At first I thought it was just me. I had carried the weight of sorrow, disappointment and defeat all my life. Yes, I accomplished many good and worthwhile things along the way but not without struggle and outside opposition. I didn’t know that the weight I carried was not simply my own. After I woke up, I became aware that the weight I carried had been passed down from everyone in my genetic lineage who had ever been enslaved, imprisoned, or forced to live hopeless lives according to the rules of the few, and the judgments of real and invisible others. Yet I woke up that morning, feeling lighter, feeling changed, feeling a profound sense of relief.
I was swept up in a wave of powerful, unplanned events that began in February 2008. I agreed to participate in these events without knowing or thinking about the implications, or what would happen in the next moment, and the moment after that, and the one after that. One of the things I am is an improvisational actor. The first rule of improvisation is to say “YES, and…” to an impulse or an offer from another actor. And it seems that this particular “YES, and…” ultimately led to the election of the first bi-racial African American President. All of this happened in less than a year.
I belong to an improvisational theater company whose focus is to play back the stories that are told by members of the audience. We were exploring themes of personal identity. An impulse leapt from an improvised re-enactment of a story of how Africans were chained before being put on ships to the new world, to enactments of heartfelt apologies for that enslavement, to my release of a 100 foot tsunami of long held back, deep emotions from and on behalf of my African, Native American, Indian, and European ancestors. All of them were freed, released, vindicated and forgiven, through the present day me. On that day the acknowledgement and apology by the present day proxies of the actions of original perpetrators was received and released into the ethers of this country.
As I became more fully awake, I slowly realized that I too had been released and the light of day was so bright it was all quite easily seen. I was no longer a slave subjected to the whims and cruelty of an invisible but nonetheless real slave master. I was no longer an inmate in an invisible but nonetheless real prison that punished me for my long forgotten sins and allowed me to survive but not to thrive. I was no longer a victim of the abuses of an invisible but nonetheless real perpetrator of oppression. I slowly realized that I no longer had to punish myself, limit myself, oppress myself, or inflict pain on myself in order to beat the invisible “they” to it first.
They. Were “they” only in my mind? Were “they” just my distorted perceptions of others? No. The enslavement of my mind, the abuse of my emotions, the imprisonment of my spirit, had real beginnings in physical experience. But then, somewhere in the depths of my unconscious storehouse, it was decided that I would “beat them to it”. I would take away their ability to hurt me over and over again by hurting myself first. I would enslave, imprison, abuse and abandon my original radiant true Self – with my critical thoughts, distorted beliefs and false assumptions - and therefore could steel and numb myself from being hurt by what was happening to me from the outside.
Was it really true that everything I believed was ultimately a product of my mind choosing to believe one truth over another? Yes. “It’s all in your mind” is a truth. It has always been spoken as a dismissive statement, meant to demean and belittle. But it is also a truth.
When I was a young woman I believed that if I thought a desire strongly enough, my boyfriend would hear it and respond positively to it. I believed that I did not have to say it out loud and, despite the consistent evidence to the contrary, I continued to keep my desires locked safely inside my head and would think them loudly to my beau. One day, in a dream interpretation session with my mother, I discovered that this belief had been established when I was an infant. I would cry, or burp, or make a sound and magically my mother would pick me up, rub my back, feed me, change my diaper or play a sonata on the piano to entertain me. She was able to respond to my needs without me having to use words. My mind processed those experiences as “think a desire clearly and it will be satisfied.” That conclusion became a belief. That belief was not stored in the bin with my mother’s name on it. It was stored in the bin labeled “interactions with those who love you.” It remained misplaced in that bin until I discovered the truth behind that belief at age 26.
Today, when I look around me, I see that we have all won our freedom. We have all been awakened from the dreams of our personal hibernation. The covers have been and will continue to be easily removed, layer by layer. The heavy curtains that kept out the light of understanding have been thrown back revealing the brilliant light of the Sun.
(to be continued)