my community loves and supports me.

I say this to the young Amanda that believes the opposite; who chants the old mantra “I’m all alone and nobody cares.” I say it to the lonely foster child who doesn’t know why her mother left. I say it to the teen who’s been rejected by two prospective adoptive families. I say it to the Black girl whose community has repeatedly told her she’s too dark, too “African” to be beautiful.

Today I share it with you. I declare it again. And again.   I belong to community; that community loves me; that community supports me.

What is your truth? Can you identify a simple phrase or sentence that strengthens and connects you?  Maybe it's the opposite of that corrosive mantra that's accompanied you much of your life.

If you are like me, then you will need to share that mantra in community for it to become real, truth in the moment.  The more your community knows, the more it can remind you of this truth when you get into what my Michael calls a "blame and complain" mindset.

I can't wait to start my racial justice and oneness mastermind group so that we have a place to affirm our conscious mantras with each other.  If you enjoy my blog, please pre-order my ebook "Saying the Wrong Thing: Stories and Strategies for Racial Justice."

Peace and love,

Amanda

Tonight We Cross an Ocean Four Centuries Long

Do you remember the demonstrations at malls, court houses and hospitals where people staged die-ins? I remember dropping to the ground when the signal came. I remember the slow passage of time as the Park City Mall grew quiet and all I heard was my heart. When I arose, I looked up to see my son and his best friend. I had not known if there would be arrests or conflicts with counter-protestors so I had not told him about it.

My mistake.

I wanted to protect him. I told myself I couldn't guarantee his safety. There had been threats from people who hated Black Lives Matter movements. We didn't know for sure how the police would deal with us. Would they let us disperse? Better not to bring my son or any of my children, I told myself.

But what was I teaching my son? You are a target. Keep your head down. Let mommy take the chances. Don't you stand up.

My mistake.

Months later when people traveled to Baltimore to hold the City accountable for killing Freddie Gray. My son called me.

"Take me to Baltimore."

"Why Baltimore? What do you want to do there?"

"People are protesting. It's happening there, Mommy!"

This time I did not say no, but I did not say yes.

"Wait," I said. "Let me call around."

I consulted my friend who had supported organizers and movements in Ferguson. Safety was my first concern. Tell me that it's too unpredictable to go I begged without saying it out loud. My friend gave me no such advice. Instead he was very practical about how to be in an unpredictable situation confronting public officials, including the police.

I waited a few days to call my son back. By then other high school matters were on his mind. Soon after the prosecutor announced her plan to indict the officers.

I felt relieved. I had kept him safe. Yet, a small part of me felt we had missed an opportunity.

Recently, my son sent me a short narrative that exposed his anguish, rage and sense of impotence at interpersonal racism and the fact that Black Lives Don't Matter much too often. I wept as I read his outpouring.

"At least once a month I see a video of a Black man beaten and or killed by police... I have to make sure I’m not a threat because if I make someone scared or uncomfortable they can shoot me. They can shoot my ass and get away with it. I’ve been internalizing these messages for the last four years, and it’s changing my body. It’s changing my brain and my emotions. It’s making me go into survival mode, where I, a human being, become an animal because that’s what I’m constantly told I am..."

So, what are we to tell our beautiful Black and Brown boys?

As a mother, my instincts scream "Keep the child safe!" But if he does not participate in demonstrations, group actions and even risk arrest how will he know that he is powerful, not just an extension of what the dominant society says?

Tonight I'm going to screen the first play that I've written where my son said: "It made me feel like I had to go out and freaking do something!"

The play, "To Cross an Ocean Four Centuries Long" features an enslaved woman, Hannah, who lost her son. I was entrusted with her story after wrestling with the autobiography of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman. She came to me while I slept. I resisted because there were no documents to back up her story. But finally, I got up around 4am and wrote her story. Her grief, her adaptation to that loss wrenched my heart. She could not keep her boy safe.

Tonight we will screen the filmed version of the play. I will once again cry with Hannah. I will think about the mothers of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown.

I will think about my son.

However, this time I will think about how I will support him at his school. This time I will urge him to resist, to organize, and to act on behalf of his people, all people.

Join me.

Feb. 10 @The Ware Center 8pm Come watch my film "To Cross an Ocean Four Centuries Long: Slavery and the Nature of Hope"

or

Purchase the film.

COME OUT AND BE INSPIRED! Feb. 21 @Hanover Presbyterian Church Wilmington DE @4pm: Gospel Vespers Feb. 24 @Lancaster Theological Seminary @4pm: a performance lecture Feb. 28 @Lancaster Blues and Roots Festival @noon: INSPIRA Feb. 29-March 2@ Hamilton College, Clinton NY March 25 @Chester Senior Center @6pm: INSPIRA March 26@ Haverford College @7pm: INSPIRA March 31, Swarthmore College @4:30pm: To Cross an Ocean Four Centuries Long

Peace and love! Amanda

P.S.--I have room for one more screening of my film "To Cross an Ocean Four Centuries Long" in February. Watch the trailer. Please let me know if you'd like to host a viewing. AK

Fighting Racism at Sixteen: Rage and Despair

How do you fight racism or other isms without allowing the fight to define you?  What do you do when the terms of the debate and the criminal justice system put you on the defensive?  Below is a guest post by a sixteen year old African American. Please make comments on Facebook and share.--Amanda Kemp

People ask me why I fight against problems that aren’t going to be solved anytime soon. Specifically, they’re referring to the fight against racism and racial bias. Often, I tell them that if I don’t fight, who will, and who else is going to give a damn about by son’s future if I don’t? People don’t understand that I really don’t have a choice but to fight. For some reason people react to my fighting as cool and admirable, as thought I have a choice about whether to not to fight. What people don’t realize is the impact fighting can have on a human being. Fighting even when you’re not conscious you’re fighting. It changes you.

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I used to love to fight when I was young. It was fun and it was a way where I could get the attention and respect I craved. As I grew older that slowed down for me. My pops explained that I was getting too old to fight, and that if I kept it up I’d find myself in trouble with the police one way or another. He said I was big enough now that I could do serious damage to someone without wanting to, and someone could do serious damage to me. As I found myself more as person and had less of a craving for attention and validation from the people around me, my fighting ceased.

Well, I thought it ceased until recently. I’m still a fighter. I definitely fight more now than I did before. It’s not that I like to fight; it’s more so that I have to fight. There is a piece of me that doesn’t allow certain things to slide. That piece is embedded in my soul and I can’t figure out how to control it.

The fight has shifted to being internal. I usually don’t fight people. I fight their ideas and or their opinions. Lately, just pounding ideas has become harder and harder. I find myself getting upset and wanting to dismantle the ideas but also dismantle things. I want to hit things and break them. I want see people hurt because they don’t give a fuck what’s going on around them. They don’t give a fuck that I am in pain every single day because my humanity isn’t valued. I want them to feel a fraction of the pain I feel daily. I want them to look in my eyes and see the hurt. I want them to know that in this society my body and my mind is lesser than theirs, and because of that I’m disposable. I’m just another Nigga that can be shot and killed without any consequences.

At least once a month I see a video of a Black man beaten and or killed by police. My parents and loved ones tell me to be careful. They tell me to do things I shouldn’t have to do, but if I want to survive I have to listen. I have to make sure I’m not a threat because if I make someone scared or uncomfortable they can shoot me. They can shoot my ass and get away with it. I’ve been internalizing these messages for the last four years, and it’s changing my body. It’s changing my brain and my emotions. It’s making me go into survival mode, where me, a human being becomes an animal because that’s what I’m constantly told I am and what I see people like me being treated It is beginning to be too much to cope with at times. People say things, or I watch a video of a handcuffed man’s head being kicked like a football by a white dude with a badge. These things flip a switch. My body feels like it’s going to detonate when it’s reminded that where I live I’m not safe. I don’t have the same human experience as white people. I have to be on the lookout constantly, like prey in the wild. When I’m triggered I don’t have control of my body. When an animal is running from prey it’s not thinking about anything else except survival. I am sixteen years old and I’m a human being, and I know that feeling. I know what it feels like to only care about surivival.

I had the feeling a couple weeks ago. Someone said something about another black person being taken to a secret police interrogation site and tortured to death in Chicago. I had a mug in my hand and my hand starting shaking so badly that I dropped the mug. My heart began to beat furiously and my face got tight. I ground my teeth and couldn’t be still. I went into a mode where I felt like an animal that had had enough and was going to try and destroy my predator. In this situation it felt like my predators were white students at this school saying racism is not a thing anymore. I can’t just go and hurt little innocent white children that don’t know that they just hurt my feelings. I ran and starting punching and kicking things. I hurt myself. I punched until I couldn’t feel my right hand and my arm was covered in blood. It was raining and I was muddy and bloody. I sat down in the mud, and just cried. I didn’t cry because of any physical pain to anything like that, I cried because I knew what was happening. I cried because I knew it was just going to get worse. I don’t know how much longer my human body and brain can take feeling like an animal.

I am being reconfigured as a human being. Humans adapt to survive. I feel like I’m adapting to become an animal, an animal in constant danger. I don’t know what to do about it.

If You're Black, Jump Back?

If you're white, you're all right.If you're brown, hang around.If you're black, jump back.--children's rhymeIf you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, please do not proceed further. --Harvard University Implicit Bias Test Introduction

I was a tornado of a little girl.  I had lots of energy and imagination.  I made up songs and dramas and acted them out --by myself if no one was around or wanted to play with me.I loved the social life of elementary school and the intellectual challenge.  I can't remember not knowing how to read. I loved nap time in kindergarden.  I loved cookies for jobs completed in first grade.  I loved my second grade teacher's turban and long arm of bracelets.  She was light brown and bought me a notebook.I did not like being Black.  I did not like my dark brown skin color.  I did not like the jokes, the criticisms, and the presumption that I was not pretty because I was "dark-skinned.""Don't turn off the lights; we'll never find Amanda!" would always get a laugh.I wasn't good at put-downs so I would smile and pretend I did not care.  I felt guilty as charged.  I was Black.  I didn't know of any insults for being brown, tan, yellow, coffee colored, etc.  I grew up in the 1970s in a predominantly Black neighborhood with a sizable Puerto Rican and Latino population.  It was still an insult to call someone "black."  I remember someone saying: "I'm not Black; I'm brown."Yes, this was the time of James Brown's "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud," but it was also the time of only lighter-skinned women being featured as Jet Magazine's Beauty of the Week.  

All of the new Black television shows and movies of the 1970s featured women who were lighter skinned --unless they were playing asexual, mammy characters.  Think  "Julia" or even "Raisin in the Sun."  To comfort me, my foster mother would say "Don't you worry, baby; you're getting lighter every day."  I was the only dark brown girl in the family.  I hoped she was right because the only other dark brown person in the house was my foster brother, a teen who was always in trouble.Eventually, I started fighting back.  In junior high, a group of boys would pick a girl they thought was ugly and scream at her in the hallway while we changed classes.  I'd watched them do it to several girls--all dark brown.  I was in the smart class.  I had glasses.  I had crooked teeth.  And, most importantly I was Black.

When they screamed at me, I just kept walking as if I didn't see them.  I don't know if my friends were with me, but I felt alone.One of the boys stepped in front of me and said something, and I opened my mouth:"You're no dreamboat yourself" came out.I kept walking.All of his friends laughed.  They were shocked an "ugly girl" had hit back.  They were shocked at my word choice.  I know because they said so.Later, when I was in my final year of junior high, a boy shouted as I passed by "you look like an African queen."Now in my neighborhood, even if we had mostly gotten to the point of not denying we were black, we were emphatically NOT African.  Notwithstanding the Black nationalists, the Nation of Islam, and other folks countering the narrative of Africa as a dark continent, most people in my world did not respect, value or claim any connection to Africa.Therefore when he put 'African" in front of queen; I heard it as mockery.  My response:  "That's the best kind."I tell you these stories because I've battled to see my skin color as sensual, rich, and one of my best features.  I have fought despair and loneliness when I was passed over because I was too dark.  When I read about dark brown women characters choosing navy and brown clothes so as not to draw attention to our skin, and I went out and bought yellows, reds, pinks, and white.  After I graduated from college, I was approached by my friend Luis, a light-skinned Mexican American.  I tried to explain my hesitance to date him.  I liked him.  A lot.   He was really cute and artistic.  But, I said, very gently "I'm really Black."  I'll never forget his reaction.  He literally fell down on the hiking trail in laughter.  I tried again:   I am not a "by the way" Black person.  (I love this story and promise to write another post about what happened after that.)I am now almost fifty.  Studies show that colorism and white supremacy persist, but I resist.  I have degrees and certifications in African & Afro-American Studies and African Studies.  I've taught Africana Studies, classes on whiteness, and  post-colonialism.  I've lived on the Continent, organized Black students, represented Black community interests, and organized in support of African liberation movements.  I've built an identity around actively fighting for Black Art, Black complexity, Black traditions, Black intellectual history.

Therefore, I approached Harvard's implicit bias test with high awareness of color preference in our society.  I chose the Skin-Tone Implicit Bias Test without a lot of forethought.  Ten minutes later I got my results.  I had a moderate "preference for light-skin relative to dark-skin."  Despair.I had battled and lost.  My unconscious, the realm out of my control, had learned "If you black, jump back."I did not like my results.  Yes, I had grown up in a white supremacist society.  Yes, I'd gotten messages my entire life, all around me every day that light is better than dark; white is better than black; etc.  It's understandable, but still, I do not like my results.Immediately questions rise:My children: one brown, one tan.  Do I prefer the tan child?My stepchildren: two blondes, one brunette.  Do I prefer the blondes?My husband: blue green eyes, grey-white hair, white skin.  Do I prefer white men?I do not like these questions. If you're white, you're all right.If you're brown, hang around.If you're black, jump back.But I sit with them.I commit again to find and declare the Good, Beautiful, Powerful, Smart, and Lovely in Blackness, in dark-brown people.  I challenge you.  I invite you.  Take at least one action every day for a week to counter the implicit bias to favor light-skinned or degrade dark-skinned people.  At the end of the week, join me for a conference call to share what you experienced.  If you can't make the call, write something somewhere.  Here's a study with some suggested actions. Email me for the conference call details.Peace and love,Amanda

Pray for Me...

This morning, I was sketching out my day when my Michael arrived and said "Aren't you going to watch the Pope?"  I hadn't intended to, but I wanted to spend a little time with my very busy husband so I sat to watch the Pope speak to Congress.  I tuned in and out until the Pope went outside to wave at a crowd.  Speaking in his native Spanish, he said "Pray for me" and asked those who did not believe or could not pray to send him good wishes.I've always liked this Pope for his economic justice advocacy, but after hearing him ask regular people to pray for him I opened my heart to Pope Francis. I still disagree with him on significant issues,but his humility dissolved my self-righteousness.  When he asked me to pray for him, he made himself vulnerable-- not perfect, all-seeing or impervious.  Like me, he needs prayer.  He's in a little boat making big waves, and sometimes we all lose direction.Watching the Pope and discussing this with Michael afterward made me late for an event featuring acclaimed playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.  

I almost skipped it, but something told me to just go. As I walked into a warm college gym, Suzan-Lori was demonstrating what she called Radical Inclusion. With her arms stretched open so wide that they were behind her a bit, she demonstrated that radical  inclusion requires opening the heart to the point of some discomfort.  Radical inclusion means stretching to see some of ourselves in those we don't like or with whom we profoundly disagree.  Then a student asked what do you do when you are low or stop believing in your dream.  Without skipping a beat, Sister-Girl said "Pray."  She suggested something short such as "God, gosh (or whoever), help!"  That exchange also took me into my heart.  It's like Suzan-Lori was saying take your sad, hurt, fearful self into your heart.  You will find help.I approached Suzan-Lori after her talk and told her that minutes earlier the pope had asked a for prayer, and she hugged me. 

Whether you believe in a Higher Power, God, Goddess or divinity; whether you like or dislike this Pope; you can allow someone into your strong beautiful heart and "pray" for them or send them "good wishes."  When we allow others into our hearts, we are called into our hearts, and I believe it is from the heart that we can transform anything.  

Please tune in to my new weekly radio show "

On a Mission to Heal the Planet

."  It's live on Tuesdays at 2pm EST.  I will feature an interview with Suzan Lori Parks and other Oneness Warriors.  

Sign up

if you'd like to subscribe to this blog or get the link for the weekly radio show.

Peace and love,

Amanda

Thank you for reading

On a Mission to Heal the Planet.

  Our mission is to nurture and expand the Tribe of the Heart, individuals who stand for Oneness and Take Action to heal the world, their families, and themselves.  

Stay in touch!

 Peace and Love, Amanda

#WeAreHere for All of Us. No Exceptions!

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I love Alicia Keyes song "We are here."  I have a penchant for visionaries and in this song she sings the impossible:  "We are here for all of us...that's why we are here."

My soul loves the challenge in this song.  We are here for each other whether we are Syrians detained in Hungary or a teenager locked in solitary confinement on Rikers Island.  We are here for all of us.  None of us gets left out.  As I sing along, I know the truth of her statement, but the tears well up because the gap between that truth and this reality seems infinite.

Are we really here for all of us?  How about the folks doing Rebel Runs in Lancaster County to support the Confederate flag?  How about the people who kill children in Gaza or Nigeria?

Am I here for all of us?  Am I here for the police who arrested and knocked African American tennis player James Blake to the ground even though he repeatedly told them who he was?  Am I here for the clerk in Alabama who does not want to marry same sex couples?

I know these folks aren't here for me, but in the face of this reality, Alicia still sings:

We are here... We are here for all of us We are here for all of us That's why we're here.

How do I pray for the dominating and overpowering?  Based on my early childhood experience of domestic violence, I automatically feel for the underdog.  If it's David and Goliath, I'll side with David every time.

Yet Alicia's song invites us to another order of logic, another paradigm, the paradigm of Oneness.

When I'm feeling grateful and safe, this paradigm of Oneness seems obvious and superior to Separation.  However, when I'm angry and feeling abandoned, Alicia's invitation doesn't even occur to me.  I'm automatically in Separation.

Because I'm human, I've got to cultivate the capacity to see and hear and ACT from the space of "We are here for all of us."  It does not come naturally.  My brain's default is threat and defense; judgement and separation.  To cultivate Alicia's song requires practice and forgiveness.

Here are 2 ways we can cultivate Oneness:

1.  Practice Mindful Meditation: Meditation is just practicing bringing all of you into the present moment.  "We are here" refers to accepting all of you:  your mind, body and heart/spirt.  When you practice being present with your self, you are practicing Oneness and expanding your capacity for holding.  In a previous blog, I listed a bunch of Meditation Resources.

2.  Hold Space for Transformation I once heard Transformation Leader Niyonu Spann describe holding space as being in a consciousness of active unconditional acceptance, a space of prayer...

When I hold space, I adopt a mindset akin to the Sufi poet Rumi beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing.  I listen with lovingkindness to all parties and parts of me.  For me, this means that I participate in a Black Lives Matter March and I cultivate a feeling of lovingkindness even to those who defend the systematic degradation of Black people.  Holding space is a wide embrace of the possibility of transformation of the situation and the players inside it.

Let me know your thoughts and experiences.  Please.

We are in this together.  All of us! Peace and love, Amanda

How to Get Your Self Together Now

Mindfulness is being here and now without judgement.  Your mind, your heart and your body are all in the same place.

--JusTme, Hip Hop Artist and Mindfulness Teacher

 

When I heard hip hop artist JusTme say that I felt myself well up.  How often is my heart in one place, my mind in another and my body completely offline?

Right before I sat down to write this blog, I said goodbye to my husband, but my mind was on the blog.  My heart was probably with him; I have no memory of what my body was doing.  By splitting my self, I lost something precious.  I lost me.  And, I lost the chance to really feel him, his care for me.

It wasn't until I did some mindful breathing and listening with JusTme that I realized how juicy and sweet bringing my mind, heart and body together is.

How many times a day do you lose yourself?  How often do you feel neglected and spent at the end of the day because you've been separating heart, mind and body?

When I go around multi-tasking and disconnecting from my body or my heart, I find myself thinking like a victim:  Nobody's helping me.  I'm alone.   Nobody's going to do this except me.

If you're mad at everyone and doing things without knowing why or if they are important, you may have left your heart or you body.   Are you avoiding feeling sad or abandoned?

When my body goes offline, I'm more likely to catastrophize about the bills, my son's health, global warming, attacks on black life, etc.  Then, I'm nervous, afraid and uncreative.   When I'm separating from my heart and body; my mind on its own is just too negative and defensive.

Does this sound familiar?

Here's what you can you do to bring the mind, body and heart into the same place and same time: 

  • Set a timer for 5 minutes to breathe mindfully and kind-fully.  Inhale gently through the nose and exhale through the mouth quietly.  Just focus the mind on the breath.  When you become aware of thoughts, just focus back on the breath.  What's important is that you do this without judgement of how good or bad you are.
  • Throughout the day:  Feel your feet on the ground; when you drink, feel the liquid in your mouth and throat; periodically check in with your heart and belly and ask how they are feeling.
  • Look for a course or weekly group activity that will help you to sustain your practices.  Most of us do better in community than we do alone!

Will you join me in one or all of these ways of getting yourself together?

Peace and love! Dr. Amanda Kemp