This past weekend I had the privilege to sit in the presence and wisdom of Rev. angel Kyodo williams. They mentioned this weekend encounter will most likely continue to unfold for days, weeks, months or maybe even a year after our time together. Sitting with them last year I know this is true for me. I spoke about something that came from last year’s experience just three days before I sat with them again.
This year held many powerful, challenging and illuminating words, questions and practices that will continue to unfold in me in ways I do not know yet. There were a few things that hit me hard immediately. They shared these steps towards dismantling white supremacy:
Disarm. Deconstruct. Disrupt.
The first step is to disarm. Not get more information, not school anyone, not learn more, not read more, not go to more marches. Disarm. The first yama in the Yoga Sutras is non-harming. The first precept in Buddhism is non-violence. Disarming the tools of white supremacy within is an act of non-harming and non-violence. They mentioned that anything can be weaponized (including the Yoga Sutras and the Buddhist precepts), and some of the biggest work is disarming ourselves. They asked us to become astute observers of the ways we dominate.
I notice many ways I arm myself. I have used the Yoga Sutras as a weapon, love as a weapon, my meditation as a weapon. I notice a desire to express my dominance over my sweet pup by moving him along when he would prefer to stay and smell the trees longer than I have patience for. I notice my dominance arises when I want to call other white people in (see: control, stop, change their behavior, etc.) on the ways they are dominating. Rev. angel encouraged us to deepen our practice of disarming.
The image and sensation of exposing my soft belly comes to mind when I think of disarming. I know when I am triggered or in a situation when I witness white supremacy (within myself or others) my body moves into a defensive position. I feel the energy move away from my feet into my chest and head. My shoulders tighten. I feel myself get a little more contracted everywhere. My thoughts begin to race. My jaw clenches. My nervous system is gathering all the defenses it may need (through words, exit strategies, proving how right I am, explaining how terrible I am, etc.) What would happen if I moved into a difficult situation with a soft belly? What would happen if I stayed with myself until I could disarm before engaging with another? Rev. angel said when engaging with another being, “If I am not serving liberation I don’t say anything.”
I commit to diving deeply into the practice of disarming. I am going to practice exposing my soft belly more and to being more courageously vulnerable. I commit to asking the question whether my actions or words serve liberation, and if they come from dominance and/or defensiveness I will commit to staying with myself until I can disarm because deconstructing and disrupting from an armored place continues to perpetuate dominance and harm within myself and my relationships.
How do you disarm yourself? How do you notice dominance arising in you?
Remember a time when something was triggering for you. Notice how your body responds to the trigger. How does it defend? What sensations do you notice? What happens in your breath? What happens in your mind? As you recall this situation try bringing your hands to your belly. As you inhale say to yourself, “soft.” As you exhale, say to yourself, “belly.” Try this for 10 breaths or so. Now think of that time again. Is your body as armored? Has it disarmed? How might you approach that situation with a soft belly?