who we are | contemplating gender identity + expression

who we are,

how we embody + express

all of our identities —

namely, gender + culture —

and how we respect + support the wholeness of others in embodying + expressing their multitudes is an ongoing contemplation in our home.

Last month, we discovered Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and discussed the gender spectrum and the many ways to be a “boy”/”girl”/”kid”…PERSON!
While my little person was still nesting in the womb, I held a blessing ceremony and invited all who were present to speak love, life and possibility over my child. my own prayer was for my soon-to-be human-baby-person to have a compassionate soul.

Parenting with a heart for justice, liberation and healing compels me to ensure that this compassionate soul cultivates a “liberating lexicon” rooted in the skillful understanding that we have the power to name ourselves and we will continue to resist the oppressive forces that tell us otherwise.

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

📷 #2: kiddo’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “boy.”

i am a boy.

i like building, drawing, games. 

📷 #3: mommy’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “girl.”

i am a girl.

i like reading. 

📷 #4: two of the places we descend from…opening up the conversation around how we express culture and ethnicity. specifically, how does a brownskinned, black-identified, multi-cultured, multi-ethnic, multi-racial child express/embody their “white” part? (#howsway)  my child’s answer was all levels of woke: he basically named a certain dangerous political character and his behaviors, indicating my son’s awareness of how toxic “white pride” is expressed. 

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bodhicitta bookshelf | what was your dream dr. king? by mary kay carson

I was pretty surprised when my son and husband returned from a quick trip to the library a couple weeks ago with this book among their new selections. Even more so, when my husband confessed that he had no hand in picking out a single item! Granted, our library does a great job of displaying books connected to a season, holiday, special event, or other poignant theme.  But my action-adventure-and-technology-loving 6 year-old typically gravitates toward superheroes, dragons, dinos and the like. So I was super proud and impressed by his awareness of the kinds of books that I would choose for him!

Now we’ve started this monumental week in our nation’s history by honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and will close out by attending the first ever Children’s Social Justice Reading Group offered at a local library this weekend.

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!

March Mindfulness 2015

As parents, partners and caregivers, we often feel stretched and compressed to balance our multiple responsibilities. So I am sharing my 3rd annual “call-to-action” that I launch each spring through my teaching practice, 3 Jewels Yoga.

#MarchMindfulness is a time to renew our commitment to cultivating skillfulness in thought, word + deed.

#PAUSE to #BREATHE.

#TUNEIN to your body (sensations) + mind (thoughts, perceptions, moods, emotions) + heart (intentions + aspirations).

#NOTICE without judgement what is present.

#TEND to yourself with #COMPASSIONATE actions — be it meaningful movement, words of affirmation, or spending time in the company of a #goodspiritualfriend!

♡ 3jewelsyoga.com

3 Jewels Yoga™

Today I kick off my annual ‪#‎MarchMindfulness‬ campaign to promote the practice of bringing skillful + compassionate awareness to how we engage, are impacted by, and then respond to the world around us.

The Satipatthana Sutta (Discourse on The Four Establishments of Mindfulness) is a foundational text and, ultimately, guiding practice in Buddhism. It is the inspiration and heart of my ‪#‎BodyAwarenessBootcamp‬ series, which ended this afternoon, and truly the ground in which my teaching practice is rooted.

How do we fully establish ourselves in mindfulness? We are diligent in developing a clear comprehension of the realities of our body and mind. It begins with the thread of the breath:

Breathing in,
be aware that [you] are breathing in.
Breathing out,
be aware that [you] are breathing out.

Breathing in,
be aware of [your] whole body.
Breathing out,
be aware of [your] whole body.

Throughout each day this…

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#madness + #motherhood: “Where are all the interracial children’s books?” – The Washington Post

This is my constant complaint as I search the shelves at the libraries and book stores. As a mother and aunt to brown children of multi-ethnic heritage, I snatch up any book that features children of diverse cultures — Asian, Latino, Black, Native — or, in lieu of being ethnic-specific, “characters of hue.” My default to balance out the predominance of white characters: animals, cars, and robots.

to tv or not to tv

In fact, just last week I explained to my not-quite-5-year-old that I had concerns about him watching a new show on nick jr. that does not have a character of color. He corrected me, pointing out that one purple-haired girl was brownish. Ha! True, she has some “tint.” But, factoring in “voice” and story context, and she skews far from an ethnic identity.

I’m an avid reader (who holds a graduate degree in media studies) who loves sharing good stories with great illustrations and age-appropriate lessons that I can build on with K. I certainly don’t avoid books without people of color; however, it is crucial that the children in my life get to see themselves reflected in a full range of stories, from the fantastic to historical. Their imaginations must be nurtured and celebrated so they may be inspired to live boldly, creatively and beautifully.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/01/20/where-are-all-the-interracial-childrens-books/

kiss your brain: a compassionate life lesson from a preschool teacher

Last year, I worked as a substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program and had the opportunity to observe the dynamics between teachers, program assistants, and students in several classrooms.

One teacher quickly won my heart when I heard her say “Kiss Your Brain” in praise of the kids’ engagement in a group lesson. It wasn’t about having the “right” answer or being the best and smartest. It was a simple celebration of their ability and willingness to use their brain power—thinking, imagining, problem-solving, asking questions—and sharing it with others.

I’ve carried this practice into my home as well as into my yoga and meditation classes. With my son and the children that I teach, this phrase is a seed of self-compassion to nurture confidence and a sense of competency. It has the power to foster a love for learning without the pressure of performing to a certain standard of achievement. I also see its usefulness in cultivating a teaching-learning environment where equity, collaboration and cooperation (rather than competition and criticism) can bloom—equipping our children with a skillfulness that will serve them in all their relationships.

For myself and adult practitioners, it becomes a gentle reminder to honor these brilliantly-designed brains of ours. As we learn more about our neurobiological processes and their impact on mind (thoughts, words, feelings) and behavior (actions, habits), we can discover tools to work with rather than fight against our brain/mind to generate skillful behavior. Kiss your brain can be used as a mantra or affirmation to generate a new way of seeing and relating to ourselvesThrough this practice of self-understanding, self-compassion ripens beautifully.