We Are The Instruments Of Change
You've probably heard the statement: "Be the change you want to see in the world." It is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi based on this quote:
Shrouded in mystery and magic, Gandhi's words call our attention to the unique relationship between our inner and outer world. I have struggled with the abbreviated "Be the change you wish to see..." phrase because I get caught up in the doing. "What am I supposed to do?" But the full quote carries a more in depth explanation... we are the instruments of change, and our work begins on the inside.
I spent today in a cycle of doing. I went for a jog with the housemates, re-dyed my hair, made vegan chili, finished organizing and cleaning the bedroom, and gave the back deck a good scrub before dressing it up with rugs and string lights. It felt good to vacuum up all the cobwebs and break a sweat moving stuff around. It felt good to get things done. When I sat down to meditate, I felt accomplished and deserving of the break.
Then... I watched the George Floyd video footage. And sobbed. And felt helpless.
I had been hearing and reading the details since yesterday, but watching someone in uniform kneel on the neck of someone else for what felt like an absolute eternity while both the victim and bystanders pleaded for him to stop... pulled my heart up through all my careful logic in an eruption of pain and tears. The agony and violent injustice had not been exaggerated in the tweets and tabloids. Beyond feeling horrible, I had no clue of what recourse lay ahead.
There's no 'easy clean up' solution for this kind of injustice. I can't make a list of tasks and check them off one by one until all the racism is cleaned up like the rooms in my home. I can't even seem to lift myself out of the initial shock-and-bewilderment phase: baffled that institutional racism is still so blatantly prevalent and unflinchingly gruesome. I know that police often enforce unofficial arrest quotas... which causes unnecessary confrontations in certain underprivileged neighborhoods and among people of color just trying to go about their day. Still, in 2020, with injustices gone viral and body cams made mandatory, we're having to watch a man, hired to serve and protect the citizens of Minneapolis, choke a compliant citizen on the sidewalk for 9 minutes--who later died, and file a dishonest police report about the nature of the arrest and the measures taken.
When the tears subsided, I thought: I am an instrument of change. My work begins from the inside out. The crying is a part of that. Empathy is step one. It's the cure for numbness and ignorance. But keeping myself in overwhelmed misery is not a part of the work. Drawing unnecessary attention to my emotional process, or toying with dipping a toe in hopelessness isn't part of my work either. I'm more prepared than that. I'm braver and more informed than that. My next tool is a humble daily blog and a 20-40 person viewership accustomed to my unfiltered, emotional process packaged in a 3-4 minute read. So, I leave you with some (hopefully empowering) steps on your own path and process:
We work and flow and laugh and improve a lot easier when we're not oppressed. And if we're lucky enough to not be oppressed, we can do the still-oppressed the favor of lending our voices and empathy and strategic actions. I can't speak for anyone else, but I refuse to believe anyone needs to be oppressed and suffering for me to be happy and live well. I think the opposite is true. I feel an explosion of kindness in a simple conversation with my next door neighbor and her dog. I feel an infinite gratitude to the people of all backgrounds and minority 'labels' who have helped me in the slightest way, or lent me a smile in passing. I can only imagine the depth of beauty and grace in the world when we come together to recognize inalienable human value, and when we stop labelling and start learning/empathizing. Please join me in raising awareness and care.
Here is an excellent resource for staying informed on/taking action against the death of George Floyd, with links to the Floyd family's memorial GoFundMe and several anti-racism action/initiative lists: How To Fight For Justice For George Floyd
We can't reverse George Floyd's violent death at the hands of a ruthless police officer. We can't turn back the clock on ignorance and injustice. We can only create change for ourselves and our fellow humans in the now moment. And it's OK if that starts with grief and confusion and a little shame at not knowing the extent of such an oppressive situation that may not have affected you or anyone you know. It's OK if you're scared and unsure. It's OK to just start where you are. Your inner world changes your outer world. Any change you want to make for global fairness, for better relationships, for your own well-being and abundance: it has to start from within.