The end of a glorious day at Hapuna Beach in Hawaii.
The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss. –Rebecca Solnit
“Letting go is easy,” one of my meditation teachers once said.
He sat in front of a group of us who had gathered for the weekly dharma night teaching and pulled his keys out of his pocket. He held them for a brief second and then dropped them to the floor. “See,” he said. “It’s just like that.”
Just like what? It’s not that easy, I thought.
He did this over and over again – reaching, holding, dropping, reaching, holding, dropping …
It clearly took some effort for this elderly man to continually reach to the ground. His movements were awkward and uncomfortable.
Well, this is embarrassing, I remember thinking.
What is he doing?
Illustration by Alicia Brown
Expanding racial awareness is uncomfortable.
It requires looking at ourselves, examining potential blindspots and recognizing interactions shaded by ignorance, fear and shame. It requires deep listening, a humbling of ourselves and the confidence to risk saying the wrong thing in the name of trying to understand.
I did not ask to do this work.
You did not ask to do this work.
But, it’s been handed to us by the transgressions of our past and the aching denials of the present.
Racial injustice is a putrid tar that’s been mixed in with the mortar holding the bricks of our fragile society together. We can choose to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t stink, imagine that every powerful organization was not built by this noxious substance, but we do feel it.
My body and I have not always been on the best of terms. For most of my life, ignoring the anxiety, fear and self-doubt that I faced in my day-to-day was a second full-time job. I constantly looked to my colleagues to determine which face to put forward in different settings. Work meeting? That’s confident, decisive Kelsey. Party? That’s friendly, open Kelsey. I became so adept at being the person I thought I was supposed to be, that I forgot who I really was. The anxiety, doubt and insecurity continued but I Hulu’d and Facebook’d these feelings away. I thought I was the problem. Everyone else seemed successful, confident and happy. If I tried harder, did the things they did, wore the right clothes, said the “cleverest” things, I would be happy too. Right? Wrong.
Head-to-head with my constant companion
Grace lead me to a meditation practice. The first time I landed on the cushion, I encountered so much anxiety that I could not sit in the open, hands-on-thighs posture that was prescribed. Instead, what felt “safe” was to fold my arms across my chest and sit in a kind of hunched, protected fashion. There was much awareness that I was doing it “wrong” and, for a girl who’d spent much time imitating others, standing out in this way was painful, but I couldn’t help myself. After 5 minutes, I jumped up ready to do anything else. That was enough of that.
Sacred Waipio Valley. We hiked down to swim in the water and warm ourselves on the black sand.
I did not know when I booked a trip to Hawaii in December that it would fall in the middle of so many important projects – each like a precious jewel requiring constant attention and regular polishing.
How could I put one down for a frivolous vacation? Yet, I’m not one to go back on my word or undo plans already set into motion, and a part of me knew I was being called to the island for some reason.
I thought this trip was about reclaiming my power.
I thought it was about learning to live with a broken heart.
But things are never what you think they will be.
This week I returned from 30 days of volunteering at a meditation retreat in the Rockies.
At times it felt that my heart was replaced by an insatiable hole.
I imagined packing my bags and leaving not long after I arrived.
This was not the blissful, om shanti, cucumber water, chenille-robe getaway that people seem to imagine with the words, “meditation retreat.” It was a kick-your-ass, look-at-your-shit, wanna-be-anywhere-else marathon.
What my heart holds I dare not reveal for fear it will float away. It is, you see, a tender dandelion puff.
Somehow, this small, delicate thing has dipped my world in honey—everything viscous, sweet and a little shiny. I have no interest in attending to the commitments of my days as I want nothing to do with actual doing and instead to lie naked wrapped in blankets reveling in this glow happening inside and all around.
What this puff contains I will not convey, but I can’t help but feel.