Last week in my daughter's middle school a white student used the word *nigger and chile it was a whole entire thang.
Our daughters are no strangers to the work of social justice. We as a family are huge advocates for opportunities to do the difficult yet rewarding work of unifying people and making sure we speak out when systems 'whether intentional or not' create racial disparities.
With the scope of my husband's work largely dedicated to Diversity Equity and Inclusion, racial discourse and social justice is just part of the narrative in our home. We talk about race alot. We watch documentaries, read age appropriate books with the girls that discuss topics and issues of race in context of our history and the current climate of social and political unrest. We listen to music that uplifts and encourage self love and appreciation of their blackness. We are intentional about teaching them the economic impact of racism and being educated consumers when shopping. It's all good, mostly but at times the work of of educating yourself and being aware can feel like a burdomesome load. This is where having an active mindfulness practice can truly rejuvenate you and inform how and where you become active in the cause.
When my daughter came home that day. She was in her typical unimpressed mood so I really wasn't sure if she was going to bring up the whole incident. I had heard bits of the story from my husband on the ride home but I wanted to hear from her how it all went down.
We sat in the dining room next to each other and I asked her was their anything on her heart and mind that she wanted to talk about. In that moment I utilized a technique called the STOP method. I knew that this conversation had the potential to send me reeling and my husband was already super-charged. I wanted to be able to hear her, really hear without my own traumas around race fueling the fire of my reactions to the situation. So I took a mindful meditative moment.
S is for Stop and pause: I literally gave myself permission to "not do a damn thing right now" We are so conditioned to "think on our feet" and instantly react to something. Giving yourself permission to literally pause is such a gift you can give to yourself,
T is for Take a breath: Your breath is the remote control of your nervous system. When you are in fight, flight or freeze mode your breath becomes shallow and your ability to think reasonably is severely diminished. filling your lungs with air signals to your body that you are ok and want to divert energy to thinking in a clear way. I usually do about 4 even breaths. counting in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts.
O is for Observe: What is happening in you and around you? I entered the space of timeless awareness where I saw my daughter sitting beautifully in front of me. Her face, her turned up smile. Her penetrating eyes. I felt the floor beneath my feet. I felt the temperature of the room and felt the swirl of emotions and thoughts in and around me and gave myself permission to be the observer. I didn't have to respond to any of it and by being the observer for a few moments I consciously detach and become aware of all of the inputs vying for my attention and I can clearly see that I have a choice in which I can respond regardless of how strong the emotional trigger.
P is for Proceed with Consciousness: Do I need to act or listen? Am I in a space of acceptance of this moment. Yes, I have some triggers going on. Yes, I have some body sensations going on. But how do I want to proceed? Regardless of my next action I know that it will be conscious, intentional and of a higher quality because it is not out of a knee-jerk conditioned response which may or may not be how I really want to respond.
After she completed her recall of the days events she included the racial incident as a "blip" in her day. She told me that there was a large part of her that
was unaffected by the incident. She felt like it was ridiculous he used the word and did not even have any negative reaction. She also said there was part of her that saw how upset the other black kids were and she felt upset that this student made them feel bad. As she artfully articulated different aspects of her identity that had different responses in this situation I could not help but bream with pride. This 12 year old is firmly rooted in her true identity which is a timeless, boundless spirit having a human experience but also is aware enough to know that the human identities she associates with have certain social/mental/emotional constructs she experiences through a lens of race, gender, class, etc. I breathed a subtle sigh of relief knowing that what her Dad and I are doing is truly preparing her for the world and it is every parent's dream to get an opportunity to witness how firmly your kids are rooted.
Days like these remind me that although the inner work of social ju
stice can sometimes feel heavy. Connecting to your spirit through a regular mindfulness practice not only helps you regulate your emotions and think clearly during charged situations but has a far reaching impact on how you view yourself and others in this world. It impacts how you show up and how you will choose to wield your power during the time you have on this Earth.
If you need help finding ways to incorporate mindfulness in your Social justice/community work. Book a FREE consultation @mindfulmochamama.com