There’s a line from a book by Alan Watts that I’m currently reading – The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are – that is on repeat in my mind:
As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.”
He went on to write:
…feeling that we are separate minds in an alien, and mostly stupid, universe is that we have no common sense, no way of making sense of the world upon which we are agreed in common. It’s just my opinion against yours, and therefore the most aggressive and violent (and thus insensitive) propagandist makes the decisions.
(In case you’re wondering, The Book was published in 1966.)
It’s true that we’ve experienced a lot of the power and influence of aggressive and violent propagandist.
We’re also witnessing a great unfurling of awareness of exactly what Watts is describing here: That when we recognize ourselves as all being peoples that have emerged out of the universe – peoples who will go back in because we were never separated from it in the first place – we come to more fully understand that “no one is free when others are oppressed” isn’t a just bumper sticker for allies, it’s plain a fact.
Which brings me to Jennifer O’Grady.
I’ll let her introduce herself in the video and say only this: The way she describes how she’s leaning into being a peoples in the universe instead of holding onto the notion of being separate or dividable or normal is packed with courage and presence.
It is efforts like Jennifer’s that the aggressive and violent propagandists push against and it is what gives me hope that we’re heading in a better direction than their directives demand.
You can watch a 2-minute preview or scroll down for show notes.
Or just hop into the whole 35ish minute video – I suspect you’ll get a goosebump or two along the way, too:
- Jennifer is exploring her cis-gender, heterosexual, white-skinned, woman, multi-racial, neuro-typical container in this world as a politically liberal person navigating and using her privilege as a coach, mom, friend… (whew!) – and she’s all up in how this awareness and action is unfurling in her life
- A recent beautiful and hard conversation with one of her kids (who is neuro-divergent, like her siblings and father) helped her see both she’s been unconsciously inviting others to call her out on her unconscious biases
- Jen tells a story of a coaching session with a woman of color that cracked open for Jen how her white skin can actually be a tool for helping others feel seen and witnessed – and how she could have chosen to leave the space but that her client couldn’t
- We explored the different flavors of words like “ally” and “collaborator” and “co-conspirator” and touched on the experience of having the privilege that comes from being able to pass if we so choose (Jen as white-skinned, me as straight) and also the desire to be seen for the fullness of our intersections of identity
- Jennifer spotlights Myisha T Hill as a person she learns from and from whom she first heard the idea of being a co-conspirator as a white-skinned person
- Connection – real connection – is a huge part of what drives Jen and that often that connection comes not from speaking but from consciously not speaking
- What she’s all up in – the thick of her learning curve – is having her eyes open to all of these areas of privilege and moving from safe space to brave space
- I brought in my thoughts about how being in the middle third of my life has given me an unexpected bonus privilege of seeming innocuous as a white, middle-aged woman
- Jennifer speaks a bit about having been raised by a Scandinavian mom and Puerto Rican dad and seeing her dad experience micro-aggressions that she, until recently, reactively downplayed
- We touched into how the importance of centering connecting in her life means giving up her trauma-based grasping of belonging… which leads a lack of greater belonging and connection (I referenced Ubuntu which I invite you to learn more about in this TEDx Talk by Getrude Matsche)
- Jen added on this beautiful image of belonging/connection related to trees and their inextricable, absolutely necessary interconnection, by way of mycelium, underground)
- Tools that are helping her navigate this learning curve include radical honesty and radical compassion when she gets it wrong; and especially leaning into the connections she has to create more connection
- She noted that we don’t know how to be witnessed (though we crave it) and so we are lacking the tools to fully witness others in their grief and pain
Anne’s Haven is the non-profit that Jennifer spotlighted. It’s a place for women and non-binary people to be witnessed; Anne’s Haven provides unconfined space to women, girls, and nonbinary people of all ethnic, racial, sexual, and religious identities. Our center offers a vibrant environment through which people can learn from and support one another through their spiritual, physical, intellectual, financial, emotional, professional, and social development journeys.