WHY RADICAL DHARMA IS YOUR 2018 “MUST READ”

Eradicating systemic racism is THE healing issue of our times. For anybody confused about your role in this, make Radical Dharma your must-read this summer …

 

Around this time of year, book stores and magazines are filled with suggested summer reads, the books the publishing industry has decided will best satisfy our yearning to escape into a good read. But you likely won’t find the book I am going to recommend as your “must-read” for summer 2018 among them. Because this year I am more interested in the notion of escape as it pertains to liberation.

Radical Dharma is a seminal work by Rev. angel Kyodo williams, a queer Black (her capitalization) Buddhist author and activist. The subtitle is “Race, Love and Liberation” and in it, Rev. angel, along with co-authors Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah, PhD, (also both Black and queer) explain how genuine liberation means not needing to escape, because there is no longer anything to escape from. Means living free of the chains which seek to bind us, free to be unapologetically ourselves, unbeholden to any systems of oppression.

Published in 2016 in a rush ahead of the last U.S. election, in the intro Rev. angel writes: “We foresee an increasing collective anxiety about transitioning from the first Black U.S. president.” And in the 18 months since, this prediction has played out in every area of life. This time has been a period of awakening in which the notions of liberation and oppression have taken on extra weight for me—as they will have for anybody with so much as a toe in the healing, wellness, and self-help communities.

As a socially conscious person in a post-Trump era, I know I have not been alone in attempting to integrate the implications of my white privilege. A term that was barely on my radar two summers ago, and which, thanks to everything from Black Lives Matter to the voices of women like Layla Saad (among many others) has since become the lens through which I see the world. Meaning, through which I can no longer not see the world. 

To be more specific, in my case this also extends to my educated, mixed-class, hetero, married, cis-gender, thin, white privilege. Sort of like the opposite of rose-tinted-spectacles, through this lens I have been able to see how the circumstances of my birth and my upbringing have placed me within a system of oppression—in which my whiteness makes me the oppressor. Not that the ravages wrought on marginalized and indigenous people by “the system” is exactly news. What’s new is that my eyes are now open to exactly how insidious our acceptance of this has become.

During this time, I have struggled against my own conditioning (“but I’m not racist!”) to accept that alarming terms like “white supremacy” and “systemic racism” absolutely apply to me. As they apply to each and every one of us. I have felt my throat constrict as I have tried to swallow this jagged little pill, while simultaneously being made aware that taking time in silence to absorb and process this information is another function of my privilege.

I have also been slow to speak up on this issue because I am ashamed I didn’t get here sooner. Embarrassed. But I am also not surprised. After all, I was raised to consider the term “racist” to be on a par with “pedophile,” the knee-jerk reaction on hearing it applied to me to deny it, vehemently. And yet, on closer inspection, this does not reflect the world that I grew up in. A world where I can count the number of black and brown people in my school classrooms on two hands. Where I had not one teacher with darker skin than me. Where in 16 years working as a journalist in London, I encountered only one black colleague—who was subjected to subtle racial bullying.

Where every TV show, awards ceremony (besides those attached to sporting events), industry bash, and beach holiday has been predominantly white. A world, after moving to NYC, where nine out of 10 of the service jobs (as far as I can see) are performed by people of color. Where these discrepancies are routinely normalized to the point of invisibility.

Of course, as a white person, my life has been a procession of predominantly white spaces. We are a pack-oriented species, we move in groups, and we gravitate towards our own. Thing is, what makes a space “white” is not just the ethnicity of those occupying it—it is the entitlement, the education, the opportunities, and the affluence that are available. Confronting my own racist conditioning (the unconscious belief that I am somehow entitled to the privileges of my whiteness) has been like discovering I have been host carrier for a highly infectious disease, without displaying any symptoms. Having received my diagnosis, the work now is to eradicate it from my system.

Which has meant reading a lot of articles and watching a lot of TED talks (find a comprehensive list here). It has meant keeping following Instagram accounts which can trigger week-long bouts of internal gaslighting (“I am not racist … and yet my whiteness makes me racist”). Showing up for pot-luck discussions on the topic of “Race and Wellness” with others in my community committed to doing this work. It means that, behind the scenes, I have been engaged in a thorough inventory of my work on this platform, working with a diversity and inclusion coach to identify my blind spots and craft a content mission going forward that takes into account the implications of all of the above. Not to mention help me make sense of all that has been arising in me.

Rev. angel Kyodo williams

You may well be further along this path than me, and I acknowledge all those who have been the torch-bearers in this movement. For this is the literal raising of consciousness in real time. The whole point of all the healing and the personal development and the “self-love” practices. Rather than disavow or shrink from it, it’s thanks to the spiritual resilience I’ve been able to develop over the years building this platform, that I am now able to lean in to the shadow of shame and guilt and fear that has accompanied this part of my awakening. To not take each and every post and op-ed on white privilege personally and to accept responsibility for my part in our collective healing around race.

The reason I am recommending Radical Dharma as your summer must-read is that it’s the egg that has helped everything come together.

Presented as a series of essays and conversations dissecting systemic racism from a Buddhist perspective, the wisdom contained within its pages has helped me to feel fully seen and understood within the problem of my whiteness. Has helped me understand that racism (particularly as it relates to hyper-capitalism) is, literally, the physical manifestation of our modern “disconnection epidemic.” The pain of our separation from each other, from self, and from Source. That I am as deeply implicated in this suffering as any person of any ethnic background. Above all, as a person invested in helping others heal, it has shown me that we will never escape our suffering, as individuals and collectively, will never be truly free, until we heal THIS.

In short, in a year where the conversation about race has had me questioning my sanity at times, this book has helped me feel more whole. And I am suggesting that you read it because I know you want to feel this way too. Below, I have shared a few of my favorite teachings from its pages—and before you go ahead and finish this post, you can order your copy HERE.

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ON THE CONSTRUCT OF RACE
“Race is the ultimate delusion in that it both does and does not exist in reality. Somebody went on around and decided to come up with something so that they could sell folks that they could be ‘better’ than other people, and yet, because of the paradigm, because of the system and the structures, the impact of that creation, that projection, this is felt and experienced as suffering—not only by the people who are on the shit end of the stick but also by the people who are, often unbeknownst to them, continuing to carry that stick.” – Rev. angel Kyodo williams.

ON DECONSTRUCTING WHITE PRIVILEGE
“The lens of awareness must be placed outside of the construct. As a direct result of privilege, white practitioners (and teachers) have mistakenly entitled themselves to place the lens of awareness inside of whiteness, hence they are unable to see it’s machinations.” – Rev. angel Kyodo williams.

ON GETTING MESSY
“The tiptoeing around race and other forms of difference as if in fear of waking a sleeping lion is one of the most subtly toxic attributes of whiteness in our culture right now. Everyone fears making mistakes. For white folks, though, the coexistence of being historically lauded as the creators of what is right, making mistakes must be hard. We are all waking up. It is going to get messy.” – Jasmine Syedullah, PhD

ON ALLOWING FOR IGNORANCE
“We also have to demystify this notion that somehow people of color have all the information and know it all and white folks don’t, and that it’s just like Black and White. Because it just isn’t. We have to really allow ourselves to create some space for people now knowing, not understanding, and just saying stupid things. I mean stupid as in ignorant … we have to figure out how to create room for that, rather than policing each other, so that people can actually get into the conversation.” – Rev. angel Kyodo williams.

ON THE LINK BETWEEN RACISM AND HYPER CAPITALISM
“I have this theory that racism is required in order to keep capitalism in place … I’m not mad at trade and exchange and barter and all of that … but cancerous capitalism, hyper-capitalism, parasitic capitalism … requires a division of people so that we have people that consume, people that are producing what is consumed, and frankly, people that are consumed.” ­– Rev. angel Kyodo williams.

ON DISRUPTING COMFORT
“We have to disrupt spaces that are not seeking truth, that are not upholding our potential for liberation, because they are invested in their comfort. Usually that comfort means they are invested in perpetuating white supremacy … And not disrupt them by trying to figure out how to be on their boards and their diversity communities; we have to disrupt them by saying ‘I am out.’ I am not going to participate in this and letting them know why.” – Rev. angel Kydodo williams.

ON DISCOMFORT AS THE PATH TO LIBERATION
“If you’re going to any place of spiritual enrichment in which you are not meaningfully experiencing discomfort, not all the time, but meaningfully uncomfortable frequently, you are not doing your work, and you are not walking the path of liberation.” – Rev. angel Kydodo williams.

ON HEALING BEGINNING ON THE INSIDE
“I’m working to end racism, but at the same time I want to be liberated. I want to thrive. I want to be happy … I think it’s an immature view that believes ‘I have to do all the external conditions and have them change before I can be happy.’ I’m not willing to have my happiness wait for what might happen out there.” – Lama Rod.

ON BEING THE CHANGE
“If you are a really well-positioned member of a sangha (spiritual community), make sure you’re reaching out. If you’re a person of color in a sangha, make sure you’re reaching out to other new people of color coming through the door. Be the one who extends your hand and welcomes them and just talks openly. Model that kind of inclusivity for people.” – Lama Rod

Get your copy of Radical Dharma HERE and visit Angelkyodowilliams.com for more on Rev. angel and to find her upcoming speaking dates. You can also follow @lamarodowens on Instagram 

KNOW YOUR STRENGTH: READING FOR THE TAURUS FULL MOON 2016

The Taurus Full Moon is here to bring stamina and keep us focussed on the long game, says Sandra Sitron

Click here to register for our FREE virtual Taurus Full Moon ritual

TAURUS FULL MOON :: Monday 11/14/16 :: 8.51am EST :: 22 Degrees Taurus

After an election in America that feels to many like a massive step backwards, we seek direction. Amid the chaos, there are many reactions. When considering the election result, many People of Color who have experienced the lifelong effects of racism are not surprised. Many Liberal white people who don’t have to walk this walk on the daily are in shock.

Women, People of Color, the LGBT community, immigrants, Muslims, and the disabled are in need of safe spaces, and are more aware than ever of their vulnerability. The media is back-pedaling and finger-pointing. Pollsters are re-evaluating. Trumpers are thrilled. Republicans who don’t like Trump but voted for him anyway are hopeful and silent.

As a reader of astrology and out-there, old soul, witchy sh*t, I am assuming that you are among the forlorn and aching choir. That, like me, you are seeking understanding, collective and personal healing, and a plan of action. Let’s see if Astrology can help with at least some of these points.

The Taurus Full Moon in Taurus is the first lunation in the wake of the election. As such it is shedding its light on a path forward. During a Full Moon the energies of two opposites meet to bring us awareness of the whole. The meeting of two opposites can feel like a head-on collision, or it can feel like an epiphany. This Taurus Full Moon is illuminated by the full light of the Sun in the opposite sign of Scorpio.

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The Taurus Full Moon and it’s Message
Peeling an orange.
We are working to get to the sweet fruit that is inside. There is a bitter rind. We must keep peeling. Keep working. Keep taking off the layers to get closer to the truth. Keep sustaining ourselves with sweetness. Keep nurturing. Keep taking care of our bodies, and keep diving deep into our emotions.

TAURUS is your strength; your body, your resources, your self-worth. SCORPIO is union; your strength melded with another person’s strength. Emotional, spiritual and physical. Both signs are Fixed. They show us the value of persistence. They remind that we must keep digging in to achieve progress.

The Taurus Full Moon is helping us know our strength, to unite, and to keep our eyes on the long game.

A deeper look at the signs at play.

TAURUS is the sign that rules our material world. It is our body, house and resources. It is our natural talents. Taurus teaches us how to stay alive AND that we deserve to be alive (because our talents are of value). This sign yearns to impart the wisdom of abundance. When Taurus is afflicted, it can cause us to fear scarcity until we remember our inherent worth. Taurus done right is as steady and stable as bedrock. The strength of Taurus comes from it’s championing of value; value of body and value of self.

SCOPRIO is yours and mine together. Scorpio is merging. Union. Scorpio reaches out to understand the emotions of the other person. Because of this inter-personal sharing of emotions. Scorpio rules both control and letting go. It can be hard to surrender control for the purpose of emotional, physical, and spiritual union. But the wisdom of Scorpio teaches that we must. You must let go so that you are light enough to move into the next stage of your evolution. One of Scorpio’s symbols is the Phoenix rising out of the ashes. Scorpio reminds us that there must be destruction before we can break open to progress.

When the Taurus understanding of self-worth and abundance is intact, Scorpio is secure enough to easily let go of competitive control and merge. This is the gestalt of the two signs.

The Taurus Full Moon reminds us that if we want to evolve, we must do both Taurus and Scorpio well.

We can do the Taurus things. We can believe in our own personal strength. We can own our part in this, by taking responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions. We must use our resources to create positive change. We must use our bodies to resist. We must build safe-houses for people who need physical, emotional or psychological shelter. We must defend everyone’s right to material security and abundance.

And we can do the Scorpio things…We can reach out to understand another person’s emotional and psychological perspective. We can look into the eyes of the murderer and see the humanity within. We can gaze boldly into our shadow. We can let go of control and feel our feelings. We can notice if fear is encouraging us to be controlling. We can forgive when we are ready.

We can be the Phoenix rising out of the ashes.

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Taurus Full Moon Semi-Sextile Uranus
Stepping stones leading across a flooding river.
There is quick movement, changes are happening within all of us on microscopic levels. We must be very aware of change. We must remember that there is a flow of progress. Sometimes this flow comes so erratically that it feels as if we are drowning. It can be hard to see further down the river. The Moon in Taurus wants us to stay the course and Uranus in Aries asks us to jump ship in search of a better way. Find your leadership within yourself. Find your true course. It is the course of your heart. Follow that river loyally, even if the destination is unknown and the waters are choppy.

Taurus Full Moon Sextile Chiron
Pulling up buckets of well water.
A healing is welling up from deep within. As the puss of our wounded nation pools around us, so does the healing salve become available. We could never move forward without seeing clearly the ills of our society. The wounds of our history have festered. We must now make a thorough examination, and through this practice, heal ourselves. The only folly comes from refusing to look. In a safe and quiet space, ask yourself what you are refusing to see. Make this query into a prayer.

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Below are suggested areas of self-inquiry for each sign. If you know what house in your birth chart 22 degrees Taurus is in, also read for that house.

Aries or 2nd House
What is the one thing on which you know you want to take a stand? How can you use your natural talents to do so?

Taurus or 1st House
What have you struggled with that you’ve learned how to master? This is something that makes you unique. Can you see yourself guiding others to master this same struggle?

Gemini or 12th House
What have you been refusing to see when it comes to your relationships? Your wellbeing at soul level? The world around you?

Cancer or 11th House
What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Can you add more detail to the picture? Who can you reach out to?

Leo or 10th House
Do you feel empowered to have the career of your dreams? If not, what belief stands in your way? How is this belief keeping you playing small?

Virgo or 9th House
Research a philosophical perspective that can guide you and soothe you. Write down what speaks to you and keep this piece of paper in a place where you’ll see it often.

Libra or 8th House
Are there any feelings that you have been stubbornly holding onto? Is there room for movement now around this issue?

Scorpio or 7th House
Finish the sentence “A relationship is…” fifteen times. Write it down in list form.
A relationship is _______________
A relationship is _______________
A relationship is _______________ (etc.)
Notice what different words and ideas come to mind when you contemplate what relationship means to you.

Sagittarius or 6th House
Can you pinpoint the potential cause of overwhelm in your life? Write a list of simple things you can do to address this, and commit to tackling one per day.

Capricorn or 5th House
Experiment with different mediums for self-expression. Write a blog post or record an Instagram story about what’s in your heart.

Aquarius or 4th House
What would you say to your inner child? Write some ideas down. If any feel like positive affirmations, read them out loud to yourself before you go to sleep.

Pisces or 3rd House
Collect facts that can help you ease your mind. As you consume media and news, ask if what you are taking in is improving your mindset.

Want more wisdom? Book a reading with Sandra here or follow her on Instagram.