Racism robs all of us of our humanity.

I wrote the following yesterday.  And at the risk of being told I am shedding white woman tears I am going to post this anyway.

~ Liona

 

I have been working on not shutting down my empathy and compassion. The last few years have been a real challenge for me in this regard. So much pain and suffering by so many… I feel it so acutely. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I have a fairly dark sense of humor bordering on real cynicism. There is a reason for that, that I have also been working on for many years. I know what compassion fatigue looks and feels like. And I also know that is is damaging to everyone involved.

I never thought of myself as particularly empathic. Even though I have spoken the words, “I can emotionally scan the room to see where the danger lies” it didn’t occur to me that this ability was/is empathy. Heavy sigh, sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake. Anyway, my story:

The other day I was driving out of my subdivision to pick my son up from school. There is a bench in the open space. It is not shaded by anything and so, this being Texas, no one really sits there unless it is evening or cool out. On this day there was a man sitting there in a white tank shirt (and is was very cool out) with his head in his hands and I could feel his heart breaking as I drove by. I mean, I was feeling normal happy driving to get my kid and then this rush of anguish flooded in as I drove by him. I kept driving for a few seconds stunned and then I turned around to go see if he was okay.

I pulled up to the curb and rolled my window down and said, “Sir? Sir? Are you okay?” he looked at me somewhat confused and said, “Ma’am?” I asked again, “Are you okay?” he replied, “Yes ma’am.” I asked, “Are you sure?” he replied, “Yes ma’am.” We locked eyes for a moment and I nodded and went back on my way.

Since that day the moment has been playing over and over in my head. I wish I had told him I could feel his heart breaking…that I wanted to give him a blanket and a cup of hot tea or a shot of whiskey or something to help him. An ear to listen… But then I realized that I live in Texas, I’m white. I drive a truck and he is black. I remembered that we were just several houses away from a house that has Trump for president sign in the yard. My impulse to offer comfort may have filled him with fear, probably filled him with fear. And that my impulse, no matter how well intentioned, was probably neither helpful nor wanted. My mom used to say often, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions (you know, presupposing a belief in hell, but I’m sure you get my drift.).”

Today on my walk I realized that racism seeks to dehumanize and make those that do not look like us “other” and dangerous. And what it really does, while dehumanizing people we think are others, it dehumanizes US. Racism robs everyone of their humanity, both the perpetrators and the victims (while it is clear the victims suffer more immediately and with greater damage). It makes us suspicious of people offering compassion and it makes us unlikely to offer compassion and often become unable to feel empathy for the suffering of others.

We hear daily, the demonization of all kinds of people, including those that look like us. We are given scary images and anecdotal stories of murder, rape, and other horrors. We are taught that “those people” have “no regard for life…not like us.” It matters not what racial group you are in, every group has the group it hates and directs its fears at and holds responsible for whatever suffering they may be experiencing. Often those loudest in hate speech have never met anyone different from them, not in belief, not in country of origin, not in language, not in skin color.

I’m over here shaking my head trying to figure out the best way to say what I want to say…
Other people’s hatred and bigotry means that even if we do not harbor those hatreds or bigotries we must understand that it does not mean we will be trusted simply because we do not. NOR SHOULD WE BE. Undoing centuries of oppression and bigotries towards all kinds of “others” will take generations, no matter how well intentioned we are. Trust must be earned. I wish I could go back and apologize for my intrusion on this man’s agony. My intention to help was one of those bricks on the road to hell… And I hate that. I never wanted or intended to add to this man’s pain. Racism robs us all of our humanity. Both in offering and receiving empathy. I’m hoping that I can remember that as I work to dismantle racism and not add anymore bricks of good intentions to another person’s burden, another person’s agony.

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Hello 2016!

Today is January 4th, 2016. 2015 is over. December brought a lot of change for our family. My husband is one of three sons, his father one of two sons. Both of his brothers had only sons and, while I have daughters from a previous relationship, he and I have a son. In December my sister-in-law had a daughter. Nine days later my sister-in-law died. My husband naturally went to be with his brother and the rest of his family. I stayed home with our son so he could finish his finals at school and I could finish preparing for the holidays.

In August my oldest daughter got married. At Thanksgiving my other daughter got engaged. In December two of my daughters and my future son-in-law came for the holidays. So much happiness, so much sorrow.

I begin the new year with new determination and focus as our family heals. My heart breaks for our newest family member who will never know her mother, for my nephews who lost their mother and for my brother-in-law who has lost his life partner. They are surrounded in love and will be supported as they transition to life without their beloved.

I rejoice as our family expands and my daughters find partnership.

My husband always gets annoyed when I say I like my chocolate like my life, bittersweet. But life is bittersweet and I think dark chocolate really is better. 2015 was an ass kicker all around. 2016 looks like it will be the year to implement all the changes and realizations that my shadows have taught me in 2015.

I am wishing everyone the most gentle transition possible in 2016.
Blessings,
Liona

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In the works at 10K Sanctuary

There is lots happening behind the scenes here at 10K Sanctuary. We are in process of creating a sustainable farming apprenticeship. Well, actually, it is nearly done just working on the final touches and trying to figure out how to best get the word out.

Mary Tufts, one of our board members and an experienced farmer, has agreed to teach others what she knows about farming restoratively and sustainably here in Texas. I have said to her more than once, “I wish I could just empty your head into mine!” Her knowledge is extensive both with plants and animal husbandry. Recently she bought land in Rosanky and is extending the rare opportunity to see what it takes to grow a farm from the ground up. It is not for everyone, the work is hard and Texas is hot, If you ever wanted to know what it takes to farm you really shouldn’t pass up this opportunity.

I have been really upset by the actions of Daesh throughout the world. The displaced people, the deaths of so many caused by a few radical renegades and the resulting refugee situations throughout the world. The most reported on are the Syrian refugees, but they are not the only people in crisis. I have lost sleep over this. Instead of doing nothing I created a fundraiser on Crowdrise. All of the money goes directly to Mercy Corps.  10K Sanctuary never sees the money.  I chose Crowdrise because the money goes directly to the relief group, they only take 3% of the donations (other crowdfunding organizations take up to 8%) and we do not have to meet our goal for the money to get to Mercy Corps.  I chose Mercy Corps because they are providing relief on the ground to refugees around the world.   I hope you will choose to donate to Pagans Helping Refugees .   So far we have raised $245.00  I am hoping that as a community we can do more.

We continue to look for a permanent home for 10K Sanctuary and for ways to pay for it.  We are in the dark of the year now.  A time for going inward and knowing ourselves and our shadows before we burst forth in the spring.  I wish all a very happy Solstice/Yule surrounded by your loved ones.

Blessings,

Liona

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Spiritual work in a mundane world

Life has a way of getting away from me. While I work diligently, step by step, to get 10K Sanctuary up and running, I still have to eat and I still have to work to make sure that I can remain living inside, just like everyone else. I wish I was able to work full time on this as I am sure there is some heartwork that YOU wish you could work on full time.
Having said that, 10K Sanctuary is looking for a space to rent to call home! From my searches it appears that it will cost between $1800. and $2500. a month. For that to be feasible we will need people to commit to memberships. At this time, there is no membership option on our donate page. I do not know how to set that up, so if anyone does please hook me up!
So far we have $228.00 in the 10K Sanctuary bank account. Initially there were bank fees of $10. a month, but UFCU credit union stopped charging fees to businesses last December. YAY! So now all of the money donated goes in the bank and will not be touched until we have a physical space.
I have approximately $6-5,000. worth of antiques that have been donated by Mary Tufts to 10K Sanctuary. My problem is I do not know the best way to sell them! If anyone would like to donate their expertise on how best to trade them for money I would be most appreciative. That would solve the problem of deposits and one or two months of rent on a space.
Any ideas or thoughts on how best to manifest money, locations for the Temple or donations you may want to make are truly appreciated.
Many thanks to Cristina Ayala and Cody Blair for their continued support! Thanks to Catherine and Jo, who donate their space for us to meet regularly. I would also like to thank the many people who give what they can. Every penny is appreciated and builds intention AND the bank account.
Blessings!
Liona 🙂
Doing spiritual work in the mundane world is full of busy work. We at 10K Sanctuary appreciate

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Adventures and serendipity

The writing prompt is “what is on your mind” and I must say A LOT. Like many people I am on Facebook. Through Facebook I have joined some amazing groups on spirituality, feminism, feminist spirituality, Goddess worship, etc. Through interacting on/with those groups I have met some very interesting people. One of the groups I belong to is Kolo: Women’s Cross Cultural Collaboration started by Danica Anderson (pronounced Danissa).
This week Danica Anderson and the Kolo are putting on a an International Women’s Summit organized by Valley Reed in Dallas, Texas. I am unable to attend the summit due to prior commitments, however, I spoke to both Danica and Valley and asked if there might be time for us to meet in person. They both said yes. Valley generously offered for me to spend the night in her home. So I went thinking we would have lunch and I would come home having met some amazing women. And that did happen. Valley informed me before I left home that there was going to be an informal dinner for the key note speakers and asked if I would like to attend. I, of course, said YES!
When I arrived and finally met Valley in person I felt like I was meeting an old friend. She invited me in and showed me where I would be staying. I settled my stuff while Valley finished up some business. Then we went to lunch at an amazing middle eastern food restaurant. Over lunch she said we would be picking up the key note speakers on our way to the dinner in Arlington. I really didn’t think much of it until Valley said both of the key note speakers were Nobel Peace Prize nominees (!).
One of the keynote speakers is Jolly Grace Okot Andruvile (pronounced Jo-li as in Angelina Jolie). The other keynote speaker is Wahu Kaara . I was feeling a little out of my league! That is until I met both women. We spent an hour in the car just talking. Wahu is a dynamic woman and plans to run for president of Kenya! She is the kind of person that will motivate you to DO SOMETHING, anything to help the earth and women’s place in society. Jolly (she said she does not like the sound of her name in American mouths; Jolly instead of Jo-li. She said this as I was thinking, oooh, Jo-li is such a pretty name.) Jolly is very passionate about helping former female child soldiers find a trade. As the evening goes on I learned that she had been a child soldier and lived in a concentration camp and is a rape survivor.
Once we arrived at the home where the dinner was held I learned that the host is one of the founders of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus and is on the board of directors of South Asia Democracy Watch! He and his wife, Samina Babhai, generously opened their home for this private reception. Many of the founding members of the AMDC were there as well.
Also in attendance were two women who lead the Kolo in Bosnia, Nisveta Džimika Pašić and Susana Koric both survivors of war crimes. Nisveta was a handball champion in the former Yugoslavia and is 78 going on 30! They are also to speak at the International Women’s Summit tonight.
There were so many amazing people there. Both before, during and after dinner the conversation was lively. The discussion was around women’s rights and visibility. How does one hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable? What is justice? How do we help the women and children (female and male) who are victims of rape, abduction and may have been forced into soldiering?
The conversation naturally turned to why do male soldiers feel they can just rape anyone? Danica answered, “I have asked that very question to soldiers. They say, “our job is to soldier their job is sex.”” I am still awe struck by that answer. Where does one start? How do you find a way in to start the conversation of the damage done to women? Jolly had a similar answer. All of the women had stories of assumptions of what their “jobs” were. The Bosnian women told of rape camps and how they survived them. The men were very receptive and open to the voices of the women present and shared stories of the strength of women in their lives and communities.
The topics were intense, but the conversation was lively and respectful and very good-natured. Amazingly there was a lot of laughter.
The group was made up of Muslims, Christians, Spiritual seekers, Shamanic workers and Goddess devotees (there may have been some other belief systems but they were not mentioned). There were people of many nations represented, we did not all agree on every topic and yet the evening was inspiring, joyful and educational.

Kolo meeting

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Remembering I am a spiritual being having a human experience…

Heavy sigh. I run a meetup group once a month. This past month we decided to discuss the Goddess Ma’at. she is both a concept and a Goddess. As with most meetups, they are open to whoever shows up. This time there were some new people. One of the new people in the group started out pleasant enough and asked lots of questions, which is great! That is the point of the group! To learn from each other as we all have different pockets of knowledge and we are all from different traditions or places in our spiritual journey.
As the evening went on this individual became more confrontational to other members and finally decided that s/he was right and all of the other members in the group were wrong. The discussion became heated. I then put an end to the discussion and suggested that if s/he was feeling the need to be right then s/he would have to be silent and just know that s/he is just smarter than the rest of us and keep that quietly to themselves or that perhaps this just isn’t the right group for her/him. S/he then got up and left.
In hindsight I think it would have been better to ask this person how their confrontational manner in any way furthered the discussion, how this behavior was kind, and if it was helpful. I don’t know that it would have changed the discourse, but I do think that the opportunity for a change in the tempo and the charged nature of the discussion would have had a better chance if I had sat and counted to ten before I responded.
There are many reasons why I was triggered to respond, and at the time, I was conscious of trying to say something difficult in the most gentle way possible. It was an unexpected turn of events in an otherwise pleasant and educational evening. In the future I will make a greater effort to do better in acknowledging my triggers and not allow myself to be lead by them.
It would appear the work never ends on the spiritual journey.

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What’s up with 10K Sanctuary?

Link

Well, lots. A year ago my husband and I put an offer in on some land with a house. Our offer was accepted, but the house was unlivable without over $100,000. worth of repairs, so we opted out. It was very sad. I liked the house and it was 25acres of unrestricted land. So since that didn’t work out I’ve been trying to figure out something different.
Recently there has been some interest in the local community for renting a space for the Goddess Temple. Of course, this takes money, and a regular stream of it, to pay the rent on said space. I have been looking for appropriate places and so far I have found buildings that will work, but no parking. Or places with plenty of parking and space but far out. The search continues.
In order for the Temple to be supported we will be offering memberships. However, I still need to do the math on the minimum amount of memberships and for what monthly amount will be needed for the space.
Recently a local woman tried to offer her land for use by the Pagan community. She was told by many what and how she would “need” to do that. Talking about sucking the joy and gift out of an offering! 10K Sanctuary has a board of directors and our purpose, mission and acceptable behavior in the Temple have been spelled out, so if you agree with our mission and purpose we would love to have you as part of our community! If not, then perhaps this is not the place for you.
Also, I have been collecting old prescription bottles with child proof tops for the Malawi Project. At our next meetup for Eclectic Pagans in Diaspora we will be removing the labels. 10K Sanctuary will pay the postage to sent them off. Our first action as 10K Sanctuary in service of the wider world community. I hope this is the first of many!

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More human moments.

I found my happy face. I’m back on track. Life can be so overwhelming sometimes. But then life can be all beautiful and inspiring too. The world is a crazy, crazy place.
I fully believe that in order for things to change, for us to change positively, we must work in the light. Good breeds good; bad breeds bad. (yes, yes I know subjectivity is not lost on me- one persons good may be another persons bad…)
Here is what I taught/teach my kids:
You don’t lie.
You don’t steal.
You don’t treat people like shit.
End of story.

It really is that simple. I had a moment of losing MY way watching people lie, steal and treat people like shit. I would like to remind everyone that once a person is dead, you can never take it back. NEVER. No matter how much you learn, no matter how bad you feel, no matter if the family has forgiven you, no matter what. I assumed that not treating people like shit included not killing them. But just in case that was not explicit enough.
DON’T KILL PEOPLE. Just don’t do it. Just don’t.
No exceptions. End of story. No matter how much you disagree, or think they are disrespecting you or really for any reason you think is good enough, it’s not. DON’T KILL PEOPLE. Don’t. DO NOT. There is never a good enough reason.

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human moments

Today I woke up in a foul mood. I didn’t sleep well and I feel like I am battling with other people’s shadows. I’m tired and cranky. So far I have been able to keep my mouth and my mood mostly to myself. I have informed my family of my lack of sleep and short fuse.
Deep, heavy sigh. Now they are walking on eggshells, understandably.
Sometimes being a spirit having a human experience is a big fat pain in the ass.

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Healing

In 2005 I started a phd program. I had been working towards a doctorate degree for so long and being accepted at the school of my choice was one of the happiest days of my life! I began with so much hope for the future. My husband and I had just bought a house and our 18 month old son was healthy and happy. Everything was wonderful.

We began the extensive renovations on our new home soon after moving in (when you buy a fixer upper you have to fix it up…) with sweat equity and the naivety of first time home buyers. I also began my doctoral program and our son began a great pre-school. (our new neighbor just happened to run a day care and our son would look out the picture window that faced the door to the pre-school and shout “HI KIDS” to every kid as they entered or exited the school with their parents.).

As time went on friction between the administrator of the program and me increased. It became clear that she did not approve of the way I embraced feminism, Goddess spirituality or really the way I did anything. While I maintained a a great GPA it became clear I was never going to graduate from that school as long as she was administrator.

While the situation deteriorated at school, the real estate market crashed. Our house dropped in value a significant amount and we were now one of the millions who were upside-down on their mortgage. Our son remained healthy and his school situation remained a good one. But pretty much everything else started to get really crappy.

My step-mother died. My mom’s best friend, a constant in my life since I was born, died. My good friend died. My uncle died. SO many stressors! Listserves that were a lifeline were now a source of distress. And so many more things were happening. It was profoundly wounding on a intellectual, spiritual and emotional level.

It wasn’t an entirely awful time, my relationship with my husband remained strong and our family remained healthy. My daughter graduated from college, my other daughter graduated high school and my oldest daughter found a truly loving relationship. But the stress levels were high due to the financial burdens and great losses in my personal life. It also meant the death of my dream of ever having a doctorate degree.

This past week a friend from graduate school came to Texas to present at the Gloria Anzaldua Conference in Austin. She opted to stay with us, as we live close to Austin. I attended the conference with her. It was the first conference I had attended since I had presented with her at a conference in 2008.

We stayed up late and talked, we laughed, we discussed past events including the time at university. She has completed her studies and is now a Doctor! Her visit and conversations with her friends have put my past decisions into perspective. My decision to quit school, however painful, was exactly the right one. If I had stayed the politics would have killed me in a very literal way.

Seven years after quitting school and five years after moving to Texas I can finally say I am healed. In no small way because of this past week. I feel like I can finally move on and do what I do in the world.

Healing comes when you are done processing, not when you want it to. Sometimes it only takes a year, sometimes it takes less time sometimes it takes longer. It took me time to remember who I was and what I felt like before the intellectual, emotional and spiritual beating I took at the hands of people who professed being spiritual. But I have arrived. finally, at healed.

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