embodying privilege + risk: the stakes is high

because it had to be told.

3 Jewels Yoga

Some folks may not quite understand why the stakes are so high for me and those I love.

I am aware of my privileges:

I am educated. I attended a private boarding school and a private university where I earned both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree.
I am a U.S-born person whose 1st language is English.
I am a cis-gendered heterosexual.
I am married.
I do not live with a disability.

I also embody a space where the targeted and marginalized aspects of my identity make me vulnerable to practices, policies, and dominant cultural beliefs that have denied or would attempt to block my humanity as well as my civil rights:

I am a Black Woman.

I am the daughter of an immigrant.
My father is from Trinidad. His family has roots throughout the Caribbean.

The great-granddaughter of immigrants.
My maternal great-grandparents were Canadian.

The great-great…

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who are these people?

It’s been so hard to get out of bed feeling like the biggest hate crime has just been committed as this country was overwhelmingly motivated to vote on the side of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, inhumanity and overall terror.

And still I move against the weight of this devastation and dread to attend the second day of a health equity and social justice workshop where I am observing and participating as a facilitator-in-training. Trying to conjure a lasting remedy for the heartache, anger, mistrust…I am literally sick to my stomach and only managing to smile because of the joy my child exudes.

bodhicitta bookshelf | “introducing teddy” by jessica walton

My local library has so many treasures but to find Jessica Walton’s Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender + Friendship on prominent display among its new book section was an absolute surprise and delight!

Immersed in Difference

My son is growing up in an interfaith, multi-ethnic, and multi-racial family and has friendships with children of similar backgrounds. While differences abound they can, however, easily get overlooked and go uncelebrated by an extended family that is focused on loving each other through life’s uncertainties, entrances, exits and shifting tides — birth, marriage, graduation, disability, illness, death, financial woes, retirement, unemployment, new opportunities, etc.

In other words, many culturally-blended families appear to become colorblind and/or unwittingly comfortable in their neglect of healthy discussions about their multiplicities (unless some external circumstance prompts it).

When young kids are in that “hyper-literal” phase they can perceive concrete differences in appearance such as skin tone and hair but race and culture are abstract concepts. My family still laughs at the 25-year old memory of my fair-skinned aunt being identified as white by her brown-skinned preschool-aged son. Kids of a certain age simply see what they see, so “blackness” will be questioned when one’s complexion is literally not a shade resembling the coal-colored pigment known as “black.”

Gender, on the other hand, often seems to be a child’s first encounter with a recognizable difference that can appear to be concrete. Girls look, do, and act like this and boys look, do, and act like that. And, as we well know, it’s reinforced from the day they enter the world by the colors and toys they’re assigned.

Who Has What

We can easily talk with our littles about biology (hat tip to Robie Harris for her awesome book on anatomy whose title I borrowed above), body parts, and body safety to help them protect themselves and to respect that each of us is “the boss of our own bodies” (h/t to another must-read from the bodhicitta bookshelf).

Although my son sees me, a cisgendered woman with a shaved head and wardrobe free of dresses (minus my pjs) and other women, of varying self-proclaimed identities, in our lives who express themselves in gender non-conforming ways, we cannot avoid the dominant cultural “ideals” about how gender is lived out. So whenever a gendered statement is made (be it on television, in a book, or uttered by a loved one), I am quick to challenge, correct, and explain it in terms that I hope will uproot seeds of bias in my child.

But how do we introduce age-appropriate lessons about gender identity and fluidity, especially when we love people who are trans and who are lesbian and gay and express themselves in ways that are non-conforming? Especially when our children are not old enough to see and understand the more complex concepts of sexuality and identity?

Beyond upholding the virtues of kindness, fairness and respect in how we treat others, I didn’t have a clear answer. Neither did my friend who is trans! Even after living as their authentic self for several years, they had preteen family members with whom they are extremely close yet didn’t know how to discuss their transition.

What a grace to provide this early lesson on how to honor and acknowledge the full spectrum of humanity — our particularies and sameness!

lil bodhicitta

My little guy has become a more eager reader in recent weeks and, as he prepared his own lunch, pointed to his juice pouch and asked if it read “Heart Kids.” When I explained that it was honest, he surprised me by stating, oh-so-matter-of-factly, that it was basically another way of saying heart. And so my heart sighed, as I marvelled at his ability to see into and then extrapolate the meaning of one word toward another that we adults (it is hoped) come to learn are bound up in each other. It takes heart to be honest; and, when we commit to practicing being honest, we are living intentionally from the heart.

We’ve not discussed the definition of either word as part of a formal lesson on reading or spelling. So this moment was a wonderful reflection of the priority we place on modeling our values! We have demonstrated and openly discussed what honesty, heart, and their “offshoots”–kindness, love, fairness, forgiveness, patience–look and feel like. So now he is learning to identify it, even on a juice pouch. Proud mommy moment!

I told him that I love learning along with him because I like the way he thinks. Then my darling boy told me that he loves learning from me because I know everything. I am always honest and remind that I don’t have all the answers. But on this homeschooling journey, I am guiding us toward that which cultivates bodhicitta, the heart and mind of love.

mindfulness in a crisis

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Exploded and firefighters are two words you don’t want to hear from an unfamiliar caller, informing you that your mother needs you to come over to the house immediately.

Already in the car, heading in the opposite direction, with my husband thankfully behind the wheel. My first response was not to panic but to pause and assess. In reflection, I recognize: This is my brain on mindfulness.

And let me say right now that mindfulness is not a quick fix tool that I acquired after some 6-8 week stress reduction workshop. It is the result of 10-plus years as a dharma practitioner with feet grounded firmly on the Zen path and a lifetime of exploring contemplative spiritual and wellness practices that have helped recalibrate my fiery temperament “to be more able more often” to generate skillful responses.

I’ll be straight up: it doesn’t “work” all the time in all situations! There are certain conditions that are more likely to trigger my unskillfulness than others — lack of sleep, hormonal shifts, information overload, my enduring pet peeve with folks’ poor communication skills, a sudden pile-on of simultaneous requests for assistance or multiple “crises” (’cause, ya know, family) and, not for mere emphasis and effect but because it is my reality and truly can the training grounds for spiritual resilience, all manner of family habits/patterns/cycles.

It takes time, over a span of time and situations, to cultivate mindfulness as a spiritual faculty. With practice this faculty serves as a power, which becomes activated in a moment of crisis, where our innate flight-fight-freeze instinct is bypassed and instead calm and clarity prevail. So instead of having my husband immediately bust a U-turn, I took a fortifying breath and quietly cancelled the appointment I was heading to; notified other family members of the news — explaining that I didn’t have all the details but would provide an update soon; prayed that no one was harmed; and concentrated on seeing clearly and calmly a broad range of possibility.

En route I learned that my mother and grandmother were indeed safe, which made the drive from the opposite end of town less stressful. Still with only minimal information, I was mentally prepared to pull up to a busy scene with the driveway blocked by a firetruck, a crew assessing damage, and my mother and grandmother in a dither.

Much to my relief, there was no outward evidence of any hazard. Life, limb, and living quarters were in tact. There had, in fact, been an “explosion” and “smoke” in the form of a pipe to the water heater bursting, a release of some vapor/exhaust cloud through the smokestack, and a legitimate concern about the gas line being connected. But, thank God, all was well…albeit flooded. No elevated heart rate, nervous sweat, or belly-twisting fear to recover from. A sigh of relief and deep gratitude that nothing worse had happened. I later joked, Do y’all know how it sounds to hear “exploded” and “firefighters” in the same sentence?! There’s a certain picture that comes to mind

I won’t speculate further about worst-case scenarios. What’s more important was being reminded that, whether in the midst of uncertainty, tension, and crisis or in their aftermath, I can trust the fruits of my practice will continue to bloom — equipping, nourishing, sustaining, and restoring me.

art + silliness!

words to live by | mushim patricia ikeda

As the saying goes, you can’t serve from an empty cup! So I’ve taken the #VowNotToBurnOut and am sending all of you self-sacrificing parents, caregivers, and nurturers the energy and support to do the same.

“Burnout and self-sacrifice, the paradigm of the lone hero who takes nothing for herself and gives everything to others, injure all of us who are trying to bring the dharma into everyday lay life through communities of transformative well-being, where the exchange of self for other is re-envisioned as the care of self in service to the community.”
~ Mushim Patricia Ikeda

3 Jewels Yoga

Great Vow for Mindful Activists

Aware of suffering and injustice,
I,
[tara scott], am working to create
a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
I promise, for the benefit of all,
to practice self-care, mindfulness, healing, and joy.
I vow to not burn out.

Burnout and self-sacrifice, the paradigm of the lone hero who takes nothing for herself and gives everything to others, injure all of us who are trying to bring the dharma into everyday lay life through communities of transformative well-being, where the exchange of self for other is re-envisioned as the care of self in service to the community. The longer we live, the healthier we are; the happier we feel, the more we can gain the experience and wisdom needed to contribute toward a collective reimagining of relationships, education, work, and play.

~Mushim Patricia Ikeda
I Vow Not To Burn Out via Lion’s Roar
related…

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mellowed-out mondays

tear down the walls and cast away chairs…let the world become your classroom! happy monday, y’all!

woman horizontal | the sound of him

all that motherhood inspires…

3 Jewels Yoga

he wakes whistling, thrilled by the zipping wind
he conjures and reshapes into sharps and flats

snaps a crisp unpatterned rhythm
with supple-skinned thumb and middle finger
(wiped dry between refrains)
flickering his wrist for triumphant emphasis

3jewels.allmannerofsound

mutters a play-by-play commentary
to an imagined audience of rapt gamers
punctuated with shrieks, chides, wails and groans

jigs an exuberant popiscle-sugared dance
wagging his pineapple-cherry coated tongue
shuffling feet,
flexing knees,
scuttling erratically to a giggle-inflected beat
oh! mustn’t leave out the slapping bum finale and encore

drills up and down 14 stairs,
thunderous heel-stomping laps
and cushioned drop-and-rolls,
parkouring over and around the furniture
a streak of joy unleashed

bumps and bangs precede whimpers and squealed tears
beckoning empathetic triage,
strokes of comfort and mild caution to remember,
in all this play, that his body is growing and does not yet know
the new dimensions marking where it ends and external…

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homeschoolers be like

Life Skills 101: Tent, Nap + Snacks…Whew! What a rough week. So glad it’s over.

 

On “Revolutionary Mothering” | The Laura Flanders Show

In this, my 6th year of motherhood, I am celebrating my power to radically design a life for my child that does not conform to anyone else’s standards or conventions. I am crafting a life that resists the call to pass on legacies of unexamined dysfunction and empty rituals embedded in played-out cultural traditions shaped and sullied by the whims of industry, technology, politics and religion. Shrugged off and unquestioned… because, well, it’s always been done that way.

Long before I imagined myself a parent, I stood in line at a roti shop on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn and chewed on the island wisdom I overheard from an elder:

Yuh doh raise chil’run. Yuh raise cattle and corn. Yuh teach chil’run an lead ’em…

I recall nothing else about that moment — what sparked his statement, who he was speaking to (if anyone at all…because in my experience with my West Indian fam, elders have no problem schoolin whomever’s in earshot), or if anyone had a response. I just know that it utterly surprised me when I would have easily expected the more archaic “spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child” mindset from a man of his generation!

He planted a beautiful seed that summer day in 2002; an heirloom aspiration that germinated for years until it sprouted and blossomed with the birth of nieces, nephews and my own son.

Honor their humanity. Give them the freedom to experience childhood in all its soft, fluffy, bright, silly, sweet and tender possibilities. Grant them vocal range — to be powerful, convicted, loud, quiet, bashful, brazen, kind, incomprehensible.

Gift them the capacity to see clearly, to call you out on your mistakes, to remind you to apologize, to offer you grace and forgiveness.

Resist the urge to fight, win, or dominate. Be stretched by the challenges they’ll throw down. Be touched by their magic to transform you. Grow up alongside them. Teach with compassion as you learn, unlearn, relearn. Learn as you teach, allowing love and respect to prevail.

That long-ago memory was conjured up by this powerful piece from Alexis Pauline Gumbs, which speaks my heart and truth:

“Mamas who unlearned domination by refusing to dominate their children.

Extended family and friends. Community care givers. Radical childcare collectives.

All of us, breaking cycles of abuse, by deciding what we want to replicate from the past, and what we urgently need to transform.

We are “M-othering”, mothering ourselves.”

madness: cabin fever + wacky winter weather

YESTERDAY: January’s nearly over and, due to the erratic weather, we hit our beloved sledding hill for the first time all winter.  The snow was sparse but slippery enough to get downhill!

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TODAY: The kiddo wrestled his coat off through the seatbelt and went bare-armed (against Dad’s grumblings; meanwhile, I’m all “who needs the fight? g’head and test it for yourself”) for the short walk between the car and the building!

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66 Positive Things To Say To Your Child

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(h/t: Facebook)

Happy Happy Family-Daze!

 

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