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Wabi Sabi: The Beauty of Imperfection

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On my journey of self-acceptance, I’m trying to embrace the concept that we are all the same. I am no better and no worse than anyone else. I am human, perfectly imperfect. This concept usually comes up for me when I start getting super hard on myself for my mistakes.

I’ve mentioned before that I have issues with timeliness. I mean, this dates back to grade school for me, and I really have to plan things out and focus, to make it on time to just about anything. It’s so bad, that my kids don’t know what to do with themselves when we actually get somewhere early and have to wait. We’re usually rushing in at the last minute and barely making it on time, or just late. Like most people, running late gets me really anxious and worried.

I’ve started incorporating some of the Reiki precepts I’m learning into my morning meditation time. The prayer that I’ve learned from Reiki goes like this, “Just for today, do not anger, do not worry, be thankful, do what you are meant to do, be kind to others.”

I recently had the special privilege of asking a prominent Reiki teacher about these precepts and the focus on anger and worry embedded in the prayer. I have been learning about the law of attraction and the power of my words and thoughts to manifest what I speak and think. I questioned the use of “anger” and “worry” in relation to this concept of attraction. I had even gone as far as to create my own “positive” version of the Reiki prayer. 😂smh. I guess this tells you what kind of student I am. Anyway, I’m really glad I was able to ask this teacher my question because his answer gave me a whole new understanding. He explained that unlike affirmations, the Reiki precepts were more like guiding rules for life. For example the precept, do not anger can be a reminder for me when I feel anger coming up to question that anger. Where is it coming from? Why is it there? Does the anger serve me? And then to be able to let the anger go. This is different from an affirmation which may help me in the moment to turn away from the anger, but may not allow me the space to examine and release the source of the anger. I was able to apply his explanation the very next day.

After spending my morning meditation focusing on mindful breathing, Reiki precepts and grounding, I got my kids ready for school. Needless to say, the time management just wasn’t there this particular morning and we were running late. The problem for me is not getting up on time, because I’m actually up very early, it’s more of a focus and time management issue. I’ve been really good recently with getting my son to school on time using positive affirmations. I literally say “We are going to be on time to Ms.__’s class today,” about 50 times from the time they wake up until I drop him off at school. And it’s been working. We’ve been on time every day for quite a while now. But this particular morning we left extra late. I still used my affirmations and it worked! There were almost no cars on the road and I pretty much drove like a maniac the whole way there.

But, on the way home as I thought about the collateral damage of our morning commute, in flooded the feelings of self-condemnation. Thinking about the Reiki precepts helped me work through the guilt I was feeling. I felt guilty because I spent the entire 25 minute (normally 35 minute) drive to school filled with worry and anger. When my kids tried to talk to me, I told them I couldn’t talk to them because I needed to focus on the road and get there on time. I also drove pretty crazy, which I know scares my kids. I even honked at a lady for fluffing her hair in the mirror instead of driving. My kids, like me are both highly sensitive, so I’m sure that they were very affected by the worry and anger energy I was emoting. My son even asked me, “Who do you love the most God, other people, or yourself?” I told him, “I don’t know, I can’t answer that right now, I have to focus on the road.” Theses were the guilty feelings I drove home with, wondering how my children were handling their school experience after all that negative energy. Wondering if my son would ever ask me that question again and care about my answer.

It was during this time that I started thinking about how I had prayed earlier “do not anger and do not worry”. I started to ask myself why I was worried. I was able to acknowledge that the worry did not serve me at all. I could have made it to school on time without any worry or anger and I could have given my children a different start to their day (and the lady I honked at). And myself…. that worry and anger hurt me most of all.

As I examined the source of the worry, I realized it had nothing to do with my son and his needs. The truth is that I was worried about being judged as a parent by people at the school and I was worried that their negative opinion of me would lead to negative actions against me. I was giving these people more power over my life than my Higher Power.

At the end of it all, I was left with my feelings of guilt and shame. This is where compassion for myself has to come into the picture. It’s easier for me to offer myself compassion when I can remember the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, the beauty of imperfection. It reminds me that being an imperfect human is what makes me perfect. My imperfections accentuate my humanness and the acceptance of my own humanness allows me to love and honor the humanness in others.

I am no better or worse than anyone else, and the same can be said for us all. We are all perfectly imperfect in our own way.

This gives me hope for humanity. Just as I can reach across the aisle and change my mind about someone or love someone who seems to be an enemy, so can everyone else.

If we can see and accept our own imperfections, there is hope that we can have compassion for the imperfections of others.

We can stop seeing each other through the eyes of judgement and allow ourselves to be surprised by beauty that exists in every living being. I know this begins with me.

I want to be surprised.

acceptance, black, black lives matter, Mildred and Richard Loving, mixed race, one human family, police, racial bias, racial profiling, racism

I’m Mixed, I’m Black 7/10/16

7/10/16
Interracial marriage became legal across the United States in 1967.  My parents, a black man and a white women were married in 1974.  I was born soon after. Their marriage was short lived, and they were divorced when I was a one-year old.  I don’t have memories of them together.  They both remarried people from their own race. 
In a time of intense racial divides between black and white, somehow, neither my mom’s side of the family or my dad’s side of the family held any animosity or racism towards the other side.  I never once heard a negative word said about my mom or my dad by either of them or by their families.  Instead, it was the opposite.  My grandfather on my white side always talked about the respect he had for my dad.  Even with the divorce, there was never hatred or criticism stated or implied.  I didn’t realize growing up how unusual that was.  I did, however, experience racism and prejudice from some of my step parents and their families throughout the years.  At times, it has been difficult for them and for their families to accept me and my other race.   I’ve also experienced racism, prejudice and discrimination from white teachers and students in school.  As an adult, I’ve been racially profiled and followed by police, followed by security members in stores, and given the cold shoulder in business establishments in areas that were mostly white.  This racism and discrimination scares me, especially when it comes to the police, our legal system and the political climate.  
I identify myself as a woman of mixed race black/white, a choice I made a couple decades ago because I wanted to challenge white people’s tendency to use the one drop rule when it comes classifying non-whites.  It felt like some of the white people that I encountered were overlooking the fact that I’m half white, something that black people never seemed to overlook.  But, even though I use this mixed race classification now, in my heart I feel black because of my experiences.  What else could I be??  Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve been black.  My parents and my family told me I was black.  I was black on the playground at my all white grade school, when white kids circled around me and got my only friend (a boy) to punch me in the stomach while the ring leader girl yelled “Punch her, punch her!”  My friend later apologized while he and I sat in timeout for “fighting”.  All of the other kids involved had no consequences.  I was black in my 4th grade class when one girl would stand behind me in line ever day and sneer the n-word in my ear.  She’d tell me I was so ugly and ask me why my braided ponytails looked like poop.  When I told the teacher, she did nothing.  When I got my white grandmother (who I was living with at the time) involved, she reached out to the girls parents and we went together to their house.  With my grandma sitting next to me, and the girls parents sitting next to her, I directly confronted her for what she was saying to me.  Her parents seemed shocked and verbally scolded their daughter in front of me.  However, within the school faculty, there was no support for me.  I don’t remember my teacher even asking me about it at all.  When my grandmother questioned the school on what they would do about it, the school’s solution was to move me to another classroom mid-year.  Even now, when a police officer or a security guard follows or watches me, I don’t get the vibe that he sees me and thinks, “Ohhh, she’s mixed race.”  I think he sees me and thinks, “black” and all of the negative stereotypes and stories playing in his head at that moment apply to me. 
I was black when I had two police officers walk up on me in my own garage in my own car.   At the time, I was inside the gated parking garage of my apartment building.  It was early in the morning and I was dressed for work wearing a skirt and blouse.  I was standing outside my car with the driver’s door open bending into my car looking for something.  I was parked at the far end of the garage, furthest from the entrance, and it was very quiet in the area by my car.  All of the sudden I heard a footstep behind me and felt someone’s presence.  I jumped and turned around to see two men less than 10 feet away walking silently towards me.  I thought they were going to attack me and I must have turned pale; I was so startled.  They froze too when I jumped and both of them put their hands inches away from their guns on their sides.  By this time I realized that they weren’t thieves or rapists;  they were cops.  I just stood there frozen in silence.  When I think about the incident now, I’m not scared, I’m pissed!!   I think how dare you sneak up behind in me in MY garage and not identify yourself.  It’s like they already had an assumption that I was stealing.  But of course, I stayed silent.  They said they got a call about a disturbance and asked if I’d seen anything.  I hated them so much in that moment for making me feel like crap in my own garage when I was doing absolutely nothing wrong. 
Oh yeah, and I’m definitely black to my Asian in-laws.  
(Sigh) All that being said, I know that being black isn’t just about being discriminated against, it’s also not about how you speak, how you act, what music you like, or who you marry.  I’m not saying that I don’t have very real privileges by being half white, that my full black sisters (I’m talking about my step sister and my half sister) do not have.   I do agree that it is very different to experience the world as a mixed race person versus a person with parents of the same race. There is no question about that!  But, I don’t understand all of the hatred and pushing people away when we share so much of the same struggles, passions and dreams.   My son may be mixed with black, white and Korean, but when he walks into a classroom, store or park he is seen as a black kid by most non-black people.  
My very real experiences of racism have fed my heightened sensitivity to even the smallest slights.   When I’m out in public with my husband or kids, I get a lot of ice from all sides, Asian, white and black.  Instead of acceptance, there is often rejection, and it hurts to receive judgment from all angles.  My husband grew up in the United States as a second generation Korean American.  Growing up, my husband and his family lived in a white neighborhood.  They all moved back to Korea when he was in middle school and high school.  He and his family returned to the United States after high school.  Prior to meeting me, my husband built many significant friendships with African American men during his college years and after.  
Even though my family has experienced racism from many angles, I would love to be able to say that we feel welcomed and supported by the black community at large.  Unfortunately, I can’t say that.  Recently, we needed to find a new barber for our 5-year old son.  One of our African American friends gave us a reference to the barber shop where he takes his own son.  When my husband and son entered the shop, instead of feeling welcomed as customers they were met with confused and questioning looks, as if they were aliens.  My son, who is very comfortable with his black family and our black friend, felt so uncomfortable by the way they were being treated that he asked his dad if they could leave.  I love my black community and my black culture, but how can I show solidarity and support when I and my family are pushed away?
I’ve been hurt by the way I’ve been sidelined by some black people in my life.  I’ve been treated like I’m a threat, like I’m a disgrace, like I’m a joke, and like I’m an outsider.  But in the end, I will never turn my back on my own blackness or on black people.  We have been through too much, and we continue to suffer racism, discrimination and prejudice on a daily basis.  
I know that there are some that are against race mixing.  I believe that anti-race mixing sentiments stem from hate, not love.  I strive for love, to grow in love for myself and for others.  Let’s face it, people fall in love with who they love, regardless of race or societal pressure.  So, there will always be mixed race people.  Look at Romeo and Juliet or Richard and Mildred Loving.   Why do we let our fears and prejudice keep us from loving and accepting others?  I guess what I’m hoping for is a world where we can love and accept all people regardless of their race — where we can make judgments about people based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

I also realize that I need to be more willing to give love and acceptance even when I feel it may not be deserved.  That doesn’t mean I’ll accept injustice.  No, in fact I will fight against it!  But, it does mean I choose to accept the person as a human being who is just as in need of love and forgiveness as I am.  That is my goal.