Building community in a changing world

December 12, 2022

Touch Someone

I love to be touched. I’m a hugger. I like to hold hands with my wife. I like to be petted while watching TV. I’m lucky that I’m not one of the many who don’t feel the same way because studies have shown there are real benefits to being touched.

Here’s a few selected excerpts from this article in “Medical News Today”:

  • Famous studies have demonstrated that children — as well as the infants of non-human primates — who grow up without affective touch have severe developmental issues and are unable to relate socially.
  • A study from Sweden — the findings of which were published last year in the journal Research on Language and Social Interaction — found that embracing and patting children in distress has a soothing effect for them.
  • A study found that women who offered physical touch as a symbol of support to their partners showed higher activity in the ventral striatum, which is a brain area involved in the reward system.
  • Moreover, a series of studies conducted by Dutch researchers showed that hugging could relieve a person’s feelings of existential fear and remove self-doubt.
  • One study published in 2014 in the journal Psychological Science suggested that the stress buffer provided by shared hugs actually has a protective effect against respiratory infections.
  • Finally, touch is very effective when it comes to relieving physical pain. Massage therapies can be a great way of soothing all kinds of aches, from headaches to back pain.

November 29, 2022

“Present Moment Self-Observation Without Judgment” (Witness Consciousness)

In this dharma talk, Jonathan Foust talks about what it’s like to be really free – that there are other states of consciousness other than being awake, sleeping (falling asleep and being aware of sense of where time and space get disoriented) and dreaming (having a dream and being aware that you’re dreaming it). Specifically, Jonathan digs into:

1. What is “Present Moment Self-Observation Without Judgment”?
2. How you can cultivate the optimal environment to develop the witness?
3. How to avoid the near-enemy of being the witness (states that look like they’re the witness but they’re not really).
4. What it means to be aware of the light behind the observer – awareness itself. Not just aware of your thoughts, but what it means to be fully awake. Awake to what’s happening and free (or aware of) reactivity.

November 14, 2022

Understanding the NVC Model

Here’s an excerpt from the “30 Day Challenge” offered by “The Antiracist Table” about how the NVC (nonviolent communication) model works: Understanding the need starts with seeing what happened without judgment and criticism. In other words, sticking to the facts. From there, one has to identify what they feel. NVC’s four main components:

1. Observations – What happened? Stick to what is factual. Avoid the characterization and judgment we are prone to. Describe what happened as if you were an uninvolved observer.

2. Feelings – Label the feelings coming up. Use the feelings list to help increase your emotion vocabulary. Feelings fall into two categories, unmet and met. Remember, feelings are not good or bad, they are information that can help you understand the underlying need. Labeling feelings can also take away some of their power.

3. Needs – Get to the heart of the conflict–what matters most to you and the other person in the conflict. Remember, “everything we do, we do to meet a need.”

4. Requests – Ask for what you want using a request, not a demand. A demand prompts criticism, judgment, and defensiveness. A request shows empathy towards the other person’s needs.

As part of NVC you work through steps 1 – 3 for yourself and then you work through steps 2 and 3 for the person involved in the conflict. When someone shows you that they see/hear your needs it can be very powerful–it can disarm the angriest of people; it can soften the hardest mindset. Start using these skills in low stakes conversations together with your AntiRacist Mindfulness Practices (being aware of what is happening in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way) and spend time each day reviewing the feelings and needs list to improve your feelings and needs vocabulary.

October 12, 2022

The Core Principles of AntiRacism

From the AntiRacist Table, here are the core principles of antiracism:

1. Intention – set and live in the intention to cultivate an AntiRacist America and take action that dismantles racist policies.
2. Educate – educate yourself and honor the history & culture of others.
3. Courage – put courage, compassion, and vulnerability over comfort.
4. Individuality – see individuals as individuals–meaning any positive or negative qualities of the individual are not attributed to all.
5. Humanity – take actions that support humanity.
6. AntiRacist – dismantle racist policies and create AntiRacist policies.
7. Equality – hold all groups of people, according to race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, age, and intersectionality as equal.
8. Empathy – cultivate empathy by rehumanizing the dehumanized.
9. Allies – recruit and support partners committed to AntiRacist work.
10. Love – choose love and healing over fear and oppression.

October 3, 2022

White Fragility

Here is an excerpt from “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo (here’s a great video of Robin presenting), courtesy of The AntiRacist Table:

“To say that whiteness is a standpoint is to say that a significant aspect of white identity is to see oneself as an individual, outside or innocent of race–’just human.’ Whites also produce and reinforce the dominant narratives of society–such as individualism and meritocracy–and use these narratives to explain the positions of other racial groups. These narratives allow us to congratulate ourselves on our success within institutions of society and blame others for their lack of success.” 27

“Exploring our [white people’s] collective racial identity interrupts a key privilege of dominance–the ability to see oneself only as an individual. We need to discuss white people as a group–even if doing so jars us–in order to disrupt our radicalized identities. For people of color, the privilege of being seen (and seeing themselves) as unique individuals outside the context of race cannot be taken for granted. Talking about race and racism in general terms such as white people is constructive for whites because it interrupts individuals. But racial generalization also reinforces something problematic for people of color–the continual focus on their group identity.

Furthermore, it collapses many racial groups into one generic category, therefore denying the specific way that different groups experience racism. While people of color share some experiences of racism overall, there are also variations based on a specific group’s history. These variations include how group members have adapted to the dominant culture, how they have been represented, how they have been positioned in relation to other groups of color, and the ‘role’ the group has been assigned by dominant society. The messages I have internalized about people of Asian heritage, for example, are not the same as those I have internalized for Indigenous people, and a key aspect of challenging these messages is to identify their differences and how they shape my attitudes toward various groups of color.” 89-90

This New Yorker article about Robin’s book is useful – here’s an excerpt from that (and here’s a good list of examples of white privilege):

In DiAngelo’s almost epidemiological vision of white racism, our minds and bodies play host to a pathogen that seeks to replicate itself, sickening us in the process. Like a mutating virus, racism shape-shifts in order to stay alive; when its explicit expression becomes taboo, it hides in coded language. Nor does prejudice disappear when people decide that they will no longer tolerate it. It just looks for ways to avoid detection.

“The most effective adaptation of racism over time,” DiAngelo claims, “is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people.” This “good/bad binary,” positing a world of evil racists and compassionate non-racists, is itself a racist construct, eliding systemic injustice and imbuing racism with such shattering moral meaning that white people, especially progressives, cannot bear to face their collusion in it.

September 20, 2022

Dealing with Shame

Here’s an excerpt from the “30 Day Challenge” offered by “The Antiracist Table” about how we need empathy to rehumanize and we need empathy to get past shame:

Shame is a common feeling for non-Black people when race comes up. Shame may also come up for BIPOC around race for different reasons. Brené Brown says shame “is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Brown says the real antidote to shame is “shame resilience,” which “is about moving from shame to empathy.”

Brown outlines four steps to get to shame resilience:

  1. Recognizing shame and understanding its triggers;
  2. Practicing critical awareness;
  3. Reaching out; and
  4. Speaking shame.

September 13, 2022

More on “Slavery in America”

Continuing on with some thoughts on “Slavery in America: The Montgomery Slave Trade” from the “Equal Justice Initiative Report,” as first noted in this recent blog.

Here’s some of the things taught in the middle of the report:

– It is estimated that more than half of all enslaved people held in the Upper South were separated from a parent or child through sale, and a third of all slave marriages were destroyed by forced migration.
– Only a small percentage of enslaved people were traded due to economic hardship or attempts to escape.
– Slave markets across Alabama, particularly the one in Montgomery, facilitated the kidnapping and enslavement of free African Americans.
– To conceal an enslaved person’s age or ailments, traders would decorate the enslaved to increase their marketability.
– African American women were raped by their owners and passed around to friends and visitors to do the same.

September 6, 2022

Slavery in America

I just started the “30 Day Challenge” offered by “The Antiracist Table” and the reading assignment for Day #1 is an eye-opener as could be expected. It’s entitled “Slavery in America: The Montgomery Slave Trade” from the “Equal Justice Initiative Report.”

Here’s some of the things taught in the first section of the report:

– The magnitude of slavery was larger than I thought – 10.7 million people were transported to America, with another 2 million dying in transit
– The particular experience of American slavery took different forms based on region and time period. Slavery became less efficient and less socially accepted in the Northeast during the eighteenth century, and those states began passing laws to gradually abolish slavery.
– By 1860, in the fifteen Southern states that still permitted slavery, nearly one in four families owned enslaved people.
– The racialized caste system of American slavery that originated in the British colonies was unique in many respects from the forms of slavery that existed in other parts of the world. It was permanent, not a class distinction that could be overcome.
– The myth of black people’s racial inferiority developed and persisted as a common justification for the system’s continuation. Ending slavery was not enough to overcome the harmful ideas created to defend it.

August 13, 2022

Work-Life Balance Today

I got drawn in to this podcast about “Work-life balance” because of a promise of analysis of the show “Severance,” which I love. There wasn’t too much analysis of the “innies” and “outies” but it was still interesting to hear the discussion led by Tracey Diamond and Evan Gibbs as they sat down with Debbie Epstein Henry, who is the host of the “Inspiration Loves Company” podcast. As all three are lawyers, the focus in on a law firm life…