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Dear friends,

I’ve been struggling with how to show up here and on social media for these last months. I’ve been unsure what to share with you because I am in such deep process work in every aspect of my life. I’ve also been sitting with the uneasiness of knowing that many people have felt that my silence has been compliance during this revolutionary time of unrest. Those of you who have been reading my newsletter for some time know that this isn’t about my struggle to find the “right words” or sharing that I have it all “figured out.” My work has always existed and taken shape on the edge of what feels radically uncomfortable to me, and as I type that I am reminded of the truth it breathes.

My biggest intention for 2020 was to grow my capacity to be with discomfort. Just six week later we were in the throes of a global pandemic and shortly after ordered to shelter in place until further notice. During the same week we were faced with the horror of Breonna Taylor’s murder and not too long after heard the desperate cries of George Floyd begging for his mother just moments before he died at the hands of police officers.

The intention to grow my capacity to be with discomfort has brought on a great deal of sorrow over these last months. Layers and layers of our collective trauma are surfacing. We are all being called to face our personal and collective wounds with open hearts and expanded minds. The calls are fierce, loud, and insistent that all of us white folks take the time to learn what our individual roles are in this necessary and lifelong movement toward justice, wellness, and equality, for our Black sisters, brothers, trans, and non-binary friends.

These past five months I’ve been quietly, offline, making time to begin the journey of examining and unpacking the complex emotional terrain that accompanies acknowledging the ways that I have benefited from the system of white supremacy and the implicit biases in my subconscious that have been handed down through generations.

The intention to grow my capacity to be with discomfort has been my anchor, providing stability as I feel the heaviness of shame, grief, guilt, and pain that come alongside facing the underpinnings of white supremacy, unlearning, one breath at a time, the ways my unconscious mind wants to keep me safe, right, and at the front of the class.

The intention has been my North Star, guiding me to the power of the pause and the beating of my heart when I feel overwhelmed and distraught undertaking this transformational work. The intention has also been my oak tree, breathing strength and vitality into every cell of my body so that I can keep showing up for myself, my family, my friends, and this revolution, in the midst of all of the subtle layers I am working through.

The intention reminds me daily of this incredible opportunity to become a better human.

During these last months I’ve spent time getting clear on what my roles are in this collective uprising. I’ve been in deep inquiry and the following questions have shown up consistently throughout:

  • How do I use my voice in moments when it really matters? Where and when do I speak up?
  • How do I show up and parent my cis white son?
  • How do I prioritize taking the time to educate myself on anti-racist policies so that I can align my beliefs with my voting power?
  • How do I share the breathwork and trauma-informed practices and tools I am cultivating through an anti-racist and social justice lens?
  • How do I create more equity in the whitewashed, privileged space of wellness?
  • How do I take care of my nervous system so that it has enough tone to sustainably support all of the work I am here to do on the micro and macro levels?

An essential part of this work for each of us with white body privilege is to take the time to learn what our individual responsibilities are in helping to dismantle the systems of oppression that our stolen country was founded on.

This is very uncomfortable work. Very uncomfortable.

And this work can no longer be postponed. It is our responsibility to step up, to be accountable for learning how to be not just conscious people, but critically conscious anti-racists. The privilege of taking our time has ended. Black people have waited far too long for those of us with white body privilege to show up and do our part.

This work is heartbreaking. It will make us want to run from ourselves, check out, numb, slip into shame spirals, and feel completely hopeless. This work will make our bodies ache with grief from the inside out. This work will bring us to our knees. This work will bring us into states of stress, anxiety, anger, and overwhelm.

This work will demand that we amplify how we take care of our mental health and our bodies. This work will demand that those of us who have assimilated into the white body culture take a long and uncomfortable look at what assimilation meant for our ancestors and how its cries echo in our bodies today. This work will also demand that we seek extra support so that we can really be in this for the long haul. And I’m talking about the rest of our lives.

This work will be thankless. Nobody will pat us on the back and give us gold stars for starting and continuing the journey of anti-racism work. In fact, this work is likely to make waves in our current relationships and continue to feel uncomfortable as we grow and expand in our capacity to dismantle a system that was created to benefit us white folks in every way.

And this work will open our hearts to deeper levels of what it means to be human. And this work will create more space in our bodies to exhale.

There will be no long-term change in our world unless we do our personal work.

And it is absolutely essential that we get started. Right now.

The road will be long and twisty and painful.

And if each of us does our part, collectively we have the power to create real, tangible change.

And I am here for that.

I am here doing this work with myself, my family, and our son so that he can be part of the movement toward an anti-racist world that I will not live to see.

Black lives matter.
Black joy matters.
Black safety matters.
Black bodies matter.
Black healing matters.
Black breath matters.

We are in a critical moment in history. We have the power to shift the paradigm if we are willing to stretch and expand our capacities to be with discomfort. If we are willing to slow down and question why it has taken us so long to answer the call of our Black sisters, brothers, trans, and non-binary friends. If we are willing to face our defensiveness head on and with support. If we are willing to unpack our white body privilege and  critically look at the ways in which white supremacy has served us. If we are willing to decolonize our belief system and deeply examine our implicit biases. And if we are willing to get clear on our individual roles in this revolution and educate ourselves, and most importantly our children, on what it means to embody anti-racism.

You are needed in this transformation.

The world we long for has yet to come. We are building it together. Day by day. Breath by breath.

And I am here, alongside you, every step of the way. I don’t have it all figured out. Like many of you I’ve been embarking on a deep, profound, and long overdue journey in these last months. It’s challenging for me to articulate all the ways I have been changed by opening myself up to this work and I know this is just the beginning.

With so much love, gratitude, and admiration.

Onward,
Ashley

2 Comments

  • Sharon LuVisi

    “Black lives matter.
    Black joy matters.
    Black safety matters.
    Black bodies matter.
    Black healing matters.
    Black breath matters.”

    Ashley, this was so beautifully written that it brought tears to my eyes.

    On many levels, I am [im]patiently waiting for the day when we can all step outside without fear. In the meantime, thank you for your eloquent words.

    • ashley

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write Sharon, I am deeply grateful. xo

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