It seems like forever since we began social isolation, yet it has only been three months.
So much has happened: a global pandemic, an uprising, and of course, everything in between.
Not only has the world changed, but so have I—so have we. We are not the same persons as three months before COVID-19.
Three months ago, I was planning a trip to Thailand with my friends. We were exhausted from 2019, and needed joy, celebration, peace, and a place to exhale. Just as we were getting on a plane to go, we were directed back to our homes to be in social isolation. We didn’t think COVID was real yet, and were disappointed at the big deal that was being made.
I just unpacked that suitcase a couple of weeks ago.
I did it only because I had to take out my summer clothes and transition my closet and wardrobe from a winter I don’t remember into a summer that I can only see through my window.
The world is both at a standstill while also re-opening, and so are we, so are our hearts. It has left me thinking about what else I need to unpack in order to re-open?
This quarantine and social isolation have caused us to pause in a way we knew we needed, and yet also weren’t ready for. And now, amidst all the unrest, inequality, and inequities, we are also being asked to go back, to open businesses, go to the beach, shop at the mall, and visit friends and family. As if.
But we all know now, we can’t go back; and we all know we never will.
Amidst all the revolutionary rage I have been feeling, I know I need to commit to my healing now more than ever. And not the same healing or even in the same way, but a completely new one that will match the world that we are creating and living in. Healing that will sustain me for the long haul because I don’t know if and when this will end, or who I will be on the other side.
This is why a spiritual uprising is needed, too.
This time when all social contracts have been broken, I am calling on all my people, first responders, activist, organizers on the frontlines, healers, coaches, executive directors, social workers, advocates, service providers, essential workers, teachers, creatives, artivist, victims and survivors alike, to create a new spiritual contract with themselves and each other.
When I think back about what has kept me alive, it’s been prayers, lighting candles, believing in something bigger than myself. I asked, declared, and held god to account to take us to the other side of this.
I invoked my ancestors who have lived through this to lead the way, give us the tools to do it, and to please let us see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We need wins, small and big, on a personal and global level. When there is a massive loss like this coming to our lives and livelihood all at the same time, we need to hold onto something—anything.
But it’s hard to dream in the middle of a war. When we are being hunted, persecuted, killed, purged, trafficked, exploited, oppressed, beaten, and raped, we go into pure survival mode.
These acts of capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy breeds survival. Survival by default has no integrity; its only mission is to keep us safe by any means necessary. And that is why a new spiritual contract is needed now more than ever.
In order for the revolution to be sustainable, it must go beyond survival. And in order for everyone to be in the revolution and organize for the long haul, we must go beyond survival and restore our spiritual integrity. Restoring our individual and collective spiritual integrity is how we hold ourselves, each other, and institutions accountable.
It’s hard to dream of a world with spiritual integrity when we think we have no power to change ourselves or the world. And it is when we feel this way that we become spiritually homeless.
This time is calling for our faith to be intersectional. To be grounded in our humanity, dignidad, and sovereignty. But when we haven’t done our own work to heal from past trauma—intergenerational and historical—then at the end of the day, even if we dismantle institutions, we will have to reckon with ourselves and each other and the ways we have internalized the very systems we are fighting against.
This letter is my call to action asking all of us to make a new spiritual contract with ourselves where we agree to build a new relationship free from guilt, self-blame, addiction, depression, and fear. It is my call for us to reclaim our body from disease and internalized oppression. A new spiritual contract will require us to make a spiritual contract with our ancestors first, where we let them know it’s their time to lead, to lead us, and to lead a new world.
A new spiritual contract is a radical healing justice concept that people, in fact, can evolve by using their spiritual medicines and tools to heal, interrupt, and counter the effects caused by trauma, oppression, historical violence, neglect, and poverty.
When organizing is grounded in healing justice, people can break through the other side of self-blame and guilt, and tap into the magic that they were before the violence.
Healing in the absence of social change lacks accountability and integrity, creating more trauma and injustice without consequence.
Engaging in healing practices, not understanding how one’s trauma and privilege impact others’ quality of life, is like being a gatekeeper disguised in nonprofit social change work, healing justice, and community organizing.
Basically, a person can still be an a**hole, a perpetrator, a racist, a sexist, or homophobic with a yoga mat, meditation practices, beads, and breathwork.
Look, for me in NYC, it’s only been three months of social isolation. For others, it’s been four or five months, and no matter how long it been, it seems like we have been doing this for what seems like a lifetime. The days keep blurring, time doesn’t exist, and every day the boundaries between work, home, and organizing get less and less with no end in sight.
Even though its summer, exhaustion is taking its toll on me as fear and grief slowly creep into bed with me at night as I struggle to breathe in my next steps and dream of another world, another me. So do I even have the energy to create a new spiritual contract? I believe I have no choice. I believe we have no choice.
There still isn’t a day that I don’t wake up confused and yet clear about who I am at the same time.
There isn’t a day that I am not exhausted and full of gratitude for still being alive, disappointed and in celebration for all the small and big wins in our communities. And yet, still, at the end of the day, I am left with only myself to contend with.
Not only has this time affirmed some things we already knew about the world (its injustice and inequality), but for me it has also highlighted the ways I have internalized, protected, and survived this life.
Without us knowing, the oppression, violence, and trauma that we have experienced in our lifetime has shaped our very thoughts, ways of being, and the way we love, live, and lead. I don’t know about the world, but I definitely have had to sit with myself and look at some things, some patterns, some thoughts, some choices and opinions that don’t serve me anymore.
For the past three months, I have asked myself:
>> Am I willing to walk away from things that are not working?
>> Do I feel stuck and yet keep doing the same things as before and wanting different results in my life?
>> Do I think I am actually going to create a new reality for myself or anyone else if I keep doing the same thing and being the same way?
>> What needs to be restored within me?
>> What can I do differently to align my spirit with the issues and people I most care about?
>> What do I need to walk away from?
>> What parts of me and my dream can I no longer compromise or negotiate?
>> What do I stand for?
>> What side of the revolution am I on?
While grieving the losses experienced during this pandemic, so many of us are also struggling to embrace surrender, be in gratitude, and to receive the opportunity of rebirth that this time is offering us as our spirits are being depleted. We are drained and exhausted while also having to think about our own capacity and that of our organizations and communities right now.
Whether we are continuing to go to work every day without choice, are at home trying to pivot to go virtual while caring for family, or have transitioned our organizations to work from home while managing staff and programs, I know we are all dealing with our own personal concerns and fears as we are forced to sit with ourselves.
A spiritual contract calls this opportunity forward with intentionality—a deep intention to be in a constant ritual of self-inquiry and self-reflection so we can align ourselves to who we say we are and want to be in relationships, partnerships, and leadership.
A lack of spiritual intentionality in social justice is like creating sacred space with the intention to harm. If you bring spiritual integrity to social justice, then healing becomes a tool of accountability. If you don’t, then our sacred spaces of organizing can quickly become another tool of co-dependency, harm, and trauma bonding in the name of self-care and healing.
I know I can no longer rely on doing the same thing that got me here today. None of us can. We cannot go back to what is familiar and comfortable but hinders our growth and potential. We can no longer keep doing things the same way. We cannot continue to be the same leader, partner, parent, friend, or organizer.
It’s going to take new thinking, new attitudes, new practices, and new commitments. What worked for us in the past will not work for our future selves.
It is time. Time to sign a new spiritual contract that requires us to make time to grieve and bury, and bring ritual to our constant death and rebirth and the death and rebirth of a new world.
It is time. Time to lay a spiritual foundation for a new way to see ourselves—new talents, creativity, and passion that we didn’t know we had.
It’s time to take a leap of faith and give ourselves the gift of re-opening, knowing that we were never and will never be alone.
Join me in calling in our ancestors to lead the way and guide is in breaking scarcity and the limits we put on ourselves so we can become they who can fight in the spiritual war humanity is facing right now. Let’s set new standards for where we can go and where we can take our families and the world next.
I hope these words bring you the same peace and love that I wrote them with. May they bring justice and uprisings within to heal from a past we had no control over and a future we will have to create and live in together.