HOW SPIRITUAL PLATITUDES AND PRETENDING HISTORY DIDN´T HAPPEN ACTUALLY RE-TRAUMATIZES PEOPLE OF COLOUR & WAYS TO TRULY ENGAGE

triplicate electric heart

When we use the rhetoric of spiritual enlightenment to avoid complicated discussions about race, history, memory, trauma and culture – we re-create the damage that was done.

I empathize with wanting to move past all this. But dealing with cellular memory does not work that way.

We can go throughout our lives without talking about any of this, but our bodies, our (mother´s) wombs, and our descendants will still remember.

It is my sincere appeal to those who seek the spiritual to avoid engaging in yet another form of spiritual bypassing. Trauma does not heal itself if you pretend that the circumstances which created it never existed.

 

And it becomes a lot more complex when you seek to hold space for, or engage with persons of colour. The article analyses the ways in which their spaces are taken even in that process, and how respectful engagement can be held instead.

We are all hurting, and the ways we hurt are not always the same.

Let us respect our differences – including the ways we need to heal.

Please read this with your hearts open.

Whilst every race on this planet has experienced some kind of trauma or another, the impact of modern colonial rule on persons of colour is a very specific phenomenon. It transformed the energetic, cultural, political, economic and social framework of this planet – and continues to shape the developmental trajectory of the world we currently live in. Hence its relevance. It is not ´white-bashing´- to point out that this happened.

And it is not universally a colour-coded thing. There were white races that were considered inferior or ´lesser´ and they were also dislocated from their culture. But please take numbers, geography and the extent continuing impact of such in account as well. Entire continents were carved up and its peoples forcibly ripped away from the roots of their culture, their connection with the Earth, their identity – and life-force. Their descendants make up the vast majority of the population of this planet.

Let them speak, and be heard.

Colonial rule was one that destroyed and disconnected millions from their heritage and created a karmic imprint that generations later – so many are still trying to unshackle themselves from. It is a very specific kind of pain that is so hard to translate. But people of colour everywhere know the same scars instantly.

We wear it on our bodies, burnt into the colour of our skin. ( Which is funny because some brown people are extraordinarily fair-skinned, it´s still burnt on though. I wish there was a better word than people of colour, but it´s better than framing it as white vs. non-white).

I find the greatest resistance to this work coming from the descendants of those who (in that incarnation) played the role of the colonial oppressor.

They are the first to say that race does not matter, that talking about this history makes a person racist, or that they are too transcendental to engage with it all because they are cosmic star beings.

(A concept – I might add that got popularized by adopted and watering-down Eastern and First Nation spiritual traditions as part of the ´New Age´movement).

They are also the first to seek to tone-police and project on (especially) educated women of colour who present the facts. And you can be damn sure we will be loud, we will quote our facts and we will not re-package our truth to make it more comfortable or palatable.

(Not speaking for anyone beyond myself and the other scholar-practitioners I work with).

Another tactic is to quote mixed racial heritage when they themselves may have lived as a ´white person´ and experienced the full benefits of doing so.

Please do not cite DNA tests that say you are 1% percent Native American / Asian / whatever and make the claim that you have the right to speak for their trauma if you have not actually connected with that culture – or recognized its pain.

And felt what it means to recognize and live with the remnants of that trauma day after day – and to re-live it within societal structures that perpetuate institutionalized racism.

You have no idea how much that hurts a person who does live it day in and day out.

Cultural heritage is not something to be worn and discarded to make a rhetorical point.

It lives through you, you live through it. It creates the framework of your existence.

But what about white people?

There is a great amount of healing and reconnection for Western-European descendants to do in really looking back at their own culture and understanding why they were disconnected from their own spiritual roots to begin with. But that should not come at the cost of denying what an already-traumatized people did to the rest of the planet. Or in equating one trauma with another.

Or legitimizing it with platitudes that say this is the nature of the human condition. That REALLY does not help and creates a narrative that legitimizes re-traumatizing others because one is already hurting.

Please try to understand feeling uncomfortable with the recognition of history is not the same as flat out trying to abuse someone. There is a line there and one that we need to talk about more.

To phrase it differently, you need to be able to stomach the discomfort and cellular memory that arises when confront with this history. 

That´s not easy,  and many try to avoid feeling that pain – often at the cost of minimizing another´s voice.

For those of Western-European origin with the sensitivity and decency to seek to reconnect with their culture – I ask you to do so in a way that does not capture the center of attention in a space that is focused upon the experience of marginalization of other races. And to not seek to define the terms of engagement with which they have that conversation.

Colonialism may be a painful truth of your past you may want to forget, but its consequences still form a part of the lived reality for millions on this planet. For your own comfort, do not try to minimize the damage it created by seeking to delegitimize that term.

If you can, do not try to deflect the debate on how you or your ancestors also suffered. Whilst everyone´s pain is real, taking away the space of focus on this discussion repeats the essence of the colonial enterprise. Let people speak for themselves in the terms that they want to.

When listening to the pain of those who have been hurt by this legacy, please check your privilege before you ask them to make things feel good for you, or to make it more comfortable for you, or to allow you to be the center of their attention and focus. That´s a different form of tone policing and really defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.

If you cannot handle that conversation – hearing those voices of pain – please do not engage in it till you can. Because that does not benefit anyone.

It would be a graceful gift for all parties if you could do so. And would not repeat that fundamental injustice. I see where your hearts are, but privilege is an insidious thing – it is accessed and used without even realizing it.

If you can bear witness and let them speak, you do so much more.

You will probably learn more about what others are feeling without trying to label, dissect and understand it through the intellectual mind.

People of colour can see the attempt at taking their narratives of trauma and trying to equate them with others. Colonialism took away languages, cultures – and sacred connection with land. It is a loss and a violation that no amount of words can ever fully express. It is not to say their pain is greater or less, it is to say that it is different.

So open your heart, if you will – and listen to what they have to say. Let them then invite you to share your pain.

And that is a far, far, more meaningful experience.

Ultimately …

We are all genetic cocktails with a common origin, but some of our journeys have very very different chapters. Parallels will be there, but they´re not the same experience.

Yes, we are all members of the human family – but if something happened to your family member – you could feel sad for them. But you cannot take away their personal pain and experience.

If we are to be true to that argument, honor the other members of your family and let them be true to their experiences.

We are all souls on a journey and have lived all across this planet (and others in all likelihood), but there is a reason why we choose to incarnate into a particular culture.

Erasing your race is trying to erase a part of your own spiritual path and the journey your soul has chosen to take.

It´s an uncomfortable conversation to have, and feel in your body – but allowing that conversation to happen will actually begin to take the first steps towards healing this pain. And then genuinely moving away from the legacy of this horrid chapter in human history, together – hand in hand.

It is also wise stop telling people whose descendants bear the imprint of colonial rule that they have to ´transcend it and awaken´ – whilst appropriating their culture even more.

Let me give you an example. After reading my previous post on this many, several men and women of colour reached out to me and began sharing their experiences of the same. They were glad that someone was saying it. And I´ve already made some fruitful connections through that one post. But one story really jumps up at me.

An Indian teacher of traditional bhajans expressed her dismay at being publicly put down for her ´incorrect´ pronounciation of Sanskrit by a white person who assumed they had greater knowledge of her culture and religion than she did. I read the exchange …

He was absolutely obnoxious and kept insisting he had a right to speak on her tradition and ignored her knowledge completely – putting her down over and over and over again.

Yeah …

I have no words for that kind of behavior. It feels like even more of a betrayal when it comes from someone who claims to respect that culture.

Whilst it is wonderful to study a different cultural practice or tradition, please do not assume that you have the right to re-shape it or lay claim to it, or to market it and sell it as your own without honoring its origins and the land it came from.

I discuss this in far greater depth in this video and article (on spirituality and the politics of cultural appropriation – https://wp.me/p4OUNS-2sv )

And I hope that those reading this will do their best to speak up when they see this colonial pattern played out as it was done so very many years ago.

Same old wine, new rainbow-chakra-coloured bottles.

Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD
The Sky Priestess

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Post & Image `Triplicate Electric Heart` © Bairavee Balasubramaniam, 2018. All rights reserved.

10 Comments on “HOW SPIRITUAL PLATITUDES AND PRETENDING HISTORY DIDN´T HAPPEN ACTUALLY RE-TRAUMATIZES PEOPLE OF COLOUR & WAYS TO TRULY ENGAGE

  1. That was beautifully written and very informative. Please keep on educating us to the consequences of Western colonization and all other race-related matters you feel worth bringing out in the open as candidly as you have in this post. I long to understand as fully as possible the pain inflicted by Western, white people to those of other origins, colour and race so that my soul may align itself better to the souls of “the other half” of humanity. Blessings and love.
    Alecs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Erasing your race is trying to erase a part of your own spiritual path and the journey your soul has chosen to take. – alecs3000

  3. B!!

    Thank you very much for this, my dear one.

    your voice is heard and i feel the ripples across the land – calling to those who can help your voice reach even further across the globe.

    you’re speaking a truth about healing that i feel many of those teaching or practicing the ‘healing arts’ completely miss in their quest for being ‘in the light’ and merely feeling better… Going into the wound requires courage and an honest lens — meaning… ‘I understand that I can only see what I can see, and therefore – they can only see what they can see, and therefore – the truth may require a shared lens – or a new lens altogether. (does this even make sense?)

    I think once we acknowledge that our view of the world has a filtering system that has been conditioned, we might decide to clear away our beliefs and heal our personal traumas so that we can see/feel more clearly into the collective pain across our planet. then true healing between humans and the earth can happen.

    your words have such powerful potential to ignite and cleanse our beliefs/our lens – so that we might begin to see more clearly. the next step is guidance and support when we submit our selves to the wound(s). this is a fire that can truly transform – if one is willing to stand in it long enough.

    the other thing that is MAGNIFICENT about what you’re sharing is that it instantly upgrades a persons ‘lens’ of seeing or hearing or feeling, because our consciousness can’t help but respond to truth – no matter who we are.

    I look forward to our next adventure!!

    Side bar: I want to talk about evil. About the real darkness in the world… i need to understand it better. When I was on Maui, the land was powerful and angry – the spirits were everywhere, and it took every ounce of my energy to stay centered and complete my training before i high tailed it out of there. I felt ill equipped and pathetic – i also felt that i had somehow betrayed the island or that i was taking advantage somehow… I could feel the land coming through the people too – it was all nuts – because there is this shinny beauty and smiles and Aloha… and then there is a pain that is so deep that i could see the spear coming towards me — how does one even begin? all i could think to do, was thank Maui again and again, and to acknowledge the power there – and not take anything from the land. And give as much as I could. I felt humbled, and the lingering anger and resentments still living in me came rushing to the surface. I have to acknowledge my own aggression, fear, pain, greed, and abusive nature in order to heal it and to guide others to heal it in themselves.

    Oi! OK 🙂 well – there that is!

    You are so loved.

    I’m off to work and will be mindful of what I’m creating in the world. I feel a lot of change coming…

    My love goes with you. hugs xo Nicky

    >

    Like

  4. Please unsubscribe me from this email newsletter. Thank you.

    On Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 9:45 AM, Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD wrote:

    > Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD posted: ” When we use the rhetoric of > spiritual enlightenment to avoid complicated discussions about race, > history, memory, trauma and culture – we re-create the damage that was > done. I empathize with wanting to move past all this. But dealing with > cellular memo” >

    Like

  5. Have been working with Ma Uta Dane Ngahuka. He’s doing work on clearing lineages and trauma. Perhaps you’ll look him up and connect. Doing much learning in New Zealand at the moment. Much gratitude for your work. ❤ Rose

    On Sat, Feb 10, 2018 at 4:45 AM, Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD wrote:

    > Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD posted: ” When we use the rhetoric of > spiritual enlightenment to avoid complicated discussions about race, > history, memory, trauma and culture – we re-create the damage that was > done. I empathize with wanting to move past all this. But dealing with > cellular memo” >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam,
    You have uncovered the Elephant in the room. I can only express gratitude and my deaire for you to never be alone in this work. Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, an African American Zen priest and renown teacher, has covered this topic extensively in her book, “Radical Dharma”. She also resides in the bay area. It woild wonderul for you two to meet. The cognitive dissonance of people “wearing whiteness” as James Baldwin puts it is a barrier even for those with the best intentions. I have found that there is greater liberation when one learns the history of the construction of white supremacy, then one is not tasked with trying to undo a “natural” order. There is nothing natural nor divinely ordained about the notion of white superiority. This is the result of a very conscious and intentional social political economic design. So the healing for white people will not come from understanding a Black person’s pain or oppression. For decades our oppression has been studied by a White academy and those studies have only served to weaponize not liberate. The healing comes when white people deconstruct whiteness, see how the illusion of superiority has robbed them of their humanity, how it has hijacked their highest spiritual aspirations, and how that conditioning is destroying the earth. By the way, Black people are also afflicted by the internalization of the centrality of whiteness. As a Black woman I am most gratified that this healing is beginning to take root at this time. Thank you.
    Yaniyah

    Liked by 1 person

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