By Dr. Camille Koontz, medical director at NCNM
Last Saturday was the Solstice. It is just crazy to believe we are nearly half way through 2020! It has been such an intense few months with the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. As soon as we were all about to burst from the angst of social isolation, the Black Lives Matter movement exploded onto the media. Are you wondering...“what does it mean?”
I admit I was not entirely familiar with the movement until recent events spurred me to learn more. When I started seeing many signs and social media posts saying “Black Lives Matter” and “Silence is Violence”, it made me realize that I had some research to do.
All of us are in different stages of understanding this current civil rights movement. It is undeniable that we’ve been invited to participate in this important conversation. In sharing my new understanding of Black Lives Matter and Silence is Violence, I hope to inspire you to start your own conversations using mindfulness. I have included a list of tips for mindfully navigating today’s challenging times.
Table of Contents
Black Lives Matter (my personal research)
The United States of America was founded on freedom of speech and the liberty to speak our truth. At this moment in history, the collective voice against racism has gained our attention and is asking for our support.
It is said that racism is synonymous with white supremacy. The definition I found on this: “white supremacy is a system of exploitation and oppression of people of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining a system of wealth, power, and privilege for white people.” (#1)
There is no denying the fabric of our country was woven with threads of white supremacy (slavery) and the remnants are still visible today. The Black Lives Matter movement is evidence that many people recognize this and want to challenge it… want to pull that thread right out and change the pattern of that fabric.
Learning from Brene Brown
I’ve followed Brene Brown’s work for years. I respect her work on shame, vulnerability, and wholehearted living. Her work has taught me how to navigate uncomfortable conversations with more skill and trust in my own voice. In a recent interview on racism she said “Shame chips away at your soul every time you use it and every time you are a victim of it” (#3). I think this means that the behaviors leading to shame are the problem. It hurts both the perpetrator and the victim. This interview helped me to understand how the behaviors leading to inequality and racism are the problem. They hurt both the person who is racist and the person who is being oppressed. Behaviors and words of racism are no one’s friend. White supremacy is no one’s friend. Shame is no one’s friend. As a collective, we can tap into our humanity and speak up when we witness racial violence, language, and jokes.
What is Silence is Violence?
I was confused by this one at first and had to look it up. The best explanation I found was in a blog article written by Baron Schwartz. He says,
“if I’m a bystander who witnesses something I disagree with, I’m actively supporting the behavior to which I object” (#5).
In other words, if we are witnessing another acting inappropriately, we are supporting that behavior when we don’t say anything.
All it takes is saying something that directly speaks out against discriminatory behavior. You set your own limitations, but Silence is Violence is urging us to speak up when we see things that we think are wrong. It begs the question: “Are we condoning violence/shame/racism when we shy away and don’t say anything?”
Just a reminder…
We are all in this together. We rely on our friends and neighbors to be kind and think of others when they decide how to act and speak. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard to be the people we know we can be. I’d like to offer a reminder to be kind to one another. We are all on edge from all the stress and uncertainty going on in the world right now. Here are some personal tips for mindfully navigating today's challenging times.
Tips for Mindfulness
- Pause, and take a deep breath when you are emotionally triggered. When you pause and collect yourself before speaking, you allow your brain to shift from lizard-brain to your frontal cortex. We all respond poorly when we are in fight-or-flight and our lizard brains are quick to jump to unreasonable conclusions.
- Set healthy boundaries with social media and the news. It is easy to get sucked into fear, violence, and anger portrayed in the news. Unfollow anyone who is promoting the kind of behaviors you don't value. Follow those who are solution-oriented and inclusive in their speech. Plugging your nervous system into media that promotes the fear response multiple times a day is a sure way to provoke anxiety. Consider a digital detox (turn your social media and notifications off for a day or more).
- Take care of yourself and others! This is a fantastic time to recommit to self care and find ways to get grounded. Living in fight-or-flight all the time will wear you down. It will make you more vulnerable to negative thinking, overwhelm, and suppress your immune system. Even if all you recommit to is taking some adaptogenic herbs and getting enough sleep, you would be doing yourself, your family, and those counting on you a big favor. I can help you navigate what adrenal support is right for you. As a naturopathic doctor, I am always finding ways to promote the foundations of health in my patients' lives.
- Transform your thinking from problem-oriented to solution-oriented. When you catch your mind in a spiral of anxiety, fear, hate, and problems, get outside and take some deep breaths. Go for a walk in the woods. Put your bare feet in the grass. Do anything that will help you get out of the stress cycle and back to the present moment. The simple exercise of focusing your full attention to your breath can be helpful. Ask yourself: “what can I do today that would make a difference?” Small acts of kindness to yourself and others do add up to a difference in the world.
You are not alone.
If you are feeling lonely, experiencing grief, or feeling worried by the violence, try these mindfulness tips. Know that you are not alone. Myself and the rest of the NCNM team are here to support you in maintaining your self care. You can schedule an appointment with me here.
Black Lives Matter and this is a time in history when your voice matters. It is up to you to speak up, listen actively, and consider what proactive solutions you can start today. Its okay to start small and work up your courage from there. Share with those closest to you and use conversation to help you clarify how you feel and think. This is essential to positive growth in yourself and your community. You got this!