Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When I jumped on the meditation bandwagon

I am a fairly high-strung person.

I look calm and collected, but inside my head I am freaking the @#*& out.

I come by it honestly.  My mother was this kind of person too.  It was said she could put her head on one chair and her feet on another without sagging in the middle.

I resemble that remark.

My shoulders are never relaxed.  My jaw is always clenched.  My head is always aching.


My mind never stops considering the options of disaster and woe that lay ahead of me.  I go over every conversation that didn't go as planned, every thing I wish I had done differently, and every thing that I might have to do or say in the coming months.

It makes sleeping rather difficult.

Actually, it also makes being awake rather difficult as I can get so ramped up that my resting heart rate is 100 on a regular basis.

When the "mindfulness" trend started many years ago, people started telling me about it.  It was presented as a perfect solution to settle my disquieted mind and really focus on the present.

Pardon me while I hurl.

Truthfully, the first few times I tried mindful meditation, it filled me with such uncontrollable rage I had to stop right then.  It didn't get better for a long time.

Then I started yoga.


Everyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge yoga fan (you have to check out Yoga with Adriene, she is the greatest!).  I have taken classes in a picturesque brick room with the city bustling beneath me while I settle into the mat and am at peace for the first time in a long time.  I have taken busy active yoga with a crammed room of 50 other people while the sweat pours down my face.  I have settled into a nice mix of both in my living room while I get ready for the day.

Finally, I understood what meditation is about.  But I had to learn it while DOING something.

Once I had that, I realized I could move into exploring what meditation could do beyond the mat.

I started listening to a guided meditation on on my iPhone.  I found I didn't hate the voice of the woman so I could sit through it without being all ragey.  This is an important first step.

Second step was working my way up from 2 to 10 and finally 25 minutes.

Just sitting and being is really hard when you're a doer and a worrier.  It feels weird.


I'm not solved.  I still have anxiety filled nights of insomnia, but they are fewer than they were.  I still have rock hard shoulder and neck muscles (and not the kind that are enviable) but I have ways to work them out.

Now, I try and do yoga three times a week and I do nightly meditation to fall asleep.

I'm still awake at 4 in the morning, but I am taking deep breaths while I am.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Drowning in academic hopelessness

Why I thought taking a short 8 week class (during May and June) would be a good idea, I will never know.  I'm working full time.  I have contract work on the side.  I volunteer.  I have a family, friends, my niece (who likely thinks I no longer exist), and responsibilities.

I wanted this class.  It combines all the things I want to do with my degree and my career.  Canadian social policy, critical Indigenous thinking, and domestic violence intervention.

In 8 weeks.

What was I thinking?

Each week, I have slogged through hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading, cramming my mind full of information and new ways of thinking.  Learning the things I should have known and expanding on some that I did.

What have I learned most?

The Canadian government has been A-HOLES to Indigenous people.  For hundreds and hundreds of years.

I always knew this on some level.  I was taught about Residential Schools and treaties and oppressive government workers and systems (Thanks, Mrs. Gellner!).  I watched mini-series and read books and listened to adults talk.  My heart ached as a child for the people who I thought were so lovely that nothing bad should ever have happened to them.

But I didn't actually know the bad.  Not all of it.  Not even most of it.  After all, I was only a kid and they try not to scar you that early.

Now I am in a quagmire of despair and pain and confusion.  Not only has the Canadian government been horrible, but the profession that I love has been an instrument of further oppression and pain and condescension.  How can I, with my trusty Human Justice and Social Work degrees and great plans to "help people", continue on?

How am I going to write a paper for this class now that everything seems hopeless?

I mean, the Government over the last 50+ years has issued study after study, commission after commission, paper after paper.  It has spent thousands (though cumulatively now likely millions and millions) of dollars "studying the problem" and getting recommendations.

Hundreds and hundreds of recommendations.  All saying almost entirely the same thing.

They are all saying and/or have all said, "Hey Canada, you're a dick to the Indigenous people. Here's how you can be better."

But guess what?


Okay, that may be a little over-generalizing, but it's not far from the truth.  The Canadian government gets these great recommendations - ones that will make a real difference - and then they (it?) decide they don't want to do most of them.  Then the government puts a couple of paltry recommendations into place and are shocked - SHOCKED - when things aren't fixed.

What?? How are you not all better now?

Here are the main things I've learned (or relearned):

  1. Many of those who signed treaties and moved to reserves did so because the White people killed all the game in the area and people were starving.  The government made it a policy to ONLY FEED THE PEOPLE WHO SIGNED AND MOVED.  And, at that, they only fed them every other day to make sure they remained compliant. (Clearing the Plains, 2013)
  2. The government worried that Indigenous people being self-sufficient would mean they would interfere with Canadian settlements and so made sure they were not allowed to or able to do any work. (Clearing the Plains, 2013)
  3. The government decided who actually belonged to Indigenous culture. Can you imagine if the government got to decide who was allowed to go to your church or come to your family reunions or live on your street? (The Indian Act, 1885)
  4. Then, if someone did not comply with the government rules of who was Indigenous (i.e.: marrying "your own kind" or living on the reserves) the government made them sign their rights away. (Accounting for Genocide, 2004)
  5. Children were taken away from their parents as young as 3 -5 years old and did not see their family for up to 8 or more years.  These children were put in schools and not allowed to talk to their own siblings. (The Circle Game,  2006)
  6. Children were beaten and raped and killed and starved by religious groups "educating" them.  Anyone who spoke out against what was happening was fired or transferred. (The Circle Game,  2006)
  7. Full self-government was encouraged in a report in the 1960s, but Indigenous people were not even allowed to run their own farms until 1990s. (Hawthorn Report, 1966)
  8. There was a commission that encouraged special status and full self-government and instead the government planned to delete all status and have severely micromanaged involvement in government. (Hawthorn Report, 1966; The White Paper, 1969)
  9. Children en masse were removed from reserves in the 60s and given to White families.  In some cases, up to 90% of children on the reserve were removed from their families.  (The 60s Scoop)
  10. Indigenous women are at risk of violence at least 3 times that of any other woman in Canada. They are 5 times more likely to die.  And!! More often by the hand of strangers than other women.  (Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women)
There is more.  SO MUCH MORE.  I am exhausted by it all.  Now I have 18 days to write a paper about domestic violence and social policy. 

Every time I think I have a research question, my mind comes up with some reason there is NO POINT TO ANY OF THIS.  My mind has a completely valid point. 

My question is this: how, after all that has happened, can I make a difference in the lives of anyone who is suffering not only from domestic violence, but also societal violence, racism, sexism, poverty, addictions, trauma, and a country who regularly makes the WORST decisions for you and your communities?

How can you help one thing without addressing all the other inequalities?  The answer is that you can't.

Here is the problem.

Our government, past and present and likely future (and the people who voted them in), do not want to address all of the inequalities.  Instead, they implement limited recourse with limited funds and then blame the individual for something that has been centuries in the making.