Click play to listen to this blog post. Apologies for sound quality, had a technical difficulty.
The bird calls of this desert evening are delicate and the air has a hint of a nip to it--fall is coming. We are shifting from heat and dessication to visible breaths and the smell of soil lifted into the air by rainfall.
As we complete another seasonal cycle, earth continues her pattern of healthy change, liberating us from summer into autumn. As nature continues to weave beautiful ecologies, humanity finds itself suddenly a little bit more aware of an ugly, frenetic, desperate pattern that has been repeating for a long long time.
The Kavanaugh hearing signals nothing new, nothing novel, and nothing unfamiliar. This event simply hyperfocuses our attention on the inequality that has been disrupting our collective growth. I would like to take rape culture and patriarchy into the contexts of body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action. Warning: I'm going to do this in a rather analytical and heady way. There are many other ways to explore this, and I intend to. This is only a starting point. And before I proceed, I want to acknowledge everybody who does not identify as a woman or a man, or who identifies as both and apologize for being limited in my ability to say what I would like to say while being inclusive of all. I am very open to alternate perspectives, phrasing, and foci; please reach out to bring your voice to this platform and fill in what I am missing.
One of humankind's exciting but unfulfilled journeys is that of embodiment--of familiarizing with and being present in the body; of learning how to move well and become attuned to the spectra of emotions and sensations that unfold within this body. Body awareness is both awareness of one's own and other's bodies. In the context of rape culture and patriarchy, our body awareness deficiency is many-faceted. The following list of considerations is not exhaustive.
1. A failure to critically read the signs of one's own body and an inability to recognize and transform potentially abusive physical inclinations. Of course, assault and rape are also mental and emotional, but body awareness is an important foundation for choosing how to act. Being deeply attuned to one's body helps one distinguish between surface urge and deeper need. Morality, of course, plays a role too.
2. A failure of empathy; a failure to draw from one's own physical experience in life to imagine what one's actions will do to another person's body and mind. There is not a pervasive awareness that the actions we engage affect other people's nervous systems. Anxiety, panic, insomnia, depression, substance abuse, and PTSD can be and are outcomes of the so-dismissed "10 minutes of action." The duration of abuse is not the point. The fact of abuse is the point. Attentiveness to the body makes clear to us when things are out of order and why they have come to be that way. Attentiveness to the body motivates us to support healthy functioning in ourselves and others.
3. A failure to understand or arrive in physical power. Power has nothing to do with overwhelming anybody or anything. Power in the body means awareness that supports intelligent, creative, connective action, just like power in nature comes from many features of the environment working together to give rise to a diversity of thriving creatures. Power can be enhanced when two bodies mutually integrate. Whatever high or ego-gratification comes from physically overpowering another is profoundly dwarfed by the body's real capacity for power. But we do not talk about this healthy power that both men and women have equal access to. What if we lived in a world where we prided ourselves on high standards for body awareness and sought after that greater, peaceful power? If we did, rape would theoretically be less interesting to those seeking power.
Another of humankind's exciting and promising journeys is that of emotional intelligence; familiarizing and skillfully engaging with the vast and nuanced spectrum of what we feel. This journey is relevant whether one is highly sensitive or not. Emotional intelligence applies both to oneself and to others. In the context of rape culture and patriarchy, the failures of emotional intelligence are many. The following list is not exhaustive.
1. Self-knowledge. Emotions run deep within us, but if we remain on the surface of our consciousness, we are not able to see their complexity, their layers, and the ways they infiltrate our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Anyone who looks closely at their own feelings and rests with them long enough to see how they unfold will have certain characteristics, including humility, confidence, empathy, and patience. They know that if they follow the initial feeling through they will find its roots. This awareness and insight can also arise spontaneously/involuntarily through trauma. Once you've dived deep, it is extremely easy to tell whether somebody has also taken this exploration. I suggest Kavanaugh has not. If he had, we would be witnessing a very different scene. People who have taken the journey are generally safer to trust.
2. Empathy. Many people will repress and pivot away from emotional experience--because it's hard stuff and also because there is little guidance available in our culture to work with our inner content. When we confront the profound depth of what we feel, from love to grief, the ways we engage with others change in accordance with this awareness. Knowing that another's experience is profound, rich, deep, nuanced, and personal is then more than enough to take a decidedly mindful approach to our interactions. In an effort not to cause further suffering (there is plenty already), and in an effort not to disrupt joyfulness, especially knowing it is rather rare these days, there is a clear path not to engage violence. There is no need to "take power" because no power worth having can be wrested from another. The problem is, instead of meaningfully acknowledging our own inner experience, we reside at the surface of the pain and search for who we might be able to blame for our suffering, or who we can direct that anguish through violence to get a sense of control back.
For an actual meaningful change and not just a repetition of the same pattern in a different color or octave, we need to be creative. That is, we need to do something we haven't done before. Yes, we need to keep working on the projects that have raised awareness and triggered real progress but clearly the work is not done. There are always so many approaches, and they are all important. Right now I urge creative action for three reasons:
1. It helps us process the highly emotional content we are all encountering these days.
2. It changes the way we perceive.
3. It changes the way others perceive.
And we need to be perceiving things differently, clearly, to be able to move into a new, more beautiful, more intelligent paradigm.
Girls and women: If you don't have a creative outlet, choose any, today. If you have grown distant from your creative outlet, reconnect with it, today. If you are actively creative, tell us what you are working on. Tell boys and men what you are working on. See how they respond.
Boys and men: Start/keep asking questions. Start/keep listening. Many of you have supported us without undermining our identity or power. Thank you. We notice you.
Now night has fallen, and I've retreated from my porch to my bed. I hear the wind in the leaves and a trickle in the pipes. A storm is coming soon, and the desert basin will receive the welcome reprieve of rainfall. My mind is cluttered by the frantic news and my body wound with tension and anticipation. Soon I will go out there, and listen to the mountains, to clear the contents of my interior and to find out what to do next.
Additional resources and ideas:
Body Connect Meditation Program
Journey of the Self Meditation Program
Body Narratives Project