Every Racial Justice advocate, organizer and educator needs to regularly nourish themselves. Recently, I was talking with a friend and explained why self-compassion has made such a huge difference for me as a change maker and as a partner in an interracial marriage. The following is part of this conversation:
Self compassion and mindfulness gave me a way to stand for racial justice with less wear and tear on my being... When you stand for racial justice, you're in the midst of, you're immediately in conflict, right? But conflict is wearing, right? So we live in a society where I am constantly encountering data that angers or saddens me. Or that causes me pain or discomfort. And so what self compassion and mindfulness did, and I put the two together, is they gave me a way to cultivate a ways of being within myself so that that data is less powerful in acting on my system. And so I'm more mindful, conscious of what data I'm taking in and what I'm expanding on in my thinking. However, thinking is not enough.
For most folks mindfulness is about being able to witness or see something and not be the thing that you're witnessing or seeing. I would agree with that. But for me, I practice self-compassionate mindfulness which is a very deliberate investigation, not just of my thoughts, but also of my feelings and body sensations. So I check my emotions and my body sensations, seeking to give loving care, loving kindness to my nervous system, to my physical body, to the hurt, afraid self, that's reactive in the moment. You know what I mean?
I don't push away a reaction. To be self-compassionate with it is to pay attention to it and to see if there's something that I need or is there some way in which I am extending my suffering? Are there expectations, I'm having of myself or of other people that are exacerbating the negativity of the situation? Mindful self compassion is a way to be counter-cultural. It's a way to cultivate loving kindness inside of myself as I stand for something I call justice.
The problem with only standing for justice, as I see it, is that there is no comfort in there. Our nervous systems can get worn down or distorted because we're always in fight or flight. To stand in a place of restfulness, to even deliberately cultivate restfulness as a legitimate need and desire for someone who also stands for justice is unusual, which is why you don't hear those two in the same lane. But that's what I'm interested in.