I’m hoping this letter finds you healthy and joyful.
As some of you know, I am a professor at Santa Monica College (SMC), the community college that experienced the shootings last Friday. (Thank you so much for those of you who have emailed me to check in to see if I am ok. I am fine though a little shaken).
I am really saddened and tired of witnessing and hearing about violence all over the world. It is amazing to witness (in its shadow form) the ways one person can effect so many people. Even if you have no connection to SMC, there’s probably a part of you that feels empathy. How do I know that? Because you are reading this newsletter and there is a part of you, as there is a part of me, that wants the world to be a better place.
This is part of what happened to me last week:
Thursday, before I feel asleep, I was re-reading Tattoos on The Heart by Gregory Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries. He works with gangs in South Central, Los Angeles and helps gangsters become ex gangsters, heal, get jobs, get an education, etc. This is the story I read before I went to sleep:
“The next kid approaching, I can tell is all swagger and pose….
‘What’s your name?’ I ask him.
‘SNIPER,’ he sneers.
‘Okay, look (I had been down this block before), I have a feeling you didn’t pop outta your mom and she took one look at your ass and said, ‘Sniper.’ So come on, dog, what’s your name?’
‘Gonzalez,’ he relents a little.
‘Okay now, son, I know the staff here will call you by your last name. I’m not down with that. Tell me, mijo, what’s your mom call you?’
There is even the slightest flicker of innocence in his answer.
‘Oye, no cabe duda. But, son I’m looking for birth certificate here.’
The kid softens. I can tell it’s happening. But there is embarrassment and a newfound vulnerability.
‘Napoleon,’ he manages to squeak out, pronouncing it in Spanish.
‘Wow,’ I say, ‘That’s a fine, noble, historic name. But I’m almost positive that when your jefita calls you, she doesn’t use the whole nine yards. Come on mijito, do you have an apodo? What’s your mom call you?’
Then I watch him go to some far, distant place- a location he has not visited for some time. His voice, body language, and whole being are taking on a new shape-right before my eyes.
‘Sometimes,’ -his voice so quiet, I lean in- ‘sometimes…when my mom’s not mad at me…she calls me…Napito.’
I watched this kid move, transformed, from Sniper to Gonzalez to Cabron to Napoleon to Napito.
We all just want to be called by the name our mom uses when she’s not pissed off at us” (53-54).
I think this is true. We all want to be seen. Unfortunately, some people are misguided about what this means and how to get what they need.
Friday I was working a few blocks away from SMC and heard about the shootings. I wasn’t there. But my friend works in the library where the shooting was happening. Thankfully, she is safe.
There are so many reasons why people can become violent: sometimes it’s bad medication, bad parenting, intense trauma, misguidance, a tendency toward aggression, etc. It’s hard to make sense of it. And some harm so many people so intensely. (I’m tearing up just writing it). We have witnessed shootings many times before: Columbine, Colorado, Connecticut, Boston, and so many other places. We cannot deny that there is a problem.
We also witness how much fear this creates within ourselves and within others. I don’t think we can deny this either though some may. I know I was afraid on Friday for myself and others.
I’d like to invite you to feel your fear, grief, tears, get angry as needed and also use that energy (the feelings) to empower yourself. Perpetrators want others to be afraid. They want you to stay where they want you to stay. They want power, which is why we need to claim ours.
I’m not suggesting we go into denial in any way. I have a box of tissue if you need to cry in my presence.
I’m suggesting that we use that energy to also create and co-create powerful and non violent choices that serve our community.
How can you help right now? There are people who really need your help. What are you going to do right now?
On a micro level, you can do your healing work and own your own anger and inner violence, the ways you hate and are prejudice, the ways you may dislike yourself or others; you can own the ways you deny. If you heal your part, it will help the macrocosm.
Practice being powerfully present.
Practice being compassionate.
Volunteer at a non profit.
Donate money to a non-profit.
Make lunch for the homeless either at a non profit or drop off food.
Actively listen when someone really needs to be heard.
And so many other ways.
What do you think? What do you do or can you do right now?
Take action right now and
Share it on the blog here.
It will help others so much and help you because you are helping another.
We need to work together to make the world more non-violent.
If you need assistance with healing, focus, or simply learning to be real or present, please join the meditation group starting in July. Here’s the scoop:
Five Thursday evenings from July 25th- August 22nd from 6-7pm in Culver City at a practitioner’s home. Price is $125. Learn and deepen your meditation practice in a supportive environment with great people, become more present, heal the heart, play. We will meditate, breathe, learn how to manage emotions, and chant. Science has proven that a regular meditation practice can improve one’s health and change/stabilize the brain. For more info, please contact Leslie at email@example.com or call 310.721.0218. (Note: if you are allergic to cats, there are cats at this venue).
Thank you for wanting to be proactive and real.
PS: Due to management changes at Glen Ivy, the October retreat is canceled. If you have questions about this, please respond to this email.
PPS: Love free info, me too. Please pass this info on to your friends and family.
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Forgiveness Meditation Part II:
A few weeks ago, I shared part one of this meditation. Here is part two. Try to practice it for 10-30 minutes with a timer.
There are ways you may have caused harm out of your own ignorance or confusion. Remember these times and say to yourself:
Please forgive me for being imperfect
Please forgive me for making mistakes
Please forgive me for being a learner in this life
The first part of this is on the blog when I wrote about the difficult people if you forgot. If so, don’t worry. You can begin again.
If one of these phrases resonates more than the others. Stay with it. Say each phrase a few times to yourself and let each one resonate in your heart. Anger, grief, discomfort may arise. It’s ok. Be gentle with yourself.