People’s Inauguration with Valarie Kaur, Part 3 — Loving Ourselves

“Breathe, push, transition” — these are birthing metaphors. We the people are preparing to birth a multiracial, multicultural democracy here in the U.S., for the first time.

Day 7 — Breathe

Self-care is about breathing: we must be in our bodies, present to our emotions. Breathing is universally available. To last, in a long labor, let joy in.

Most of us internalized a message of “You’re not good enough” — hence unworthy of love. Remind each other to breathe. We don’t breathe if we feel unworthy of love, or of taking space. We don’t have to suffer to serve. Breathe before we push. Acknowledge what went well: ask family members, “What was your rose today?” At night, see the day as a lifetime: What am I most grateful for? What was hardest?

adrienne maree brown, pleasure activist, author of Emergent Strategies and podcast “How to survive the end of the world,” calls herself “queer, black, fat, and disabled.” Caring for ourselves and loving our bodies is “political warfare,” not self-indulgence. Is our species committed to staying on earth? We are tired. Transition feels like dying; giving birth changes us. Grief changes us. Unity and peace come from justice. We’re part of a larger movement beyond what we can see.

Seane Corn, author of Revolution of the Soul, described how to be an “accomplice:” release limiting beliefs in separation, the zero-sum game, do inner work with vulnerability. “There’s no way we can’t be racist, homophobic, and sexist,” in our current culture, but we can learn and grow. Follow lead of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Perfectionism is part of individualist culture. Collective care is needed; grieving with people, we get to know them. Internalized oppression feels like shame, not being enough. Tell young people they have vision, magic, bravery, wisdom.

Day 8 — Push

We push ourselves in the process of growth and transformation, to enter the discomfort (grief, rage, trauma), then breathe and rest. Push to birth new possibilities. Healing, forgiveness, reconciliation happen in the context of self-love. Forgiveness is for our own benefit, not the other person’s. We do not need the other to be present. We gain agency, and freedom from hate: “You can’t make me hate you.” Forgiveness allows for reconciliation; it requires accountability for harm. Valarie’s own “Truth & Reconciliation” process with her abuser involved requiring him to be accountable for the pain and damage he had caused, fully admit to what he’d done, and express empathy for her deep hurt; then, make reparations and plan steps to prevent future harm.

The U.S. suppressed the histories of the traumas it caused, then told us to forget and move on. The U.S. needs to apologize to BIPOC, promise the harm will stop, and give reparations.

Eve Ensler (V) wrote The Apology that she never received from her abusive father, the words she needed to hear him say.

Questions for reflection: Who needs my forgiveness/who hurt me? Who needs my apology/whom did I hurt? Write letters, perhaps (like Eve) including the apology letter you wanted to receive. Notice barriers, emotions, growth.

4 elements of apology:

1. What made me/my perpetrator capable of this violation?

2. Detailed account and admission of harm

3. Feel and acknowledge what I (or my victim) felt, and long-term impact of the violation

4. Take responsibility, make amends, reparations so it won’t be repeated.

Push in the context of self-love and transformation and liberation. Enter the wound/trauma.

angel Kyodo williams, a Zen priest, says that America is its history more than its dream; we must labor to create our dream. Exhausted with covid and racial strife, we must pause; sit with the discomfort of our own grief and trauma. Restructure daily life, settle, find our own rhythm. “Who do I want to be?” Tolerate the discomfort of our own truth and losses. The push gets power from the pause where we breathe. “Am I ready to push?” Wounds have never been redressed. We have ancestral trauma, but also ancestral resilience and wisdom. As with domestic violence, we get seduced back to the US Constitution and laws. But on January 6, the veil was pulled back. Push toward a new conversation. Set the playing field up for who’s here now. “Envision the push for an actual new America!”

Susan Raffo spoke of culture change. The American dream says to disconnect and lock our doors. The body holds the past, the mind holds the future, the breath holds the present. The colonizer mind seeks to own.

Don’t fixate on apology or wait to heal. We can’t take responsibility for what we don’t feel. Whites allow harm to happen because of being taught not to feel. Apology is the result of awareness of causing harm, plus a desire to amend. Breathe through our own guilt and shame, prepare to withstand the heat of guilt and shame in the body. Oppression is relationship betrayal. Shame/guilt makes us want to leave the relationship. What helps us stay?

Apology gives catharsis. “Choose forgiveness, which helps us move forward and grasp our own agency, and return to the other person what is theirs.” Reconciliation requires the participation of another, while forgiveness can be done on one’s own. Forgiveness opens the possibility of reconciliation. Imagine the apology first, feel it in our body. Have the bravery to sit with our discomfort. Can a community forgive?

Transition requires envisioning. Look for the helpers, like Different Together, Braver Angels, Living Room Conversations.

Let us shift money from police departments to underfunded public services that increase public safety. Structural reform builds the foundation.

Day 9 — Transition

Transition is the final, most painful and dangerous stage of labor, which can feel like dying; the birthing mother says: “I can’t!” It feels crazy to push toward and into the pain.

When are we in transition? What wants to be born? When do I say “I can’t”?

In community we can do more than alone. Summon the deep wisdom voice that says, “You are brave.” Trust that, let it lead. Labor with love and joy is the source of meaning. Transition precedes birth of new life (such as a sustainable future, a multiracial democracy).

Dr. Ayana Johnson, marine scientist, author of Blue New Deal for oceans and All We Can Save, believes that transportation, agriculture, land use, manufacturing, building, all must transform. “How much future do you want?” We have the technology. A small group of white men have really messed up! Let someone else decide. Polls show only 49% of whites care about climate change, while 57% of Blacks and over 60% of Latinx care about it, probably due to a more egalitarian world view. Fossil fuel executives and politicians are the true causes of global warming; we need corporate responsibility. For the long haul, one can breathe while others push.

Rev. Otis Moss reminds us to plant trees for the future, that we will never eat from. Faith = risk, are we risk-averse? Something dies as the new is born. White supremacy is dying but still dangerous. Just 3.5% of the population engaging in nonviolent action (11 million Americans) can boost us into transformation. Just 50 women started the Montgomery bus boycott, while the men argued. Love is muscular, resilient, courageous. Go back to ancestral wisdom. Challenge the scared child inside to “live as an original, not a copy.” Use your voice, choose brave companions. We are enough.

Listen to the “I can’t” voice, hear its fears as information, what it’s trying to protect us from. Call upon the wise one within, or ancestors. Root down into earth and connect with the other roots, as the trees do; we’re never truly alone, we belong to each other. The next step can be to pause and breathe. Reach out for support and community.

Day 10 — Joy is the gift of love

Gather revolutionary love stories from our own communities. Listening in community opens up more possibilities to let joy in.

Let’s create the conditions for joy, overcome barriers daily. We may not live to see the fruits of our labor, so find joy in the journey and labor for justice. Joy: a felt sense of rising energy in this moment. Protect your joy, like dance time with kids, in order to keep showing up to the labor, as hope waxes and wanes like the moon.

Live the life we wish for everyone, with the help of accomplices and ancestors. Love, joy, and wonder are our birthright. Joy is an act of resistance, it sustains revolutionary love in the face of difficulties. “We won’t be silent anymore.”

Rev. William Barber: We need to call for debt forgiveness, Jubilee. Joy comes from a higher Source, comes in community. “The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.” Look at the arc of history, don’t be mesmerized by evil. Joy is an act of sovereignty. The goal of empire is to brainwash us. Joy = realizing we can make a change from this horror. Love and justice bring joy. “Hold on” — it could be a long journey.

The poor and low-wealth are 1/3 of the electorate. 55% of them voted for Biden. Break the “Southern Strategy” of pitting black v. white. Push Biden, gift MLK with his dream fulfilled. “What will I do with the precious gift of life?” Use it in the service of justice, love and grace, and we will reap joy!

Parker Palmer, Center for Courage and Renewal: “We weep at night, but joy comes in the morning.” Joy comes from gratitude. “Don’t measure your life by outcomes, but by your faithfulness to the labor.” Love in action: as a community organizer for racial justice, he often felt discouraged. He battled depression because he forgot self-forgiveness. Journaling his tiny achievements and successes, finding the small joys, helped lift him out. Serve love, truth and justice, be faithful in giving your gifts to meet the needs of the world. “Revolutionary love is the new nonviolence.” There’s room for rage and grief, love and joy. Resist injustice. Learn from the youth.

Ani DiFranco: Show up without attachment to outcome. Labor for justice with joy as an end in itself! Take joy in the valiant people we meet. Be ambassadors for revolutionary love. Move towards the unknown, see the world with eyes of wonder. We can all make a joyful sound! Music creates connection. Show yourself mercy and respect, decide when you’re ready to forgive.

Day 11 — Summary of learnings:

See No Stranger: see the world through eyes of wonder. Be brave with our grief, grieve together, gain information on how to fight for one another.

Tend the wound: process and honor your rage safely, learn the information it carries. Listen to understand, gain information, preserve the opponent’s humanity and ours. Re-imagine: protect spaces for imagining. Sense the Beloved Community in our own bodies.

To love ourselves: breathe, care for our bodies, weave breath into our lives. Push through discomfort, to healing and forgiveness and reconciliation, to evolve ourselves. Transition requires drawing on our deepest wisdom, with the help of midwives and ancestors.

Let joy in by orienting to life with space and grace! Protect your joy every day. Start a wisdom journal. Love without limits. We’re not alone on the journey.

Researchers from neuroscience, public health, gender studies are supporting practices of revolutionary love. Melissa Canlas spent 4 years putting together the Learning Hub and Educators’ guide at www.valariekaur.com. Take the 10 gateways, do one practice a week with your community. Share with educators, from kindergarten to graduate school. Adapt it to your community.

A critical mass is building Beloved Community in homes, neighborhoods, communities. Separateness is an illusion, our roots are all connected, interdependent. No-one will be left unchanged. The sunrise is on the horizon!

Cathy is a HeartMath coach who helps people calm their nervous systems & heal relationships through mindful breath & communication. Passionate water protector.