August 2, 2019

Action Letters, Relaxation

034 Icebergs

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photo by Nicola Chin
Second City Photo Credit: Nicola

“Smile, breath, and go slowly.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m using this summer to see what I can find through relaxation: relaxing my jaw, relaxing my schedule, relaxing my expectations of each day. Relaxing is harder than it looks for this Virgo…..

…. as I was going for a relaxing run yesterday, I noticed a pattern: With each year I get older (in August), I think I know more – I’ve seen things, I’ve experienced new challenges, I’ve worked hard. And yet, humbly, the world keeps sending me reminders that there is so much I do not know.

Some examples:

  • When I’m running and one of my knees hurts, I can help it by twisting my spine in the opposite direction from the tension. Instead of leaning into the muscle that feels tight to force it open, if I gently twist in the opposite direction, finding the hidden issues on the other side that knee is compensating for, it feels healthier.
  • For generations, people have observed tongues to know what to eat (starts at minute 27). The incredible acupuncturist I see shares these pointers with me on the regular (I need more cooling foods….)
  • Horseshoe crabs save our lives without even so much as a thank you.
  • Improv Comedy has actually been one of the most useful tools for the hardest/most serious projects I’ve worked on. I loved diving into that paradox with Emily Chin in our chat this month.

As I relax into my body, I find the layers of knowledge about self, and the world that lie below the surface of my awareness and call me into wonder and awe.

Knowledge about releasing muscle tension, digestive health, and healing that comes straight from the earth are not separate bodies of knowledge from what it means to build equity, to fight for racial justice, and build more free communities. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already been exposed to the idea that: colonialism, patriarchy, racism, and general tendencies towards condescension have buried, erased and devalued this knowledge. So much so that now, when we go to “build a project on equity” we don’t seek to ask: What do we need to design for our bodies and our spirits into this process to help us be successful? 

Even if we are aware of these bodies of knowledge, we continue to relegate them to “self-care”. We feminize them, we fetishize them, and we treat them as add-ons – losing the ability to tap these sources of knowledge and power for the success of our own project on equity, freedom and racial justice. They are the nice to haves that are the first to be cut when the going gets tough.

What would it look like to have a team take full care of their digestive health during an intentional equity exploration? What would happen if instead of treating equity projects like a mountain we were going to climb and own, we approached it like a sea we were going to float on? What sources of healing might we find if we integrated real relationships (not just activities) with the natural world into our project design?

Even when I say these ideas to myself, I start to climb the ladder of inference and my own cognitive dissonance gets in the way of taking these questions seriously. I have to bring even more intention to actually testing out these ideas in a meaningful way.

At UWC, we’re using explorations of body, relaxation, and what lies beneath the surface of awareness to see how we can build more impactful equity and racial justice learning projects. Here are a few pieces we’ve found helpful that you might enjoy experimenting with: (1) The artists way (thanks, Lulu) (2) yin yoga (thanks, Debbie) (3) healing bowls (thanks Carol) – What recommendations do you have for us?

In early 2020, we’re launching a hub of resources and tools that can be used in project design. We’ll be beta testing over the next few months and look forward to sharing in the new year. 

This letter will cover us for July and August – we’ll see you again in September! Have fun.

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