The other day I came across a very powerful video of a press conference made by a group of Indigenous Canadian activists who were trying to call attention to the horrendous institutionalized racism they’ve been subjected to across history and various governments.
The clip shows the activists being questioned in a rather condescending tone by a reporter who wanted to know what Justin Trudeau had to do with the oppression their community faces on a daily basis.
One activist decided to shut down the whole conference—not without pointing out the obvious issue of white privilege that was at play in that room. And in the process of trying to explain white privilege to white people, she said something that deeply resonated with me: “You haven’t changed because you haven’t started your healing journeys.”
A healing journey: maybe that’s all we need in order to end, once and for all, the issue of discrimination in this world.
I have been directly or indirectly involved with grassroots activism for a long time. I have engaged in all sorts of arguments with all sorts of people throughout the past 10 years. Now as I look back at my journey, I realize the amount of healing I had to go through in order to be able to continue living.
I know this may sound strange, but voicing my concerns and expressing my disappointment with the system was the first step I took toward my process of healing. I am talking about the wounds that seemed to have been imprinted in my cells, as a result of transgenerational trauma. It’s like my ancestors wanted to speak their pain through those lesions.
I am highly sensitive, and for a while I thought that, probably, something was wrong with me. Thus, I resisted everything about my personality. Without that voice—that did not come from my throat, but from my body—I was still able to function. Yet, I felt that something was amiss, and I was restless, unhappy.
That’s when I realized that I needed to write and talk about my pain, somehow. In the process of writing, and talking, I ended up meeting people who connected to what I was saying. I was able to meet those akin to me. So I slowly began to pay attention to the previously ignored signs that my body had been giving me throughout the course of my life.
The process—which is still in place—is not a linear one. Although, I do come across a lot of understanding, I also have to face, every so often, the consequences of backlash. So whenever I decide to sit and write something, I do so in the awareness that I cannot please everyone. The challenge of having to face antagonism is also part of the process, it seems.
I also believe that a pivotal element in my healing journey has been meditation.
So maybe, all of the above is really what’s behind the inspiration I drew from the words of that activist in Canada: we cannot promote and create real change in this world if we are not willing to take a journey inward. It is only through inquiry that we are able to see ourselves in a better light, and in doing so, we end up freeing others from the constraints of our own sets of prejudices.
I am only able to understand others insofar as I begin to understand myself, my actions, my fears, and my pettiness. If I am able to accept myself as a whole being comprised of shadows and light, I no longer fear the “other.” I realize they are fellow humans with their own struggles. I begin to see through their wounds and instead of pointing fingers, I try to help. And if I can’t help them directly, I can at least send them some love and light.
A healing journey is the best remedy to the fear-based acts of war, exploitation, consumerism, and discrimination. There’s many ways one can take steps to turn inward. As I said before, my journey began the moment I realized I needed to direct my efforts toward meditating.
So today I am of the opinion that meditation could lead the world to a radical turning point.
When you take the steps to learn to meditate, you’re not only going to be able to improve your brain function. Research has suggested that our ability to empathize with others is enhanced by meditation. What better trait than empathy to bring about a sense of deeper understanding amongst human beings?
It is clear to me that meditation is a crucial part of any healing journey. It is a simple, yet effective way to shift one’s awareness and experience. Many wonderful things could happen when we are able to relax into who you are. For instance, people often report about becoming less defensive and fearful.
Fear can be a good thing, and I am not here advocating for its extinction. In fact, I don’t think it would even be possible. There’s a study from the University of Chicago which contends that as a species, we all fear things or people who are moving toward us. They call it the “approach avoidance” trait. In evolutionary terms, this is something that helped humans stay alive by avoiding the threat of being killed by predators.
The problem is, we also see other humans as threats, as predators who are just waiting for the right moment to eat us alive. In that state of complete defensiveness, we end up missing a great opportunity to evolve as a species. The level of inequality spikes because we are unable to have mindful and sincere conversations.
Meanwhile, resentment continues to build up in the most marginalized sects of our societies, and violence becomes the way through which many of them respond to the tyranny of the exclusion that’s been imposed upon them.
So on the one hand, we have the privileged people feeling unsafe and taking steps to create harsher retaliation mechanisms that will all fail in the end. On the other hand, the less privileged ones react with anger because they are either too tired to try to negotiate their own humanity, or they simply don’t know how to manage their emotions.
I think full equality is an utopian dream. However, we can bridge the gap with more understanding. We can level the playing field in order to create a more sane and livable planet where all beings can enjoy happiness and freedom.
I believe that everyone, no matter how privileged or not they are in life, can benefit from a healing journey.
Author: Flavia Simas
Image: Elephant archives
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina